“Knowledge can be best given where there is eagerness to learn so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into culture.”
Montessori points out that while the younger child seeks comforts, the older child is now eager to encounter challenges. The elementary level child has entered a period of development where age-appropriate challenges help to focus attention and facilitate the construction of competent beings.
Although children have unconsciously mastered their native language by the age of 5 or 6, the elementary years may be important for acquisition of the subtlest and most complex grammatical skills, and certainly for the formal tools of writing and reading. The love of words and desire to acquire a large store of them is typical of this age, along with their inclination for creating special laws, signs, and sometimes language as they move into their own society of peers.
The child who has developed an orderly mental framework in the previous stage is now able to manipulate with the mind as well as the hands, so that more abstract work and learning becomes possible. Spurred by a new understanding of reality and a dawning grasp of cause and effect, the elementary child’s consciousness expands to include a larger environment, indeed shows a kind of hunger for it similar to the sensitive periods Montessori describes for the previous age. But now the child is not satisfied with a mere collection of facts; s/he tries to discover their causes.
The key to learning in the elementary years is this new ability to generalize from one’s own experience. Montessori calls it imagination and claims it is the tool used to acquire the culture and understand the interrelatedness of the universe. What touching did for the child as a preschooler, imagination can now accomplish.
Montessori believed that humans have a natural goal orientation or urge toward purposeful activity. This is the driving force for the elementary child’s enormous curiosity, the source of will, the innate impetus to action, and the foundation of the human offspring’s ability to adapt to the environment and culture in which it finds itself.
The Elementary Curriculum
The three major developmental changes—a shift in consciousness toward the external world, a growing concern for moral issues of right and wrong, and the need to identify with a peer group—produce a child who is eager to know all things, to exercise his or her own judgment, and to create relevant social values. The program is still based on experiential learning, individualization, multi-disciplinary curriculum organization, and integrated time schedule; but now there are greater use of group-oriented strategies and more varied opportunities for social participation. Classes of 20 to 25 children in 2- or 3-year age groupings are directed by a Montessori-certified head teacher and an associate teacher.
The Basics are developed as tools which serve the child’s need to pursue knowledge within this integrated, multi-disciplinary approach. New concepts and skills in Language Arts and Mathematics are usually introduced as subject-area lessons and assignments for small groups organized on the basis of readiness or special need. Many opportunities are offered across the curriculum for the child’s application and use of these skills. Children are expected to achieve mastery, before moving on to the next concept. Our classrooms are fully equipped with the Montessori elementary materials; we have also developed many materials of our own to facilitate individualized work and practice, and we make an eclectic use of textbooks. Laptop computers and iPads are available for children’s supervised use.
Cultural Studies encompasses the organizing principle for the elementary curriculum, “the cosmic plan.” It is based on a central core of cultural subjects, representing an attempt to integrate the sciences, arts, and social studies in a broad context of historical and scientific organization that supports the child’s ability to organize the details encountered in studies of factual information. For example, science experiments and classification systems are presented in relation to an overview of the history of the earth and the development of life and human civilizations. The influence of physical geography on human history serves as the basis for human interdependence as a central theme in later studies of economic and political geography. Organization of the human relations curriculum around the idea of fundamental human needs assists the child to understand that these needs are universal, while gaining an appreciation of the wide variety of ways in which they are met. In short, the cultural subjects aim at developing both understanding and a sense of responsibility. Our cultural studies are supported by Discovery Education where the students login and watch a short video clip to a corresponding topic and answer questions. Field trips are offered to extend the classroom experience to many of our cultural studies.
Language Arts activities encompass oral language skills (age-appropriate levels of presenting an oral report or short speech, dramatizing, performing); reading (vocabulary, word study, comprehension, oral and silent reading); writing (penmanship and spelling; skills in composition, capitalization and punctuation); grammar study (parts of speech, analysis of usage of words and sentences); literature integration; and research (ability to use and organize sources of information).
