10 Ways To Boost Your Preschool Child's Cognitive Development

From birth to age six your child is in a period of child development that Dr. Maria Montessori described as "the absorbent mind". During this critical period, your child's mind is like a sponge, soaking up knowledge about everything in the local environment. They are undergoing intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from the environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously - and they're using all of this information to construct a mental framework about the world around them that adults simply take for granted.

What children learn during the absorbent mind period is taken in effortlessly, and becomes the foundation of your child's personality. It is important for both parents and teachers to recognize and value the importance of this developmental stage and find ways to help the child absorb the best formative experiences possible.

Cognitive Development In Children

In children, cognitive development is the study the  information processing, conceptual development, perception, language, and other areas of brain development and cognition.  It is focused on how children think, explore and solve problems - as well as how they acquire knowledge, master new skills, solve problems, and form ideas about the world around them.

Many researchers believe that children are born with cognitive systems to help them to overcome common challenges that humans have faced over the course of our species evolution. Other scientists are deeply involved with the study of brain plasticity, which helps us understand how childhood skills can be learned in such a short period of time.

Regardless of the origins of our cognitive abilities, scientists have come to understand that there are a number of core systems of cognition that make easier and more effective for children to develop different types of cognition. Some of the more commonly described systems include:

  • Numbers: It has been found that infants possess two systems for dealing with numbers. One system is optimized for small numbers and is called subitizing, and another deals with larger numbers and can approximate their measure.
  • Space: It has been found that very young children have an innate ability to navigate their surroundings. It has also been found that this ability to discern space is involved in the development of complex language skills which occurs between the ages of 3 and 5. Later on, adults tend to use language and symbols to reason out their information.
  • Visual Perception: Children can discern 3-dimensional objects from a very young age. However there are much more complex aspects of visual perception which occurs during their early development years and beyond.
  • Language: A very studied and important part of cognitive development involves the acquisition of language. It has been shown that learning and social experiences plays a key role in the development and acquisition of language.
  • Essentialism: This system has to do with the viewpoint that all entities function on their own and have individual properties.

By the time a child is old enough to begin preschool, the earliest phases of cognitive development have already passed. The child has basic skills, but needs the reinforcement of positive, intellectually enriching stimuli to help develop them further. As a parent, guardian, or teacher, you are in a wonderful position to assist your child with a wide variety of enrichment to help them develop as rapidly as possible during the absorbent mind period where they're able to rapidly gain knowledge & master new skills.

10 Ways To Boost Your Preschool Child's Cognitive Development

  1. Read to Them: Reading helps children begin to understand language, sound & symbols - and showing them pictures helps them to identify sounds with concepts & symbols. All of this gives them a big head start on language skills that they'll learn in school, and helps them to increase their comprehension and exercise imagination.
  2. Practice The Alphabet: It's valuable for preschool children learn the alphabet song, and along with this try introducing flashcards for each letter, which typically have a picture of an animal or familiar object on the card with a name beginning with that later.
  3. Visit a Museum or Zoo: Visiting interesting & engaging places expands your worlds and stimulates their mental development. Take your child to a museum with interactive exhibits, or stimulate your child's natural curiosity about animals by taking them for a trip to the zoo. For example, Cincinnati Museum Center has a large children’s museum designed to encourage learning through play.
  4. Introduce Them To Puzzles: Preschool age children learn by playing with toys, stacking blocks, and solving puzzels to help them learn problem solving skills. For example, if a puzzle piece doesn’t fit, a child will try another one or put the piece in a different spot. Toys with pieces to sort help children realize things belong in groups – which lays a math foundation.
  5. Practice Counting: Helping your child count to ten can involve flashcards with numbers on them, and you can also help them practice sorting blocks or toys into groups corresponding to each number they are working to learn.
  6. Practice Shapes: Blocks and flashcards are familiar tools for helping children begin to identify & memorize the names of shapes. It's also helpful to point out objects around the house or your local environment and having describe what shape each one has.
  7. Practice Colors: Learning the primary colors begins with naming the primary colors, and moves into more advanced activities like the Montessori color box or coloring with crayons. Colors are a rich, inspiring source of cognitive growth for your child and help them develop their artistic abilities at a young age.
  8. Teach Them Songs: Song and music helps children develop their auditory, social, language, and emotional skills. Introduce them to songs with motion like “I’m a little teapot” to help build their physical coordination, along with children's classics like “Down by the Bay.”
  9. Encourage Questions: Young children have absorbent minds that soak up knowledge like a sponge - and they have an inquisitive drive to fill that mind with information about the world around them. Encourage them to ask questions about everything, which helps them develop critical thinking skills and become better communicators.
  10. Encourage Choices: In addition to questions, making choices is important. Ask your preschool child what they'd like to eat, what they'd like to wear, or many other questions requiring them to make a choice. After they choose, ask them why they made they made the choice that they did - this will help them begin to develop valuable critical thinking skills.

