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.

The Prepared Environment

 

In the 3 to 6 prepared environment there are a range of activities as well as a great deal of movement. Children have time and the opportunity to work on self-chosen activities at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and limits, leading to self-discipline.

Children are given opportunities to learn from one another and can provide assistance to their peers. The child is supported towards control and coordination of movement when carrying materials and moving around the room. Furniture and materials are child sized allowing the child to physically move and manipulate them.

The Montessori materials have been designed to meet the intellectual, physical and social needs of children at their particular stage of development. Materials facilitate a connection between the hand and the mind of each child.

The environment should not be centred on a single function or skill, but appeal to the child’s whole personality.  Moreover, there should be ample opportunity in the environment for the child to practice, work through, and integrate with previous skills any new function or skill that has been acquired.

Montessori “Education for Human Development”

There are four main areas in the 3 to 6 environment: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Mathematics. Materials and activities for cultural studies (including geography, botany, science) and creative arts (including music and movement) are also offered.  The areas in the classroom, while with their own specific purposes, work together offering the child an integrated curriculum.

 

Practical Life

The Practical Life area provides a link between the child’s home environment and “school”.

Practical life activities help to ease the child into the classroom, providing familiar materials, activities and actions from the home and the child’s culture. The practical life materials support the child’s development of independence, concentration and work habits along with the control and refinement of movement. 

The activities introduce the child to a cycle of work – from making an appropriate choice, to purposeful work and returning the materials ready for the next person. This process builds work habits such as how to choose, repeat, persist, concentrate, problem solve and over time take responsibility not only for yourself but for the wider physical and social environment.

This helps the child become more independent, leading to a greater self-confidence and the ability to face new challenges.

The exercises of Practical Life include:

Preliminary Activities

Exercises which present the child with a movement which he/she will apply later in another context. The activities isolate certain movements allowing the child to practice them, laying the foundation and ensuring later success. For example, pouring water, which is later applied when engaged in flower arranging, food preparation, washing activities and so on.

Control and Coordination of Movement

The child was born to move.  Activities such as “walking on the line” allows the child to focus on movement and equilibrium. There is also a social aspect to this activity as children walk together and need to consider each other, their direction and speed. 

Care of Person

Activities which support the child’s functional independence, self-confidence and positive self-image. They include activities such as managing different fastenings, maintaining hygiene, taking care of clothing and personal items.

Care of Environment

These activities support the development of personal responsibility, care and maintenance for the child’s surroundings, both indoors and outdoors. Activities include gardening, washing activities, sweeping.

Grace and Courtesy

Activities which demonstrate to the children how to move and speak in different social situations in a way that is acceptable and makes everybody feel comfortable. Examples include how to greet, how to invite someone to join you.

 

Sensorial

From an early age, children are developing a sense of order and they actively seek to sort, arrange and classify their many experiences. The refining of the senses leads to a greater awareness of detail.

The sensorial materials provide “keys to the world” and builds understanding formed through hands-on learning that creates the basis for abstraction in thought. They provide experience initially in perceiving distinctions between things which are the same and different. Later the child grades sets of objects that differ in a regular and measurable way.

Scientifically designed and beautiful, many of the sensorial materials isolate a fundamental quality perceived through the senses such as colour, shape/form, dimension, texture, temperature, weight, volume, pitch, smell and taste. Precise language for example red, blue, yellow, long, short, rough, smooth… is then attached to these sensorial experiences to make the world even more meaningful to the child.

Different games are played with the sensorial materials developing the child’s memory, problem solving and social skills as well as encouraging them to apply the particular concept to the wider environment. The child explores patterns and relationships making their own links and discoveries of how these concepts can be combined.

 

Language and Literacy

For the child entering the Children’s House (3 to 6 environment), lots of opportunities – such as songs, poems, stories and classified language cards – for oral language and the enrichment of vocabulary are provided. Sound games which focus the child’s attention to sounds at the beginning, end and middle of words are played. The child is introduced to the symbols attached to these sounds through the sandpaper letters. Not only can children hear and see sounds but they can feel them by tracing the sandpaper letters.

In a Montessori environment creative writing with the moveable alphabet precedes reading. Later the child “discovers” they can read and practices this skill initially with single phonetic words before gradually being supported to read phrases and sentences. This opens up the world to the child and provides another way to communicate through the use of the written word.

 

Mathematics

Mathematical abstractions and understandings are developed with the maths materials and activities and the child is given another tool for exploring patterns and problem solving.

Mathematics is a way of looking at the world, a language for understanding and expressing measurable relationships and quantity. Mathematical ideas such as dimension, gradation, sequence and pattern are prepared through sensorial experiences.  Now in the maths area, the child is introduced to quantification, the decimal system, and the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Through concrete material the child discovers and explores how to add, subtract, multiply and divide and gradually comes to understand many abstract mathematical concepts with ease and joy.