THE ABSORBENT MIND
The Montessori primary classroom is a vibrant, thriving environment. Children choose their work from among the self-correcting materials displayed on open shelves, and they work in specific work areas. Over a period of time, the children develop into a “normalized community”, working with high concentration and few interruptions. ”Normalization”, in Montessori terms, is the process whereby a child moves from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused, through work in the environment. The process occurs through repeated work with materials that captivate the child’s attention. For some children this inner change may take place quite suddenly, leading to deep concentration. In the Montessori primary classroom, academic competency is a means to an end, and the manipulatives are viewed as “materials for development.” The curriculum contains four components, sensorial, cultural, language, and math, in addition to the work of Practical Life.
The Sensorial curriculum is the key to knowledge in the Montessori classroom. It builds on the foundation of the Practical Life curriculum and prepares the way for children to progress into academic work through the development of observation and problem-solving skills. The sensorial materials are designed to develop skills that help young children learn how to think, reason, make distinctions, make judgments and decisions, observe, compare, and better appreciate their world. The is the beginning of conscience knowledge.
The Primary classroom includes cultural studies, activities, and materials which Maria Montessori defined as history, geography, physical science, botany, and zoology. These are designed to introduce the young child to our world and its diverse peoples. In addition to learning about the world we live in, the curriculum strive sto foster and nurture the young child’s curiosity, encourage exploration, and develop observation skills. Age-appropriate activities and materials are presented throughout the three-year cycle.
Children are learning language long before entering the Montessori classroom. By using their own tools of hearing, vision, and speech, children absorb information about their native language. During the first two years of Primary, students prepare themselves for language study by working with materials that refine auditory, oral, visual, and sensory/motor skills which are necessary for writing and reading. Language spans every other area as an integrated source of preparation for a well-planned approach to further learning.
Maria Montessori proposed that logical thought stems from the human mind’s ability to organize and categorize. The other powers of the mind, such as memory, imagination, and abstraction, develop from the power of order. This is the basis for including math in the curriculum for the 3-6 year olds. The purpose of the math curriculum at this level is to help children develop their thought processes, not to teach math facts at an early age. With hands-on materials, students make discoveries as they begin to move from the concrete to the abstract through manipulation, experimentation, and invention.