Remember, by helping your child learn, grow & succeed as a preschooler, you're creating patterns of growth and success that will last a lifetime. It's vital to their development that they experience as many positive, intellectually stimulating things as possible - and it will create a solid foundation for later success both in school and in life.


Montessori Tools For Introducing Mathematics

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that the human mind is naturally mathematical, which means that it is a latent but inherent ability in our children. She also believed children crave order and precision - which is something you'll immediately notice in the Montessori environment and materials preparation in any Montessori classroom environment.

Given the proper foundation and the freedom to explore, the understanding of basic mathematics emerges from the child's experimentation as part of a completely natural growth & learning process. Her materials were designed with Montessori math in mind and help to contribute to the development of mathematical thinking, based on a self-directed approach to education.

Dr. Montessori believed that when children are given both freedom and the right materials to learn with, they will lead their own learning. Hence, her methods for teaching counting follow her principles of minimal guidance. Children are naturally drawn to mathematical activities as part of their work to understand the world, so it is important to foster their learning in a self-directed manner.

The Montessori Method favors hands-on approaches to learning, along with a progression from concrete to abstract concepts. In the classroom, the Montessori mathematics materials are presented to support this learning framework by first introducing basic concepts such as understanding the numbers themselves, and later progressing to addition, subtraction, and the even beginning concepts in algebra.

Montessori Mathematics Materials

Here is a collection of commonly used mathematics materials in the Montessori classroom, along with descriptions of how they introduce and reinforce mathematics learning in preschool aged children. This is not a complete list, and creative teachers find many novel ways to introduce math concepts to children using materials from other learning avenues and the surrounding environment. Mathematics should be fun and exciting, and the tools below are some of the more useful ways to engage preschool children in this learning avenue.

  1. Number Cards & Counters: Children prepare for counting skills by learning to identify the one through 10, which are the foundation of mathematics. They need to learn the names, symbols and quantities that these numbers represent, and number cards can help them explore the shapes of the numbers when written down. Children should practice putting numbers in sequence, and can then place counters under each card to represent each number's quantity.
  2. Number Rods: Montessori number rods help reinforce the growing quantities associated with numbers one through 10. There are 10 wooden rods of varying lengths, colored in an alternating red and blue pattern. Children are encouraged to lay out the rods in a stair-like pattern, one on top of the other, shortest to longest, which helps them to count both the number of rods as well as the colored sections within them.
  3. Spindle Boxes: Maria Montessori believed that children need to use concrete materials to graphically see what happens during a mathematical process. She felt it was much more important than rote memorization, which doesn't encourage deep understanding. The Montessori spindle box activity involves a long wooden box with 10 slots, numbered zero to nine, and helps children see rising quantity as numbers increase and teaches the concept of zero.
  4. Number Memory: For children who can already count through the number ten, give each child a folded piece of paper with a hidden number written on it. Set up collections of materials like crayons, cotton balls, paper clips and paper squares around the room, and give child a turn to open his secret number. Have them collect the number of objects stated on their paper, which encourages the child to remember a given number and its associated quantity.
  5. Sandpaper Numbers: The Montessori sandpaper numerals in the math avenue correspond to the sandpaper letters used in the language avenue. The numbers 0-9 are mounted to smooth wooden sandpaper boards. This mathematics material helps children to recognize and become comfortable with numbers and engages their visual and tactile senses in the process. Children are able to feel the different shapes of the letters with their fingers, associate the shapes with the names of the numbers, and later on will learn to organize them in ascending order.
  6. Pink Tower: The Pink Tower teaches children to stack a series of progressively larger blocks that are arranged visually in descending order, from smallest to largest. The cubes that compose the power are mathematically sized, with the largest cube in the pink tower being 10 centimeters cubed, the next 9 cm cubed, then 8 cm cubed, etc. This material is a concrete example of the decimal numbering system and also an exercise in using incremental measurement of different volumes. The Pink Tower helps children internalize the tactile and visual differences in size and weight of the blocks that compose it.
  7. Bead Cabinet: This mathematics material is a wooden frame that hands long strands of colored beads, ordered from longest to shortest. The bead cabinet is visually attractive and invites the child to engage with it. In addition to the hanging beads, a series of shelves in the cabinet match the order of the hanging beads with an array of multi-colored beads arranged in lines of squares, as well as one shelf containing bead cubes. The beads are used by children for counting exercises, and naturally show the beginning of multiplication progressions as children see that 4 bars of 4 beads adds up to 16 beads. Again, this is a tactile and visual tool that engages children to count and arrange numbers, and gently introduces them even more advanced mathematics concepts in the process.
  8. Binomial Cube: The Montessori binomial cube is essentially a wooden framework containing eight wooden blocks that fit together into a cube. Each of the blocks is uniquely colored, and can be arranged to match a display painted on the wooden lid of the binomial cube. The blocks include one red cube, three red and black matching prisms, one blue cube and three blue and black matching prisms. Using the display as a guide, preschool children can stack and arrange the wooden blocks to assemble the cube within the box framework, which helps them develop hand-eye coordination, while also introducing them to mathematical concepts similar to the bead cabinet. The binomial cube is presented to children as a puzzle to solve, but in doing so they also develop coordination and an awareness of the role of square and cube numbers, which helps prepare them for more advanced mathematics in the future.

