The curriculum is embodied in the environment. The children use the activities individually or in small groups and at their own pace, guided by the teacher, who observes them and sees when a child is ready for new activities.
The classroom is set up in the following subject areas
These activities are the starting point in a Montessori classroom. This forms part of the daily programme of activity in the day of the child. Purposeful activities help to bridge the gap from home to school life. Children carry out real responsibilities. They follow a pattern enabling them to grow in self-knowledge and independence. Exercises such as polishing, cleaning, dusting, tidying, as well as learning to care for both animals and plant life develops understanding and respect for the environment.
Exercises such as threading, lacing, pouring solids and liquids, carrying objects, using scissors, tongs, eye droppers, funnels etc, help develop the childs motor co-ordination and control movements as well as developing concentration.
Children at this stage begin developing skills. The teachers explain how to greet people, how to correctly ask for something and how to express gratitude. By being kind and helpful at this time develops a spirit? of helpfulness and responsibility. They also learn good work habits as they finish each task and put away all the materials before beginning a new activity.
These materials aim at refining each of the childs senses. Specially prepared activities to allow each child to explore their sense of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. They are attractive to the child and children are drawn to them, they help children to categorise, distinguish and relate new information to what they already know. Dr Montessori believed this process as the beginning of conscious thought. It is brought about by the intelligence working in a concentrated way on the impressions given by the senses. The materials are self-correcting, so the child will see his/her mistake and can choose to correct it without adult help. These activities also form the foundation work for later mathematics.
This is developed in each child through individual and group work. The phonetic method of spelling and reading produces understanding as the children learn the phonetic sounds of the letter before they learn the alphabetical names in a sequence. The phonetic sounds are introduced with the teacher giving individual presentations of sandpaper letters. By blending the sounds together the children are able to build words easily, and are then led gently into reading through writing their own stories. Time is given for the children to discuss their work and to introduce new words. Constructing words with the moveable alphabet nearly always precedes reading in a Montessori environment. Grammar is introduced first by games, which demonstrate that nouns are the names of things, adjectives describe nouns, and verbs are action words.
Teachers introduce new words used to describe many of the sensorial materials, e.g. big, small, rough, yellow, etc. Cultural subjects particularly lead to developing childrens language. Posters are displayed and designed for effective stimulation and lead to discussions. There is a library corner and children are free to use this as they wish.
Dr Montessori demonstrated that if children had access to mathematical equipment in their early years, they could easily understand many facts and skills. If these skills are introduced later in life in the abstract form these facts and skills may require long hours of work. Dr Montessori designed concrete materials to represent all quantities after observing that children who were interested in counting like to touch and move items as they count them.
The materials allow children to make the smooth progression from concrete to abstract. They are given the concrete form of the quantity and the symbol of numbers and the impression is imprinted in their minds when it comes to work with the written and abstract form. The fundamentals of addition, multiplication, division and subtraction are taught.
Numbers are everywhere that you go, on letterboxes, rapid numbers, car registration plates, buses, signs,etc. Also the opportunities to count are numerous, counting cutlery as the table is set, buttons on a shirt, members of the family, finger rhymes etc.
This area includes biology/botany, geography, history and science. Specifically made materials link all of this area together. The aim is to arouse the childrens interest in nature and the world around them, while encouraging them to care for and respect their environment.
The childrens natural curiosity is stimulated through discovery projects and experiments, which enable them to draw their own conclusions. The plant and animals kingdoms are studied in an orderly fashion to foster a love and appreciation for all living things.
Provisions are made for children to understand and appreciate their individual culture and others as well. The children gain an awareness of the world around them by exploring other countries customs, food, music, climate, language and animals. This helps?raise their consciousness about other people to gain an understanding and tolerance and, therefore, compassion for all the people of the world. Children and parents will be encouraged to share aspects of their own culture with their school community. The puzzle maps and globe help children to understand the relationship of one continent to another. Through a variety of activities common formations such as lake, island, strait and isthmus are learnt by concrete materials.
Time lines introduce history in the classroom, starting with time lines of their own lives 24 hour or yearly. Days of the weeks and months of the year are discovered both in activity form and by using the classroom calendar on a daily basis.
The joy that children find in creating something is fostered in the Montessori environment. Children are encouraged to express their inner creativity through a variety of mediums. This area of the classroom is far from static, with a wide range of activities regularly changing to entice new discoveries. The focus for this areas is the process not the end product.
Group singing, dancing and the use of instruments are part of the Montessori programme. A variety of background music is offered to the children while they work.