Mathematics encompasses basic concepts and skills for each grade level in the areas of numeration; facts and operations; geometry and fractions; measurement; time and money; decimals; ratio and proportion, etc. Word problems are engaged in at every step of the mathematical journey. A list of specific concepts by grade level is available to the parents. Within our Montessori elementary classrooms, math concepts are first introduced with a concrete (“Key”) experience before the expectation of abstract application (working problems out in a notebook). As part of our multi-sensory approach, students also work through concepts on Khan Academy.
Art, Music, Spanish, Computer and Physical Education are an ongoing part of every classroom program. Our weekly music classes follow the Orff Schulwork tradition (through Music Rhapsody) and offer experience of tempo, tone, and beat, utilizing voice, traditional Orff instruments and movement. Our teaching staff utilize their special talents in a team approach to provide the enrichment of art, Spanish, physical education, computer and drama.
This year we have a wide array of activities available for sign-up after school.
Read more about Montessori Elementary Education at amshq.org.
Why multi-age classrooms?
Montessori believed that the opportunities for learning increase when more than one chronological age group is included in a shared environment. Some of the benefits are:
• modeled behavior (regarding what makes this classroom work)by returning students for new students
• a family-like structure (with the older students assisting the younger, which in turn provides feelings of competence for those older students)
• diversity of prior experience, skills and operating levels within the community; students are able to experience perspectives and interpretations which might be missed in a chronological grouping
• opportunities for peer tutoring and collaborative learning
Is lunch provided?
Two lunch options are offered at Montessori Greenhouse for full-day students:
•Bring lunch from home
A morning snack will be provided each day by the school at the elementary level.
Do you offer any “after school” programs for the elementary level?
Currently, Montessori Greenhouse offers several *auxiliary programs after school (and at additional cost):
• “Webby” dance classes
• Piano lessons
• Chess Club
• Art classes
• Science classes
• Yoga classes
• Girl Scouts
*Auxiliary programs are offered at our facility, for our students, but are separate businesses. All payments and communications should go directly to them.
How are student skills evaluated?
Testing and evaluation at an informal level are an ongoing part of our program. Students receive feedback on their performance as an integral part of every learning experience. Grade-level expectations are carefully defined, and the systems of student accountability we have developed operate to support children in fulfilling them. Evaluation in relation to our defined sequence of skills and concepts is reported to parents in three regular conferences each year; problems are reported as they are observed. Standardized achievement tests are administered near the end of each school year, with results reported in the last parent conference.
How do teachers plan for and monitor student progress in an individualized classroom setting?
As children enter the elementary classroom, skill levels for math and language are informally assessed and individual or small group lessons are planned based on the results. Each week, a teacher plan is developed for math, language and cultural studies at each of the levels identified. Student work is assessed and checked off each day, and new experiences are planned based on the learning which is documented by each. Student mastery is expected before moving on to a new skill or concept.
What kind of field trips are offered?
Field trips are offered as a concrete extension to a classroom learning experience, so they differ each year as teachers operate within a 3-year Cultural Subjects curriculum plan (level specific). Some of the field trips enjoyed in the past are:
c.Various museums (art, science, and natural history)
d.Department of Education presentations (usually nature preserves/centers or experiences of native peoples)
e.Performing Arts Centers
g. AstroCamp or the Catalina Island Marine Institute (a three-five day outdoor school experience for 4th – 6th grade level) which is offered once each school year
What form of discipline is utilized at Montessori Greenhouse?
Our staff members use a positive discipline approach which is tailored to meet the needs of each individual student. Within this view, children are encouraged to take care of others, and the environment, and to demonstrate cooperation. When problems do arise, the students involved are supported in taking a look at the behavior that was unsuccessful, and in taking responsibility for that behavior by participating in a problem-solving process to find a more effective way to approach problematic situations. Children are encouraged to notice that natural (or logical) consequences are the outcome of any self-chosen behavior. Sometimes this is a more positive experience than other times. At Montessori Greenhouse, there is a zero tolerance to bullying behaviors and/or physically hurting any other student. At the elementary level, the group meeting is used as a vehicle to discuss and find solutions to generic problems and to build a sense of community. Situations to be discussed (no names mentioned) may be arrived at by either student or teacher suggestion.
Our School Location
Garden Grove CA 92845