All of the mathematics materials we've presented are multi-sensory in nature, and incorporate visual appeal with tactile engagement to help preschool children learn mathematics in a holistic manner. Maria Montessori realized that learning was more effective when reinforced by multiple senses, and she also understood that hands-on learning helped to cement new knowledge in the child's mind.

Not only are Montessori tools for mathematics a highly-effective approach to engaging children in self-directed learning activities, but the Montessori approach to mathematics also blends seamlessly with the recently implemented Common Core Standards in the USA, making it a great way to get your preschool age child a solid foundation for future STEM proficiency.


Montessori Tools For Geography

Geography can be an exciting topic that engages preschool-age children if it is presented using teaching methods that are tailored to a level that's appropriate for young minds. Montessori schools does this by using specific learning tools that help begin basic geography concepts earlier than traditional education does. The Montessori approach to teaching geography helps children to learn concepts in a tactile, hands-on way. Not only do children see the continents, landforms, and oceans, but they can feel their shapes and learn about the life that lives on them as well!

In a Montessori environment, geography is broke up into the physical geography of the earth and then the social & political geography of countries, customs & cultures. We begin with physical geography because it is easier to grasp based on shapes & tactile information that younger children can easily understand. From there, we explore deeper into the subject of geology, which examines the composition of the Earth and serves as a solid foundation to help children more fully understand the concepts of political & social geography.

  1. Sandpaper Globes: In a sandpaper globe, the land and water have different textures - and children can run their hands over textured globe to help learn to differentiate between the land and the water. During the sensitive period for language, sandpaper globes also help them learn how to to identify and name the seven continents.
  2. Landform Models: Children begin learning how to identify and classify landforms through scale models of common geographical formations. Examples of these models models include an island, lake, peninsula, gulf, isthmus, and straight - where raised areasrepresent land and the lower parts can be filled with water to show children the landforms in a realistic, intuitive manner. As your child comes to understand  landforms through three dimensional models, cards with photographs of real landforms in nature can be used to further their understanding.
  3. Puzzle Maps: Puzzle maps are wooden puzzles split into continents, countries, or states. You can imagine them as being like jigsaw puzzels, except that each color-coded piece represents a geographical mass, which attached kbobs to help the child's fingers grasp them easily. Puzzle maps are meant to reinforce map skills, and engage the child’s mind to see where pieces fit together.
  4. Continent Boxes: A more holistic approach to teaching geography involves creating a small box for each continent which contains miniature models of animals, landmarks, and photographs of the people & cultures in that region. Learning about the people, cultures, foliage and animals that inhabit our world helps make geography more interesting, and helps children with the task of naming and classifying these objects as well.

Geography comes to life when it is presented in an immersive manner that engages children in a visual & tactile way. Learn about geography in preschool not only helps to inspire children to be lifelong learners about the Earth, but also helps them develop a deeper understanding of our planet and the life that inhabits it.


Self-Motivation in Preschool Age Montessori Students

Children are born with a desire to learn, a need to explore, and an innate curiosity of the world around them. That’s what makes children so special and why they come up with so many wonderful questions about the world they are observing. Children have a strong intrinsic motivation that drives their early development - and Montessori education provides a school environment built around the child's innate curiosity, and their needs and wants.

The Montessori environment is created specifically for a child to succeed, and encourages independence, coordination, concentration, and order which help to develop focus, attention span, and increases their desire to learn. It helps them become independent, develop their own potential, build confidence, and become a lifelong learner.

