Have you been looking for a preschool for your child? Wondering if a Montessori primary classroom is the right fit? Unlike many traditional schools, the Primary classroom has a focus on practical life skills and teaching children independence. In fact, the primary level in Montessori schooling can be key in helping your child develop a joy of learning.
That is why we have put together this introduction to a Montessori primary classroom, to give you insight into what happens during school hours:
Primary School in Montessori
The American Montessori Society states that primary is also known as “Children’s House,” a name for a classroom that is for children between the ages of 3-6. Other schools might call this grade Casa, preschool, early childhood, or primary.
In this mixed age environment, children are capable of choosing how they wish to learn, as well as finding older mentors. During this period, children are just beginning to understand how their body works, so much of the primary classroom coursework involves coordination and control.
There are four characteristics of the Montessori primary classroom that separate it from others:
- Children always have access to materials and will find the classroom accessible.
- Children are given responsibility for their own work, meaning that they need to display an awareness of others, keep the classroom clean and tidy, put things away when done, behaving as role models for younger students, and more.
- Children have freedom within limits.
- The classroom is designed to be beautiful and harmonious. Maria Montessori believed that the environment should be pleasing to the eye, as to encourage concentration, calmness, and self-direction. The primary classroom isn’t cluttered, but open and airy.
What Does a Primary Classroom Look Like?
The primary classroom is designed to be enticing and stimulating. Montessori classrooms aren’t meant to focus on the teacher, but on the students and the space itself. At times, the classroom is the teacher, and so it is set up much differently from a traditional preschool.
Montessori classrooms are often painted with neutrals, but calming shades of blue, green, and beige are also common. Maria Montessori had a fondness for natural materials, so you will rarely see plastic in the classroom. Wooden shelving, furniture, and chairs are preferred. Rather than single desks for one student, the Montessori classroom has longer tables in a variety of shapes.
Some tables might be enough for 2 children, while others are large enough to accommodate 6 or 8 children.
Shelving is used predominantly to store Montessori materials. Some schools have lockers where the students can keep their coats and lunches. Others might have a special section of shelving for storage.
What is a Montessori Primary Classroom Curriculum?
The Montessori primary classroom has a rich curriculum that supports the child’s sensitive period and absorbent mind. Here is a look at what goes on in the primary classroom:
By the time students are between the ages 3-6, they have already absorbed a lot of language knowledge. Now, writing is taught in preparation of learning how to read. Spoken language is emphasized in the Montessori classroom, and the whole environment is crafted so children can see and hear vocabulary. They are also encouraged to communicate with the teachers and other students.
Sandpaper letters, books, flash cards, and other items are used to solidify their understanding of words. Then, logical steps are taken to get them form sentences and reading fluently.
Materials are provided to the children that give them the ability to discover mathematics at their own pace. There are five groups of math-related activities in the primary classroom:
0-10 lessons that introduce students to counting to ten. The materials used include sandpaper numbers, spindle boxes, number rods, and memory games.
Decimals are taught using the golden bead materials, as well as decimal tray, building tray, and exchange tray.
Linear counting then develops the concept of larger numbers and skip counting. The teen board, ten board, 100 board, and chains are used to teach these concepts.
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division follow linear counting. Rods, strip boards, and golden bead materials are used.
The science curriculum aims to tap into a child’s natural inquisitiveness, getting them to answer their own questions about how the world works. The scientific method is utilized to teach students about procedure and critical thinking. Montessori also introduces students to nature as much as possible.
Lessons involve the following:
- Plants and animals
- Animal classifications
- Invertebrates and vertebrates
- Life cycles of plants and animals
- Plant and animal anatomy
Practical Life Curriculum
One of the main focuses of the primary classroom is practical life skills, including grace and courtesy. Through certain activities, the child learns how to navigate daily life, while gaining useful skills. Exercises in practical life skills also give children self-confidence and self-reliance.
Here are some of the activities involved:
- Rolling and unrolling rugs
- Using tongs to transfer items
- Using kitchen items, like a grater, strainer, and whisk
- Lacing and threading
- Brushing hair
- Putting on an apron
- Using the bathroom and washing one’s hands
- Folding and unfolding clothing
- Cleaning up spaces – dusting, sweeping
- Arranging flowers
Grace and courtesy is also important. Teachers work closely with the students to model how to greet one another, make eye contact, be polite, and how to excuse oneself from conversation. Apologies and conflict resolution are also worked on when the opportunity arises.
Between the ages of 3-6, children are using their senses and developing them rapidly. The Montessori primary classroom materials are designed to help the children broaden their understanding of sound, touch, and hearing, as well as how to be more logical and perceptive.
Common sensorial materials include:
- Red rods
- Pink tower
- Brown stair
- Knobbed and knobless cylinders
- Touch boards and tablets
- Sound cylinders
- Tasting trays
- Smelling bottles
Children are ready to learn about the world around them. The primary classroom is equipped to do just that. With story books, models of the physical world, puzzle maps, and other hands-on activities, children can learn about the world and geography.
Within the prepared environment, you will find objects and tools that teach the following:
- Different land and water forms
- Capitals of countries and states
- World map
The primary art curriculum often builds off of practical skills. For 3-6 year olds, art is all about enhancing fine motor control and allowing for self expression. This also means introducing the child to various forms of art, such as painting and sculpture. Children hopefully can an everlasting appreciation of art, especially as a means of non-verbal communication.
While there might seem like a lot happening in the Montessori primary classroom, much of these lessons are self-driven. Children are able to choose what they want to work on and when. Throughout the day, multiple skills can be employed and strengthened, giving children a more well-rounded education.