Montessori Classroom: The Prepared Environment

Montessori classrooms differ from traditional classrooms in several ways, and one significant difference is the way the physical space is arranged. Vital to the Montessori Method is the “prepared environment,” a term for the specific dynamic, layout, and learning materials that comprise the classroom. The prepared environment is a powerful tool for the Montessori teacher and is cultivated with care. Likewise, students from primary to upper elementary Montessori programs engage with the prepared environment with curiosity and help to guide its evolution throughout the school day and year.

 

A Conduit for Learning

In her experience teaching and as she cultivated the Montessori philosophy of education, Maria Montessori observed the powerful influence the physical properties of the classroom had on her students’ capacity to learn. In her first position as a teacher, it did not take her long to see the need to alter the classroom layout she inherited: the familiar rows of desks and chairs that monopolize the space and face the front of the room where the teacher is positioned as the sole arbiter of learning. Instead, Montessori moved the desks into clusters around the room, introduced open spaces and unobstructed walkways for students to move through as they chose, and stationed learning tools and activities on easy-to-reach shelves on the periphery the room. She emphasized natural light, uncluttered surfaces, access to the outdoors, and physical movement. Montessori believed that students learn best by doing and by letting their innate interest and curiosity guide their acquisition of knowledge. In today’s Montessori classrooms, the prepared environment is constructed to facilitate this learning process and offer opportunities for students to observe the teacher in hands-on demonstrations, collaborate with their peers in small groups, or have space to work independently.

 

A Responsive Room

When students are encouraged to guide their own learning, the classroom becomes a dynamic space. In the prepared environment of Montessori classrooms, teachers are not tasked with lecturing, corralling, or generally battling with energetic bodies to keep still. Instead, Montessori teachers are asked to observe students as they engage the learning tools and activities and offer support and new challenges. As students progress in a lesson and want to further explore the topic, or are in need of further practice with the concept, Montessori teachers can introduce new or different learning tools to the shelves, or encourage small groups to form where students can teach and learn from each other. Montessori teachers receive constant feedback in the form of the students’ engagement with the prepared environment and can adapt the classroom to meet their curiosity.

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February Holiday: George Washington’s Birthday – Teaching Preschoolers about our First President

As our nation’s first President, George Washington is a very important person. Teaching preschoolers about him can be a little tricky, but there are quite a few activities available to make the task easier. We encourage you to incorporate a few educational activities at home as well.

Coloring Pages

Coloring in images related to George Washington will introduce children to the Father of our country in a fun way. You can use the images found here, or choose a few of your own. Better yet – tell your kids about some of Washington’s greatest feats and ask them to draw their own interpretations. Keep in mind that the outcome does not have to be accurate so long as the children convey what George Washington means to them – and to all of us.

Dressing Up for the Part

Creating a tri-cornered hat or wearing replica clothing of the era is another way to introduce kids to George Washington. The activity will do more than teach preschoolers about our first President – it will also help them develop fine motor skills and give them hours of fun things to do and talk about. The girls shouldn’t be left out, and can dress up like George Washington’s wife Martha or even Betsy Ross who designed the nation’s first flag.

Learning About Washington’s Life

George Washington’s life is well documented, and sharing some of the more notable achievements will help children understand why the man is so important. He was more than the first president – he also played a key role in the War of Independence and worked hard to shape the way our government worked after the war was won. You can even take your kids on a virtual tour of the White House, or Washington’s home of Mount Vernon.

Unlike traditional education, Day Star Montessori uses play-based learning to teach kids about subjects of historical interest. This method is more effective than rote memorization from a textbook and can be a lot of fun for the kids. If you would like to know more about the Montessori Method or the curriculum we teach at Day Star, contact us today.

Setting a Sleep Routine: Helping your Preschooler Succeed in School

Preschool children need more sleep than older kids or adults. Experts agree that preschoolers need between 11 to 13 hours of sleep a day, including one daytime nap. This helps children develop properly and contributes to better health and fewer behavioral problems. To help you establish a sleep routine that works for your child, we have compiled some helpful information from specialists, parents, and educators.