As a Montessori teacher, I encourage my students to love learning, and as they discover their intrinsic motivation they will achieve a love for learning, which will, in turn, allow them to be lifelong learners. Rather than feeling pressured to perform for their parents or their teachers, this love for learning comes from within themselves, and becomes a form of self-motivation that will last them a lifetime.

Montessori education fosters a child’s natural desire to learn, and as a Montessori teacher, I try to guide the child, rather than instruct them. I help each student find activities that meet their interests, needs and developmental level. Allowing a child to be free from external expectations, allows them to set their own goals and aspirations.

The Montessori learning environment is prepared to allow your child to succeed the moment they enter it. Everything is in its rightful place, clean, neat and organized. There are no distractions in the environment - everything is organized and prepared purposefully. The materials are beautiful and inspire the child to touch and interact with them.

The Montessori method isn't about forcing a child to learn things they aren't ready for or simply aren't interested in. Instead, it takes your child where they are, learns their interests, and guides them on their own educational path. The skills in Montessori are foundational, step-by-step, and build on each other. Teachers observe the child and present new materials when the child has mastered the existing material and are ready for the next step.

In a Montessori environment, children can check their own work is motivated to correct any mistakes they have made. The child determines for themselves if their work is right or wrong, which allows their intrinsic motivation to continue guiding them. Teachers acknowledges what the child has achieved, but the focus is on the process of growth and learning, not the end result.

Learning is an engaging process, and can sometimes be difficult. When a child struggles to master a skill, we gently remind them of that and urge them to keep trying. However, unlike traditional education, we're less focused on achieving a specific end result, and focused more on an immersive learning process that encourages children to experiment, explore, and never give up.


The Absorbent Mind

The absorbent mind is a period of time in child development from birth through around the age of six, where young children experience a period of intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from the environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously. The child absorbs not only language, but also the traits of their family and community. They learn how to behave in different situations, along with simple tasks like how to eat properly. Some of this learning is consciously taught, but great deal of it is simply absorbed naturally by the child’s mind.

Through Maria Montessori's research, she understood that children from birth to 6 are influenced a great deal by the environment which surrounds them. She called this period of time The Absorbent Mind, and likened the child’s development to that of a construction site, where the child uses local resources  to build his or her mind and because those are the only resources on hand to work with.

It is worth pointing out that this time of development is very different to the reasoning mind which follows later. Montessori said that when a child grows to the point of using the reasoning mind, they can actively make decisions based on logic & patterns already established by the brain, but during the time of the absorbent mind, the child merely journeys through life, learning and growing, influenced by their environment.

The Absorbent Mind has Two Stages

According to Montessori, the absorbent mind can be divided into two stages: the Unconscious and Conscious stages. The difference between these stages is primarily defined by whether the child is passively absorbing information from the environment around them, or instead actively seeking to learn new information and master new skills.

The Unconscious Stage

From birth to age three, the child absorbs information unconsciously or unknowingly. He (or she) learns to sit, stand, walk, speak without conscious effort. An infant will look at everything intently without discrimination or choice. Children during this period tends to unconsciously mimic what they see, but lack conscious goals or purpose to their actions. During this period, children also acquire language skills, and begin to absorb social customs from the people around them that they internalize into themselves. Parents will see children in this stage imitate everything they see, which they incorporate into their own personality as they build towards the conscious phase of the aborbent mind.

The Conscious Stage

Around the age of three, we begin to see the emergence of consciousness, indicating the beginning of memory and conscious awareness. The child still absorbs information easily, but now motivated to consciously seek particular experiences. A child in this phase is expanding newly developed faculties and abilities, and tends to learn things like order, like music, numbers, and letter sounds. This learning will lead to math, reading, and writing skills. During this phase, children also become more independent, and seek mastery of their mind, body, and environment. Parents will see children in the conscious stage of the absorbent mind demonstrate a desire to make their own choices and complete basic tasks on their own - something that Dr. Maria Montessori described as the "do it myself" stage.

The Absorbent Mind is Like a Sponge

The child’s absorbent mind is like a sponge, soaking up knowledge about everything in the local environment. What children learn during this period is taken in easily, and becomes the foundations of the child's personality. As parents & educators, it is important that we recognize that the importance of this developmental stage and find ways to help the child absorb the best experiences possible.

The absorbent mind in young children has a remarkable capacity to soak up new knowledge and literally absorb information from the environment they live in. This is more than simply an ability to learn - it is a natural part of growth, and without proper intellectual stimulation, research shows that certain parts of the brain will not develop without without stimulation during the formative years of a child's life.

