Ages 3-5 Years
Grace and Courtesy
As preschool children gain independence, self-care becomes increasingly important. They self-dress in winter items, change their shoes, blow their noses, wash their hands and clean themselves up after eating or completing art projects. In the classroom setting they learn to push in chairs, clean up their areas and perhaps help clean and maintain shared spaces for the good of the community.
Social interactions are also invaluable skills that are practiced during the preschool years. Children are provided language for greetings and farewells and tools to help them navigate social situations. For instance, if a child wants to
work on an activity in use by another child, she may ask, “Can I use that when you’re done?” If a child does something another child does not like, he may ask, “How can I make it better?” Important skills such as inviting a friend to play or helping a sad friend feel better are also practiced.
The Practical Life area of the preschool classroom is filled with activities designed to reflect everyday home learning using tools of the child’s culture. Children practice scooping, tweezing, pouring and transferring materials between containers on trays. They sweep, scrub and set tables. They polish silverware and fold towels. While to an adult these tasks may seem like mundane chores, to a child, each of these activities develops important skills: Independence, Concentration, Order and Coordination.
Practical Life works are self-contained so when a child chooses an activity tray, he or she has
everything needed to explore and complete the work- Independence. The child can work with the activity as many times as he or she pleases, transferring back and forth until the child feels satisfied- Concentration. The child completes the Montessori work cycle by choosing the space, choosing the activity, completing the work, preparing it for the next friend and returning it to the shelf in its original place- Order. As the child uses whole-hand grasps or tools to explore the activity, they are not only improving hand-eye coordination, they are strengthening fine motor skills that will be used later in writing- Coordination.
All Practical Life works have a direct and indirect aim. The direct aim of the activity is what the child sees as completion of the task, perhaps moving all of the beads from one dish into another dish using a set of tongs. Indirectly, the child is preparing for future learning. By holding the tongs with three fingers (the “pincer grasp”), he or she is practicing pencil grip, and by transferring from left to right, he or she is preparing for reading and writing.
In the preschool program, children begin to understand that they are part of not only their home and school communities, but part of much larger communities- neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, continents, planets, and the universe. Through studies of geography, cultural presentations and celebrations of holidays and traditions from around the world, children make connections to humanity and begin to see themselves as vital parts of our macrocosm.
The Sensorial area of the classroom invites children to use all of their senses to help sort and categorize impressions from the world around them. Using self-correcting materials, children learn to discern shape, size, color, texture, sound, smell, weight, and so much more. Many materials in the Sensorial area are designed to focus on one quality of an object. For instance, the Pink Tower is a set of ten pink
wooden cubes increasing in size from 1 cubic centimeter to 10 cubic centimeters. As size is the only difference between each cube, children can hone their skills of determining which cubes are small, smaller, smallest, big, bigger, biggest, and so on.
Math in the preschool and kindergarten Montessori classroom moves from concrete to abstract. Introductory materials are designed for children to both see and feel quantity to fully grasp the concept before introducing the abstract symbols that represents quantity- numbers. Many materials are explored to help children solidify their understanding of 0-10. Once a child internalizes the single digits, math learning is infinite. Various manipulatives are used to help children understand that quantities can be combined and taken apart to create new quantities (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Montessori math also appeals to a child's imagination to grasp
concepts. For instance, early on, children are introduced to the concept of “one thousand.” They feel the size and weight of a cube of 1,000 golden beads and compare it to a single bead. They may then explore the 1,000 long bead chain to see how far across the room 1,000 beads reach.
While language is present in all areas of the classroom (songs, rhymes, books, building vocabulary, etc.) the Language area is designed to focus on the letters and sounds in the English alphabet. Children use the metal insets to trace shapes, strengthening their pencil grip while preparing for letter formation. While the direct aim of tracing a triangle is to draw the shape, the indirect aim is to practice forming the uppercase letter “A.” They trace the sandpaper letters to feel the form of a letter while they say the letter sound out loud, thereby both articulating and hearing the sound. By using multi-sensory experiences to learn about letters and sounds, children unlock the tools for
language that resonate most strongly with them. When a child first builds, writes or reads a word it is a thrill to see a new world of understanding and opportunity shine across the child’s face. As the children have been preparing for reading and writing since their first activities in Practical Life and beyond, it is not unusual for a teacher to ask, “How did you know how to do that?” and for the child to respond, “I just...knew!”