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Elementary Montessori educators tend to be very special teachers. They’re mentors, friends, and guides. Because the curriculum is organized to emphasize the connections between the different fields of study, rather than compartmentalizing it into separate academic departments (science, math, English, social Studies, etc.), Elementary Montessori teachers need to be generalists, able to weave everything together. Elementary Montessori teachers are storytellers. They develop wonderful tories and presentations to inspire children’s sense of wonder and draw them in. Because the Elementary Montessori curriculum is very demanding, it requires teachers to have a very broad and thorough education.

The Elementary Curriculum

The Elementary Montessori curriculum is so much more than the ‘basics.’ Certainly, students are expected to master the fundamental skills and core knowledge found in most school curricula, such as the memorization of math facts, spelling, and the study of vocabulary, grammar, sentence analysis, creative and expository writing, and library research skills; but it goes much further.

Elementary Montessori students explore the realm of mathematics, science and technology, the world of myth, great literature, history, world geography, civics, economics, anthropology, and the basic organization of human societies. The Great Lessons are an essential element in the Elementary Montessori program. These are key areas of interconnected studies that are traditionally presented during the early grades to all Montessori students. They are inspiring stories, related experiences, and research projects that students often pursue over many years, according to what peaks their interests most strongly. They include the story of how the world came to be, the development of life on the Earth, the story of humankind, the development of oral and written language, and the development of mathematics and technology. They are intended to give children a ‘cosmic’ perspective
of the Earth and humanity’s place within the cosmos.

The third area of the Montessori curriculum is individually chosen research. Elementary Montessori students rarely use textbooks. They are encouraged to explore topics that capture their imagination. Students do a great deal of independent reading and library research.
Children gather information, assemble reports, assemble portfolios and handmade books of their own, and teach what they have learned to their friends. Their oral presentations and written research reports grow in sophistication and complexity over the years.

At the elementary level, learning continues to be a hands-on experience, as students learn by trial, error, and discovery. They build scale models of ancient and historic buildings, tools, and machines. They write stories, organize plays, and put on special events that attempt to recreate a time and place from history. One example that I recall was a visit to another school, where an upper elementary class had been studying the Roman empire. On the day of my visit, I found them outside cooking in a large cast iron pot over a charcoal fire and baking in a modest brick oven heated with charcoal. I learned that they had they become interested in researching and preparing food very much like a typical household might have prepared two thousand years ago in Rome. With some help from a few parents, they had constructed this brick oven and prepared this outdoor cooking fireplace. While the meal was not all that memorable
in terms of flavor, the children’s excitement and sense of accomplishment was priceless.

The advanced Elementary Montessori materials move on to more complex and abstract concepts in mathematics, geometry, and pre algebra. At the elementary level, Montessori students learn to think for themselves. They are encouraged to do their own research, analyze what they have found, and come to their own conclusions. Montessori teaches students to think, not simply to memorize, feed back, and forget. They literally learn how to learn, discovering that the process of learning can, and should, be as natural as breathing!
In the Montessori program subject matter is not separated in small little packages, this is geography, this is social studies, this is science, this is math. Everything interrelated. They weave in and out of each other.

The Elementary Montessori language arts program places great stress on the development of strong skills in composition and creative writing. Students are asked to write continuously, emphasizing at first the development  of an enjoyment of the writing process, rather than the strict use of correct grammar and spelling. However, formal grammar, spelling, and sentence analysis are taught systematically.

This information is excerpted from Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Winter 2007

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