The development of the child's mind through the two phases of the absorbent mind happens sequentially, and creates the foundation of the child's perceptions that helps them to understand more complex concepts as they continue to develop. Learning begins with what is available: a basic knowledge of the child's surroundings - and as complexity grows, the child begins using symbols, organizing information, and thinking more abstractly over time.

The period of time we call the absorbent mind is a truly unique time in human development that we all pass through, and provides us with an intensity and sensitivity to the world around us that helps us rapidly create our own picture of the world inside our own mind. The absorbent mind does not simply create a model of the world, however, it also helps the child create a model of themselves - which is why providing proper enrichment during this time is so critically important for laying the foundations of an intellectually full & rich childhood and later adult life.


The Montessori Language Avenue

“In the mysterious period which follows immediately after birth, the child-who is a psychic entity endowed with a specially refined form of sensitiveness—might be regarded as an ego asleep. But all of the sudden he wakes up and hear delicious music; all his fibers begin to vibrate. The baby might think that no other sound that had ever reached his ears, but really it was because his soul was not responsive to other sounds. Only human speech had any power to stir him.” Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, chapter 11.

What is the Montessori Language Avenue?

Commonly known as the "Development of Language", the Montessori language avenue covers a wide scope of activity in child development. It includes basic oral language, vocabulary, the awareness of phonemes, and of course learning all of the letters in the alphabet. As the child masters these basic skills, they learn to use them accomplish more complex language tasks, such as reading words, phrases, sentences, and eventually books. This is the path that leads them to spelling & grammar, and the beginnings of comprehension.

The developmental phases of language

In the early year of baby’s life, human babies all around the world naturally pay attention to the voice of human but ignore any other noises such as animals or sounds of construction. Speaking to the child with gentle voice, helping the child expose to appropriate classified vocabularies and allowing the child to become part of conversation, culture and community are very important for the child’s language development and it will also help her feel connected and pay attention to the language.

Dr. Maria Montessori demonstrates her language development of the child age between 0- 2 ½ year old in The Absorbent mind, page 124, the figure 7:

  • 0-3 months. At 2 months, the baby turns at sound of a voice.
  • 4-6 months. The baby looks intensely at speaking mouth.
  • 6 months. The baby says first syllable and repeats the same syllable over and over.
  • 6-10 months. the baby reaches the stage of absorption of language; formation of babbling.
  • 10 months. the child becomes conscious that language has meaning.
  • 1 year. the child has her first intentional word.
  • 15 months. the child has the ability to understand sense expressed in language.
  • 13-17 months. the child uses baby talk (prevalence of vowels and interjections) and the child uses mimetic words.
  • 18 months. The child uses substantives.
  • 18-21 months. the child uses phrases formed without grammar; “fusive” and single words with diffused meaning.
  • 21-24 months. the child’s sudden words are increased. It is explosive development; hundreds of nouns, prepositions, verbs and adjectives.
  • 24 months. At the age of two, it is “Explosive epoch”; the child uses completion of vocabulary; prefixes, suffixes, conjunctions, verbs, conjugations and adverbs. The child uses grammar; substantives, verbs and other part of speech. (explosion of words) The child uses words to joy the express thoughts. (Expression of phrases)
  • 24-36 months. Around this age, the variety of phrases increases rapidly. She uses coordinated, subordinated phrases with the subjective. The child’s language is now completed. She uses syntax. She uses her thoughts to express about the future.

At around age one and one and a half years old the child realizes that everything has its own name. The child is aware of environment and the world around her. While the child is forming the language, she is also forming her sense of order. The child can be struggle and frustrated with her expression. Sometimes she mixes words together which causes her to become angry or having mental anguish. The teacher and parents must pay attention to the child’s words so that we can help her deliver message smoothly and effectively. Montessori also suggests that parents should let children live in contact with adults and let the children hear the best speech clearly pronounced frequently. In the first two years, the child has learned her mother tongue language.

How language calls to the child

Dr. Montessori states in The Absorbent Mind that “The child first fixes the sound and then the syllables, following a gradual process as logical as the language itself. Words follow and finally we enter the field of grammar---We see how greatly nature’s teaching illuminates our own thought. She is the teacher, and at her best the child learns what to us adults seem the dullest parts of language. Yet the child shows the keenest interest, and this lasts well into the next period of his development, from three to five years of age.”

From babbling to speaking clear words and sentences, the child is forming and developing her conscious thoughts. When it is the right time we will be surprised that all the sudden, the child can deliver speech correctly and clearly. The inner teacher of the child leads the unfolding of characteristic of human nature which the brain requires at that time. It depends on the individual for the right time to learn, not the teacher.

