On Monday I started working as a long term reliever for a Montessori kindergarten. To say I was nervous was the understatement of the century. I'd never done any Montessori work before and only had one lecture about it at uni of which I remembered very little. But after my second day I realised this is a pretty cool place! I thought I'd share with you my first impressions and what I am really enjoying about it, because I know a lot of people don't know anything about it only that its a "alternative school".
Its a lot like a regular new entrant primary school class but with the exception that my students are only 4 years old not 5 and the classroom is filled with quite unique and different materials for learning. This info below is mostly a combo of things I found online and my own impressions.
A "regular classroom"
There is a big focus on students creating, making and experiencing learning through real life "work". So the classroom is in sections. Each child is taught to use a mat for their work, that means they can move it and this also create a physical barrier of "their space" which the other children then respect.
We focus on respect as an overarching philosophy, we teach our students about being considerate,kind and thoughtful members of the classroom and society. When they get older there is another strand that focus's on community involvement- things like volunteering and being active members of their community- how cool is that!
Practical life materials and exercises provide opportunities for self-help dressing activities, using various activities to practice buttoning, bow tying, and lacing. Other practical life materials include pouring, scooping and sorting activities, as well as washing a table and food preparation to develop hand-eye coordination.
Other practical life activities include lessons in polite manners, such as folding hands, sitting in a chair, walking in line.
We also do cool things like let the children bake muffins ( with our help) and talk about all the different things we are learning and doing as we make them e.g measuring,counting,stirring,baking etc.
The sensorial materials provide a range of activities and exercises for children to experience the natural order of the physical environment, including such attributes as size, color, shape and dimension. Examples of these materials are pink tower (series of ten sequential cubes, varying in volume); broad stairs (ten wooden blocks, sequentially varying in two dimensions); colour tablets (coloured objects for matching pairs or grading shapes of color).
In this area, materials are provided to show such basic concepts as numeration, place value, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. For numeration, there is a set of ten rods, with segments coloured red and blue and “spindle boxes”, which consist of placing sets of objects in groups, 1–10, into separate compartments.
In the first plane of development (0–6), the Montessori language materials provide experiences to develop use of a writing instrument and the basic skills of reading a written language. Things include sandpaper letters where the students trace the letters to get the concept of what an "a" is etc. They are also introduced to words in books and early stages of reading is developed using blocks to spell.
The Montessori classroom may also include other materials and resources to learn cultural subjects, such as geography (map puzzles, globes, cultural suitcases containing country-specific materials), and science, such as biology in naming and organizing plants and animals. Music and art are also commonly involved with children in various ways. After the age of approximately six, learning resources include reading books and more abstract materials for learning a broad range of advanced subject matter.
We also do a lot of music, dance and singing- teaching the children to be creative and expressive. In fact music plays all day in our room except for at lunch time so the students can concentrate on talking to each other and holding conversations at meal times.
This is my favourite section ( kinda figures being a geography major) I cant believe how many cool things we have that I don't think I was exposed to until intermediate age!