Consistency Counts

Preschoolers need a schedule that they can adjust to. This includes routines and schedules that can be followed day after day. It is okay for your little ones to stay up later now and then, but they need a regular pattern that works for you and them most of the time. This includes bathing, dressing for bed, and even a bedtime reading session that you are able to stick to. If you are not able to adjust your schedule to the desired routines, you may have to modify the routines so that your schedule is not a problem.

Keep It Short

Your child’s sleep routine should be something simple. You want them to prepare for bed and follow a normal routine, but overloading the evening schedule can make doing so more difficult for everyone and may even have undesired consequences for small children. Try to keep the nightly routine down to a handful of specific tasks and perform those tasks in the same order every night.

Bedtime Chart

Devise a chart or checklist to help your child with the nightly routine. This helps your child feel like they have more power over their lives and gives them a sense of accomplishment. In a busy household, it will also help you keep track of where your children are in the sleep routine process. The checklist should be a list of things which need to be done daily, including the parts you participate in as well, such as reading a bedtime story or assisting with choosing an outfit for the following day.

Your child’s sleep routine will be different than other children. It may take a week or two to establish the best schedule, but once you have it worked out, it is important to stick to the routine. At Montessori Children’s Center, we encourage our preschoolers to play and explore on their own, while still maintaining a set educational routine.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.

Play Based Activity to Use at Home

Research indicates that play-based learning is a great way to teach your children. This is a basic principle of Montessori education and one that is applied at every level of education at the Montessori School in Newark. To give you a better idea of how learning can be fun, here are some play-based activities you can do with your child at home.

Using Props to Encourage Learning

Using symbolic objects helps children develop association skills. This can be something as simple as using an oblong object to represent a microphone, or colored Play Dough to represent different food types. It helps children understand how to use abstract reasoning as well as the ability to substitute similar objects to reach a logical conclusion.

Counting and Math

You can use almost any objects to teach a child the basics of counting, adding and subtraction. If your child loves to play with toy cars, try using them to learn counting skills and progress to counting the number of cars when one is added or taken away. Your child gets to play with one of his favorite things, and may not even realize that he is being taught important skills in the process.

Make Science Fun

Science is an ideal subject for play-based learning. Growing a plant from seeds may not seem like play, but it involves digging and other facets of outdoor play. You can also use various toys or props to demonstrate such concepts as the inclined plane, friction, and more. Science needs to be simple for young children to grasp the concepts, but combining fun activities with the lessons gives them encouragement to tackle a lot of science-related subjects.

Learning Cultural Diversity Through Play

Dressing up in cultural attire or performing cultural activities can be both fun and educational. This can include the use of various musical instruments, how different cultures approach common activities such as using chopsticks instead of a fork, and much more. Human culture is an amazing thing, and learning about it through imitation will teach lessons that last a lifetime.

Children learn better when they can apply it to fun activities. Maria Montessori understood this phenomenon when she was developing the Montessori Method, and authentic Montessori schools like the Montessori School in Newark apply play-based learning every day.

DIY Musical Instruments for Kids

Music can be magic to a young child. Though hands-on activities, building an instrument makes for a whole new experience in shaping the world around us to produce things we can enjoy. Even toddlers can help create some percussion-type instruments and then be the life of the party playing with them.

Give Me the Beat

Drums may be the simplest musical instrument to create. An upturned bucket will suffice, or you can be more creative and make tambourines or other percussion instruments which require a few more moving parts. Drums are great for children to learn fine motor control and the concepts of timing and rhythm.

Shake It Baby

Shakers are another type of percussion instrument which can be designed from common materials. All you need is a container with a lid and something to put inside it. You can make it more educational by experimenting with different materials for the container and the items to be shaken or make an assortment of shakers for the whole family to have fun with.

Ringing the Bells

Bells are similar to shakers but make a more musical tone. You can make a bell using a plastic cup, a short piece of string, and one of the hard plastic balls used in children’s hair clips. Experiment with cups made of different materials to turn the musical game into an exciting learning activity concerning the tones of different shapes and materials.

Make a Xylophone

Xylophones are like a cross between a drum and a bell. The length of the slats creates different tones when tapped with a drumstick. The instructions are pretty simple, and building this instrument may be almost as much fun as it is using it.

Music is part of a total Montessori Method. Children can learn amazing things from building simple instruments or playing their own tunes, including basic physical laws, timing, and hand-eye coordination. Contact Day Star Montessori today and learn how we incorporate music and other hands-on activities into daily lessons.

