What can they possibly learn at this age?
It’s easy to underestimate the brainpower of three to six year-old children. But consider how accomplished they are on day one of Montessori.
Tracing letter shapes anticipates writing.
In a very short time, they have learned to walk, to control their bodies, to understand most of what adults have to say, and to make their own desires known.
The fact is that young children are consummate explorers, with the daunting task of making order from a new and confusing world.
Ms. Sandra’s class is a young explorer’s paradise where students teach themselves fine motor skills while familiarizing themselves with the alphabet, conceptualizing volume, understanding the relationships behind numbers, and much more.
What does a typical day look like?
The children start the morning socializing outside, before lining up to go inside at 8:30. The class day starts with a few minutes of group time, with a science lesson and sometimes a story. During these group lessons, the children learn to listen attentively and respect their fellow students, lessons which will follow them through the rest of their Montessori career and out into the world.
After this brief group time, the students spend the majority of their time in individual uninterrupted work periods, where they can expand on the day’s lesson with follow-up activities, or explore other learning opportunities that best fire their current personal interests.
Later, the children have a snack and return outside for recess. Whenever possible, the children also eat lunch outside at noon. Physical activity is critical to maintaining health and keeping the child in the right mental state for learning. After lunch, the children read, then have a Spanish lesson and/or continue morning work.
Consistent with the observations of Maria Montessori, students spend more time working individually and less time in group activities. Montessori found that when the pace of learning is set by the teacher, children who are ready for more advanced concepts are frustrated by a pace that is too slow and children who are still working through previous concepts are frustrated by a pace that leaves them behind. To preserve that young explorer spirit, children are given time to work at their own pace on subjects that most interest them at the time. These times are called sensitive periods.
What are sensitive periods?
Parents often ask one another, “what is your child in to right now?” Understanding the child’s interests is critical to following the child and maximizing learning. In her observations of young students, Maria Montessori identified “sensitive periods” when physiology, psychology and interest coincide to create periods of intense interest in subjects from letters, words, and numbers to reading and nature.
During these sensitive periods, students in the correct environment often experience explosive advances in learning. This correct environment consists of an ordered classroom with easy access to Montessori Materials, which are themselves carefully designed to give the young explorer only one problem to solve at-a-time and a clear and enjoyable path to success.
Sensitive periods tend to overlap, so a child might be “in to” exploring colors at the same time she is “in to” identifying shapes. Such a child might choose to work with metal insets, where they learn shapes, decorate with colored pencils, and, incidentally, develop the hand-eye communication that will be critical for learning to write.
Ms. Sandra Valenzuela, Teacher
- Team Member Since: 1980
- Montessori Training Completed: 1987
- Quote: “To aid life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the basic task of the educator.” – Maria Montessori
Ms. Sara, Assistant
- Team Member Since: 2001
- Quote: “The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” – Maria Montessori
What else does the class do that is different?
Every year, the class tries to attend a Rodeo Day at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and almost every year a petting zoo visits. The school has also enjoyed visits from Dinosaur George, Last Chance Forever (saving endangered birds of prey), Chicken Dog, the Trinity Players, and more. And of course, we have a great time with every holiday from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza to Valentine’s and the Fourth of July. Near Summer, parents are invited to join students for lunchtime music and recitals at Brown Bag Day.
Ready to learn more? Please arrange with Mr. Andreas to visit Ms. Sandra’s primary class. We look forward to meeting you.