The period before reading

From Age of Montessori’s language chart: The doorway to reading, it demonstrates period before reading.   Teacher should prepare the environment of the period before reading to the child by increasing of vocabulary through wide experiences and exact terminology; introducing words connected with the Sensorial Material, Introducing words connected with classified pictures, telling stories and poems to children, building stories around central theme, playing question game, providing a book corner and acquiring an attitude of love and respect for books, encourage children’s self –confidence in speaking and telling their own experiences.

Preparation for writing

From Age of Montessori’s language chart: The doorway to reading, it demonstrates the preparation for writing. The teacher should prepare the environment for the child to write by indirect preparation of the hand through the sensorial material, allowing the child to use control of pencil and lightness of Touch-Metal insets, directing preparation of the hand in tracing shape of letters, preparing of the mind in exploring the sounds that compose the words, giving a lesson of sand paper letter, using moveable alphabets for expression of thought in symbols.

From Writing as Human Activity’s video, Mary Ellen mentions Dr. Montessori’s thought about how children learn to write in Montessori that the language bases on sound and the sounds represent by letters. As the children learn the sound of letters, the children learn that when we put the sounds together they form words, when we put words together they form sentences. The children are actually decode the language.

Children at age 4 to 5 year old can learn to write easier than the children age 6 years old according to Montessori’s statement, “Written language can be acquired much more easily by children age four years than those at six years of age. That time at which composer education usually starts while children at six years old need at least two years to learn how to write and do so with great difficult and against their nature”

Analysis of the sounds

Since language bases on sound Montessori mentions that it is the reason that we must begin the learning by analyzing the sound of words. Dr. Maria told us that we should not begin the book which has printed words that common school use to teach for the child at beginning of the year in school. Dr. Montessori says “The correct use of the alphabet in learning to write should only give the simple sign of the alphabet itself.” When we work with the child, the child hear the sound of the words, we simply attach those words in the sand paper letter simple process. Then the combination of the written words could be directly from the spoken language which already be in the child’s mind.

Oral and reading comprehension

Before reading comprehension, the child should understand oral comprehension. Oral comprehension is establishing habits of mind. We would like to assist the children learn to find meaning. Oral comprehension is a natural process of aiding the brain to visualize patterns. It helps the mind to know and inform verbal patterns. When we read a story to the child, in Montessori classroom, we tend to tell children a story rather than reading a story. When we tell a story, we share our thoughts and feelings into the story, it helps children feel connect to the story and they can picture the story by using their imagination. Lev Vygotsky, a well-known psychologist believed that children build their own comprehension of life and language through their interaction in the environment. When we tell the children stories, the children have the ability to build their comprehension of stories also.

The goals for oral comprehension

To build habits of the mind in children:

  • Children need to learn the meaning of the topic or story that they listen or read. We can ask the a few simple questions and let them participate and use their imagination and thought so we know that they follow through the story and understand it.
  • Activating prior knowledge by model how stories make children think about experiences in their own lives. Relating the story to the real life experience of children and make prediction. The prediction is a vital step in the unfolding of reasonable thinking for the child. Teacher needs to open her mind and be sensitive to the personal thought of all children.
  • Helping the child to determine the important main topic of the story. It is very important for children to learn to visualize the story, teacher can help by asking questions and letting the child interact with the text; Ask the kids what story is about and find out. 2. Ask question while reading to make sure that they are still following a long and understand the story. 3. Ask question after finish reading to see children’s thought about the book.
  • Eliciting children’s sensory impressions. Teacher should invite the children to express the images in their mind for example, by acting, writing or drawing.
  • Helping the children making meaning.
  • Helping the children to synthesize the story which means ordering, retelling, recreating a whole story that they have read or heard. Synthesizing is very important, it is a life skill of making sense of our environment and boiling it down to manageable pieces. It is a natural skill that we all are involved every day.
  • Helping children to narrate text elements which include the common patterns which relate to the simple questions of what, where, when, who, how and why.

Teaching vocabulary

We begin with a set of classified materials. Classification helps the child’s mind to become organized.

For example, giving a lesson in the vocabulary of tropical fruits.

  • Clear the area and put a rug on the floor.
  • Get rid of distractions. Set a basket of 3-4 tropical fruits.
  • To avoid a sense of failure or ignorance, give the child the information of simple words before asking her to tell us what it is.
  • Introducing one fruit at a time using the three period lesson.

Three-period lesson

The three period lesson is the technique to introducing the child to learn new words. First period we say “This is__”: We hold the object and let the child hold the object. Second period we say “Show me__”: After the child show us the object, mix the items or ask the child to put the object to places or a part of his body. Third period we say “What is this?” It is a chance to work constructively with the child and open up the tremendous of words.