Snow Day? Educational and Age Appropriate Movies for Children

Bad weather or other circumstances will always happen which keep everyone inside for the day. One way to fill the unexpected free time is to watch educational movies with your children, which teach them lessons about interacting with others and the world we live in. The themes chosen here represent subjects we are all familiar with in colorful settings which will hold a child’s attention.

  1. The Wizard of Oz [3 and up] – This movie contains numerous social lessons about ourselves and the world around us. It contains moral lessons and fanciful characters, imparting valuable bits of wisdom as it progresses.
  2. Beauty and the Beast [Infants and up] – This classic tale of love enduring through adversity teaches remarkable lessons about life and accepting others for who they are. This movie has been a favorite of children for generations, and the 2017 remake continues the legacy.
  3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [Infants and up] – One of the oldest full length animated films ever made still stands as a masterpiece in storytelling. Snow White is a classic in the realm of children’s animated movies.
  4. Seuss: The Lorax [5 and up] – Children love the visual and audible combinations of Dr. Seuss, and this story about saving the environment is both entertaining and educational. The film is rated for 5 and up, but younger children will enjoy the visual aspects if not the intellectual ones.
  5. The Labyrinth [5 and up] – Filled with muppets, songs, and a little girl’s quest to save her infant brother from the Goblin King, this timeless movie contains lessons about temperance and determination in a format which has a mesmerizing effect on younger children.

Watch the movies with your children, and interact with them as the movie progresses. Ask them questions afterward, and have movie-related activities. Most of these tales are also available in picture books which can be used to encourage reading.

The teachers and staff at the Montessori School of Newark encourage parents and families to incorporate the Montessori Method at home through a variety of educational, yet fun, activities.  To learn more about the Montessori Method, contact us today.

Teacher’s Role in a Montessori Classroom

A Montessori teacher’s role is a bit different from that of teachers in a more traditional classroom, as any Montessori parent will tell you. There are many aspects to the Montessori teacher’s job, but there are three big themes to this unique approach to teaching.

Prepare the environment

One of the most important aspects of a Montessori teacher’s role is preparing the classroom environment for learning. Within the Montessori philosophy is the belief that children have innate interests and motivations, and that they learn best when they direct themselves in their learning. In order to foster that independent learning, a teacher must create a space that is accessible and organized, stocked with appropriate tools and resources. A typical Montessori classroom has child-sized furniture, ample open space, and developmentally appropriate activities and learning tools that sit on child-height shelves that line the room. There is an absence of clutter or overwhelming visuals on the walls. The environment the teacher creates sets the tone for the dynamic of the classroom, and the objective is to set a blank canvas on which each student can express themselves each day.

Observe

As Dr. Maria Montessori developed her method of teaching, a large component of the Montessori Method process was observation. She spent many years observing children in classrooms, then introducing teaching practices or learning tools and recording those observations. So naturally, observation is an important element of today’s Montessori teaching practice. When a teacher is empowered to step back from directing the classroom and instead to observe, they can notice and learn each child’s interests and abilities as the child expresses it without constraint or prompting. Observation also allows teachers, who spend three years with the same child, to note their progress or areas in which they are challenged and support them, without having to resort to more artificial tools such as tests or exams.

Guide

Observation lays the foundation for the teacher’s next step, offering guidance. This aspect of the role is nuanced and many Montessori teachers will tell you it only develops with experience, because the way to guide children in the classroom can vary. At its core though, a teacher’s guidance of their student is meant to feed curiosity and cultivate independence. For example, a teacher may observe a student’s interest in the classroom plants, and they may then demonstrate how to water the plants, and then offer for the student to water them too. They could then ask why they water their plants, which, if the child engages, could lead to other questions about what plants need to grow, and so on. From there, the teacher could place activities or learning tools related to this interest in botany in the classroom, and step back and let the student explore. Through their guidance, the teacher has sparked curiosity, presented new skills, and established themselves as a support and resource that the child can access when they need.

Montessori teachers prepare their classrooms to fit the needs of their students, incorporating child-sized furniture and placing frequently used materials in easy to reach locations. Teachers at Hill Point Montessori observe students so as to better guide them in their learning and education journey. Contact us today to schedule a tour of our preparatory school in West Hills, CA.