Monday, September 26, 2011

Social Skills in the Montessori Classroom

One of the many things I love about Montessori is that Montessori teachers see the 'whole' child-developmentally, academically, socially, emotionally, and physically.  There is a myth out there that says simply placing children in the same room and having them do activities helps them develop social skills.  I disagree.  Developing social skills needs to be a value in the classroom as well as modeled by the teachers/adults who are around the children.  Using manners, demonstrating what Montessori called 'Grace and Courtesy' and always being respectful of the child are key ingredients to helping a child develop social skills.  When new 3 year olds enter our classroom, often times, it's their first experience at engaging with people other than their immediate family or close babysitter.  So, they are learning how to greet or talk to a friend, ask a teacher a question, tell someone they have to use the restroom, and express their many needs they may have throughout the day.  In the Montessori classroom, we intentionally talk about these situations-how to say hello to a friend, how to introduce themselves, how to ask a friend to have snack with them or how use their words to express an emotion.  We will also role play these situations so the children can actually see and hear how these social situations are played out.  When teachers speak to one another, they do so respectfully, and in complete and clear sentences.  Over the last three weeks of school I have witness some precious moments as we have been acclimating children into the environment.  I watched a little girl (second year in our classroom-3 year old) walk another child through the steps of snack using gentle, sweet words as she reminded this little boy what to do next when choosing snack.  They both walked through the many steps of snack (choosing name, washing hands, laying out napkin etc).  When they both sat down to enjoy their banana and water, the little girl said, 'So (child's name)-what did you do today?'....she was practicing with her new friend some conversation skills.  They sat together for about five minutes talking back and forth with one another.  They were practicing a very important life skill-communication.  I also watched as one of our first graders observed a new 3 year old looking at and touching the Pink Tower.  The first grader came over to me asking if she could please give (child's name) a lesson on the Pink Tower because she said that he looked interested in it.  I, of course, said yes and proceeded to watch this little girl give a complete and thorough lesson on the Pink Tower as this 3 year old sat in awe and watched her.  She engaged him and allowed him to touch her work and help her grade the cubes.  They worked together for close to 15 minutes and she was modeling to him some wonderful social skills!  There are so many layers to the Montessori classroom.  So much is going on in every area~sit back and let the children show you! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why 5 days in a Montessori Program?

Most Montessori schools offer a five day program only.  Since Community Montessori offers a three, four, and five day program, I am often asked what I recommend.  My reply is the same-I recommend the 5 day program for all children ages 3-6.  The school I taught at prior to opening my own school only offered five day program so in many ways I am used to that.  However, there are some strong arguments and rationale for having your child attend five days in a Montessori program.  Children love exploring, discovering, experiencing their environment.  Doing this takes time.  We live in a such a fast paced world-we want results and mastery immediately in the time frame we want.  Children don't operate like that.  Children need time to develop-time spent to unfold and become who they are meant to be.  The Montessori environment offers quality, purposeful work for children to engage in.  Each day they are presented lessons that are age appropriate and will hopefully stir something inside of them to choose that activity.  We see children spend pockets of time in certain areas, repeating works and activities that they are enjoying.  Being in the classroom for five days, allows that process to continue more consistently as well as gives them the opportunity to choose many interesting works.  Being in a Montessori environment for five days allows the natural pace of a child's learning to happen. Additionally, the more time children spend in the Montessori environment, the more time there is to build strong focus and attention skills as well as longer work cycles.  This development is critical to children's success as they continue on with their schooling.   Think about when you are engaged in a project you are enjoying and what it feels like to have it disrupted.  We are thrilled to offer the three/four day option because we want to offer families the Montessori experience even if they are not interested in having their child attend five days.  We do ask that our three day students come three days in a row to allow consistency for that child as well.  At Community Montessori we enjoy serving the needs of our community and families, but, my heart will always be with the five day program.  My guess is that many of you with children who are attending less than five days, are hearing from your children that they want to go to school on the days they are not attending.  :)  How wonderful that they are learning to love their school, their friends, and their work! 

Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Maria Montessori

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Transition into School

This week at Community Montessori School, we will be welcoming our children for the 2nd year!  The teachers have been working hard planning, preparing the environment, and anticipating the wonderful year ahead.  Our goal for the beginning of the year is to begin to build relationships with the children and help them develop a 'work cycle'.  The work cycle involves choosing a work, doing the work, returning the work, and moving on to the next work.  The development of a child's work cycle is critical to their development of concentration and focus.  As we present lessons and provide opportunity for exploration of the beautiful materials, children will become engaged in their work.  The teacher will work as a guide and supporter during this process.  Sometimes children develop their work cycles quickly and other times, it can take an entire school year for this to work itself out.  There are many things that may effect the development of a work cycle (for example age, experience in the classroom, interest, distraction level etc) and as the teachers get to know the children, we will learn how to best support their development.  Our hope is that the children develop a love of work, concentration, self-discipline and sociability.