Preschool to Kindergarten: Stage 1 (3-6 years)
Children aged three to six are sensorial explorers. These children are catered for in Stage 1 (3 – 6 years) Preschool to Kindergarten.
A Director’s comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of children from 3 – 6 years informs the set-up of a carefully prepared environment, facilitating the tuition of core curriculum categorised as Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Literacy and Mathematics.
The Prepared Environment
The “prepared environment” is Maria Montessori’s concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.
In the prepared environment there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement.
In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their own choice at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.
All Montessori materials are developmentally appropriate for the children in each age group and have been designed to meet the intellectual and social needs of children at their stage of development. Materials facilitate a connection between the hand and the mind of each child.
In the Stage 1 environment, two-three adults are available to support the child’s learning. One Director (a trained teacher) delivers presentations, while one or two Assistants act as a support to the Director and the children. Lessons are given one-on-one to provide for explicit instruction and careful demonstration.
A multi-aged class of 3 – 6 year olds allows the older children to demonstrate their independence to the younger children. Children are given opportunities to learn from one another and older children can provide assistance to their peers.
Practical Life activities provide the link between home and school.
The direct aim is to help the child become more independent thus leading to a greater self-confidence and ability to face new challenges. The indirect aim of these exercises is to enhance concentration, coordination sequencing and independence.
What are the five main components of Practical Life?
Grace and Courtesy
Lessons on controlled movement within the environment, interaction and communication with others, establishing a sense of order in materials.
Control and Coordination of Movement
The development of the hand, emergence of the child’s will, group activities, control of the voice, self-direction.
Exercises which present the child with a movement or activity in which he/she will apply later in another context. The activities isolate certain movements or follow a particular sequence.
Care of the Person
Activities which develop the child’s functional independence, self-confidence, personal efficiency and positive self-image. They include activities such as grooming, maintaining hygiene, taking care of clothing and personal items.
Care for the Environment
Care and maintenance for the child’s surroundings, both indoors and outdoors. These activities support the development of personal responsibility, functional independence, awareness of actions and consequences and gratitude towards the environment. Activities include gardening, caring for the outdoor space, cleaning floors and surfaces, clearing materials and objects in the classroom.
Current research shows that children’s brains are developed through experimental interactions with the environment.Sensorial materials were designed by Dr Maria Montessori specifically to help children refine their senses and, therefore, become more perceptive of their surrounding environment. The refining of the senses at this age leads to a great awareness of detail and allows the child to focus on the world around them.
The Sensory Materials create an integration of mathematics, geometry, language, history, geography, music and visual arts. The materials are designed to help the children develop and refine their sensory perceptions.
Language and Literacy
In the Montessori method, experience precedes language: any language the child is going to use must be attached to an experience.
Children engage with:
- Social language: words and phrases needed in specific social situations.
- Enrichment of vocabulary: naming objects in the environment, giving specific names, using words to compare, contrast and classify.
- Storytelling: spontaneous conversations, questions, reading aloud, songs.
Maria Montessori found that the written language could be acquired much more easily by children at four years old than at six. Writing comes before reading and involves encoding: making the code to express what is already in the child’s mind. Through writing, the children learn:
- Phonics: presenting sounds with letters.
- Phonemic awareness: the ability to identify sounds in words.
Reading in Montessori begins with children in the 3 – 6 classroom. The children learn:
- Phonemes: identifying the individual sounds that make up words.
- Syntax: understanding the order and structure of words in a sentence.
- Semantics: learning how the meaning of words are related to the context.
The concept of Mathematics is first introduced to the children at 3 years old through experiences in Practical Life and the Sensorial areas of the 3 – 6 year old classroom and is referred to as indirect preparation for Mathematics.
Before any Mathematical abstraction is made the children are offered a concrete, sensorial experience and they are then given time and opportunity for experimental interaction with their materials. Joy in learning Mathematics is essential. Games, mini-challenges, patterns and designs are introduced to the children to ensure that Mathematics is fun and accessible. Between the ages of 3 – 6 the children are introduced to and learn:
- continuation of counting
- the decimal system
- addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
- memorisation exercises (in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)
- passage to abstraction