Matching cards

Set out a set of matching pictures and give the child one matching picture at a time. The child has to lay picture out to the similar one. Once the child succeed with matching pictures. We can start to use one set of the cards to teach the words using three-period lesson. Matching cards can be in so many types such as flowers, gems, cars, animals, presidents, parks etc.

Create opportunities to teach new categories of words

We can present new categories of words by bringing new categories into the class for example bringing fun and attractive objects by season of the year or holiday, by cooking, by building things, by bringing the children to the library or field trip to a farm or park.

Foundation of Early Reading

Writing and reading are complicate works that built of several sub skills. Dr. Maria uses the idea of isolation of difficulty to instruct each sub skill separately.

There are some important factors that Montessori program focuses on:

  1. Phonemic awareness. It is the comprehension that spoken words can be broken down into the individual sound part called phonemes. For example, rhyming words, beginning sound isolation, phoneme segmentation and blending. It is very important to reading an alphabetic language. It is the foundation to learn an alphabetic writing system and also a strong predictor of reading achievement in the early year. We can teach the child phonemic in the Montessori classroom by preparing environment and creating activities such as rhyming, beginning sound isolation, syllabication and segmentation.
  2. Alphabetic principle. It is the notion that letters represent speech sounds. The printed letters can turn into speech. It is a code we use to record the thoughts or writing and it is the code we use to inform printed words or reading. When the child understand alphabetical principle, she can systematically and successfully retrieve the pronunciation of a printed string of words or letters. The child has to learn and masters the letter sound correspondences and learn how to use the letter sound correspondences for word reading which in the beginning will involve with decoding a printed words. Children who understand the alphabetic principle as a deep understanding of how it works not as memorizing are gaining the real knowledge. The early childhood is such a sensitive period for developing symbol systems and language is a symbol system, for young children, it is easier than the older one to learn.
  3. Applying Phonemes and the Alphabet in writing and reading. In Montessori, children start learning only most common sound of each letter and most relevantly, just only the short sound of five vowels which we call “short vowel alphabet.” They are “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” and “u”.
  4. Beginning to decode language. The example of decoding a simple word such as cat, it is one syllable, three letter and short vowel.

Dyslexia

Children who have a difficulties learning to read are those who are not able to comprehend and perceive the alphabetic code because of deficiency of phonemic awareness which is the most common cause of dyslexia. Dyslexia is an impaired ability to learn to read. Fortunately, based on a research of Sally Shaywitz who runs 30 years of the reading lab at Yale University, there is a way to overcome dyslexia.

In children with dyslexia, the phonemes are less well developed as a result they may have a difficult time selecting the suitable phoneme when they talk and may instead retrieve a phoneme as the same sound (Ex. Trying to say “ocean” but say “lotion” instead, or “pider” instead of “spider”)

From Overcoming Dyslexia, Age of Montessori’s textbook, Shawitz states that “A young child must develop phonemic awareness if he is to become a reader. That is to say, he must understand that spoken words are made up of smaller units of speech sounds, phonemes. It is the very same phonemes to which the letters of that alphabet must attach if the written word is to be brought into the language system. All reader-dyslexic readers included—must take the same steps” While the normal reader use the back portion of the brain, dyslexics use frontal. This pattern in the back of the brain gives a neural signature for the phonologic difficulties characterizing dyslexia. It is a real fact of dyslexics in all language and all ages. The research and the reading lab experiment of Shawitz has shown that the brain can be rewired and the readers who have language difficulty can become skilled readers.

What we must do based on Shaywitz’s advice is helping the child to comprehend and visualize that spoken words can be broken down and are made up on tiny phonemes.  Once the child has the phonemes awareness, understand that spoken words can be pulled apart into distinct sounds, the child is well on her way to solving the spoken language part of the reading code. Then the big step for the child is figuring out how printed letter linked to the sounds. When the child breaks the reading code. The child has mastered the alphabetic principle and is ready to read.

How Montessori schools help language development

Maria Montessori believes that writing develops before reading in most children. Concurrent to the child’s explorations with sounds, she is also using metal insets and preparing the hand to write in the classroom, the teacher should start the process of helping children learn to read by engaging them with sounds of language.

The goal of the first stage of reading is drawing attention of the child toward sounds of language and finally the child develop her phonemic awareness. It requires 15 minutes a day of teaching and the children benefit from the instruction as early preschool and also kindergarten. Working on words is the initial work of reading and forms the central focus of reading programs for a young child. Once the child has comprehend the segmental nature of spoken words and get familiar with each sounds. The child is then ready for letters. Encouraging the children and parents to emphasis on writing lowercase letter because they are common.

