The education of the Primary Montessori child is divided into two stages. The first of these is for children aged 6-9 (Years 1 – 3) and the second for children aged 9-12 (Years 4 – 6).
Children aged between 6 and 12 are individuals who are rapidly growing into a sense of themselves and their world. They are becoming independent and want to make choices and decisions for themselves. As their world expands beyond their home they seek answers to the big questions of “how” and “why”. They also question the choices and motivation of others as they build their own ethical and moral compass. They are imaginative and creative and love engrossing themselves deeply in work they find fascinating. They relish opportunities to research, work collaboratively, discuss, debate and share their knowledge with others – especially in 9 -12.
The 6 – 9 and 9 – 12 Montessori classrooms are designed to meet children’s needs at this period of development. Lessons are conducted one on one or in small groups whereinteraction, hands on exploration and discussion is encouraged. Children learn respect through modelling by the Directress, their peers and clearly defined expectations.
Students have the freedom to choose their work as long as it is done so in a respectful and responsible manner. Children are allowed to talk in class and move around the room, again, as long as it is done in a way that enhances their understanding and learning. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. Research is encouraged from a young age with research skills being broke down into specific sub-skills and taught explicitly. From 6 years of age, students are encouraged to research topics that they are interested in and those that help them discover more about the world and their role in it. The child in a Montessori classroom is independent, self-directed and has a love of learning that will continue through their lives.
The philosophy underpinning the combining of year groups is based on Dr. Montessori’s understanding of child development. She believed that the 6 – 12 child shared many characteristics which should be catered for and reflected in their learning environment. When the child moves into 6-9 and then into 9-12 they are able to see the way the older children work and what type of work they are doing. This inspires them to strive to reach new goals. Conversely, the older children in the class feel a real sense of responsibility towards the younger children. They are role models for them in their behaviour, work ethic and depth of work. They help the younger ones and peer teaching and sharing of research and discoveries is encouraged.
Learning is not considered competitive but a collaborative and exciting endeavour. The children do not strive to do better than the person next to them – but rather to achieve their personal best. Embedded into the Montessori system is the opportunity for each child to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility over their learning. The students learn because they are curious and want to find answers for themselves rather than to purely obtain a grade or mark.
Children, in consultation with the adults in the environment, design and work towards goals. If you walk into a Montessori class, each child will be planning their day and completing work based on their own individual needs and interests. Small group work will be going on as well as independent work. The teacher will not be out the front with every child doing the same activity. Students will progress through work at their own pace. Those who need advancement don’t have to wait for others and those who need further repetition can do so as needed. There are no barriers in a Montessori classroom regarding, age, gender or ability. We work to find each child’s interests and strengths whilst supporting them in areas where they need further development.You will find your child will be able to interact and communicate with a wide range of children and not have friendships limited to their age or gender.
The materials used in a Montessori classroom are unique. They appeal to many learning styles and allow the child to build a strong visual and tactile impression of academic concepts. This ‘concrete’ experience leads to a deep understanding and when internalized, the children no longer need the materials but can work abstractly. This ‘hands on’ early learning experience is so strong that past students report that recalling the materials helped them understand more difficult work in High School.
In Montessori, we closely monitor the progress of each child and tailor our program specifically to them. If your child is academically strong we will provide the appropriate level of challenging work to keep them engaged and growing intellectually. If your child requires further support and repetition in any aspect of their learning, we will provide a variety of materials and strategies to help them reach their potential. The three-year cycle leads to an in-depth knowledge of the child which in turn allows us to optimise their learning.
We follow the NSW Board of Studies curriculum common to all Australian primary schools. However, the children are not limited to this curriculum as we also follow our Montessori lessons using Montessori materials.
Primary students have Mathematical and Geometrical Montessori Materials to manipulate. Through interaction with these materials they discover and internalise concepts such as place value, multiples, factors and divisibility, operational work with whole numbers, fractions and decimals, binomials, trinomials, and the squaring and cubing of numbers. Students explore plane and solid geometry and measurement through the use of materials and practical experiences. They study equivalency, area, volume, and the Theory of Pythagoras.
Montessori English materials are also used to help develop the students’ understanding of grammar concepts and the functions of words. They are exposed to the diversity, intended audience, structural features and richness of different genres. Students share projects, write research papers, compose pieces of writing for specific purposes and complete word study activities using dictionaries, thesauruses and etymology resources.
Through the use of Montessori’s Great Stories (Cosmic Fables), charts, nomenclature (definition cards and diagrams), research and experiments the students see how the sciences are connected to history and geography. Aspects of geology, ecology, zoology, botany, biology, physics, chemistry, oceanography, astronomy, physical and political geography and history are interwoven throughout the primary years.
Technology is also part of the Montessori Primary experience. Students get dedicated computer time weekly to create and customise word documents, research on the internet, create podcasts and Powerpoint presentations and explore the world beyond the classroom through digital media.
The creative arts are also explored through the primary years with students’ researching art and music history, creating personalised pieces and studying different genres, terminology, and techniques.
In the primary years, Physical Education is a skills-based program. We have a specialist teacher who helps to augment the work done in the classroom. Students are exposed to a number of skills and activities including gymnastics, athletics, swimming, cricket, tennis and volleyball to name just a few.
The curriculum is also supported and expanded by the incorporation of excursions and ‘going outs’ (small group child initiated and planned excursions). These allow for the child to move beyond the confines of the class to discover how the world works and how, in turn, they should function as part of the wider community.
Ultimately, our aim in the primary years, is for students to see learning as an active, personal and life-long adventure.