In the Montessori classroom, there are facets of language that include: Oral communication, vocabulary, preparation of the hand to write with the metal insets, learning sounds with phonemic awareness materials, alphabetic principle and letter mastery with the sand paper letters, word building with the movable alphabets, word reading and writing, sentences, word study—usage and grammar functions. The Montessori Method of instructing reading integrated all of the important basics of instruction outline. Montessori programs are based on a general order that comprises of sound, letters, words and sentences. The prepared environment in Language Avenue such as materials and games is the opportunities that aids the child to become successful in learning to read.


Normalization In The Montessori Preschool Environment

“Actually the normal child is one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness. When we see a child in this light, we would more properly call his “conversion” a “normalization.” Man’s true nature lies hidden within himself.  And this nature which was given him at conception, must be recognized and allowed to grow. ----- In a child the normal psychic traits can flourish easily. Then all those traits that deviated from the norm disappear, just as with the return of health all the symptoms of a disease vanish.” - Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood (pg. 148).

What is Normalization?

Normalization means the stage of the child’s physically and mentally concentrating on work with joy, tranquility and happiness.

General characteristics of growth

In general, there are characteristics of growth that are known universally:

  1. Every organism develops in accord with preordained pattern. For example, a bulb of tulip is always bloom into a tulip flower.
  2. The development occurs at the expense of matter taken in from the environment by a selective process within the organism. For example, in order for tulip to grow, it needs an environment which provides such amount of temperature, soil, water and sunlight that meets the needs of tulip.
  3. The external matter taken in is assimilated by digestion in such a way that it actually becomes part of the organism. Tulip absorbs the food from the outside and grow from the inside.

Physical and mental streams of energy

There are two streams of significant energy in the growing child whose balanced interplay. The first one is physical energy of the body, specially the energy of muscular which are used in voluntary movement. The second one is the mental energy of intelligence which is an impalpable spiritual force. In Montessori’s view of the child, the two aspects of physical and mental or the psyche, mind and body should always be associated with each other. If these streams of energy are separated during the child’s development, the deviations from the normal will occur to the child.

Types of deviations

Montessori demonstrates signs of deviation that needs to be recognized in The Secret of Childhood and as a Montessori teacher we need to become familiar with them:

  1. The fugue. (From World English Dictionary website, “fugue” is a dreamlike altered state of consciousness, lasting from a few hours to several days, during which a person loses his or her memory for his or her previous life and often wanders away from home.) The mind of the child is drifting away and taken in imaginations and fantasy. Ishann, the boy from the movie “Like Stars on Earth” is a good example especially when he was drifting away and picturing images in his head all by himself without paying attention to the outside world and never finishing any work.Children who show fugue symptoms are in many cases thought to be very creative but a little messy and impractical. They seem to have no goal in life. The streams of physical and mental energy in the child are divided and not completely unified.In the right environment, it has been discovered that the child who is drift away into fantasy is easily normalized. As a teacher, we need to help the child meet his needs. Once the child is involved with the reality more fully, the child will learn more profoundly. The disorderly work habits will be vanished. He is then reaching the inner satisfaction and peace.
  2. The psychic barrier. It is a critical issue. The child unknowingly builds a wall to protect himself and to hinder the reception from the external side. The child pushes everything away from himself and is isolated from the world. If he is in the environment that he is being abused or neglected, he will develop a foundation of negativity in his mind which will be with him and becomes part of who he is.
  3. Unwholesome attachment to adult approval. The attachment that the child is very submissive, dependent, unable to make his own decision without adult. Adults finds this type of child easy. Unwholesome attachment to adult approval is a critical weakness of the child’s spirit.
  4. Possessiveness. There is an inborn natural powerful desire to use his faculties in the normalized child. The child grows through an environment rich with proper sustenance. If the child discovers no external stimulus to his growth, he appeals to things with the desire to possess. It is a diverging of energies away from love and learning.
  5. Desire for power is connected to possessiveness. The child starts to control and use adult through which the child can obtain power. For the love of our children, the important thing is we need to set the boundaries and have the courage to say “no” to the child when things go off limit or inappropriate. Many neuroscientists consider the number one goal of the child is to feel safe. Within the boundaries of where the child feels safe, the child has his power to explore, experiment things and to decide his own limits.
  6. The inferiority complex. In Montessori’s view, adults hold an obscure attitude of disrespect for their children as they think that the children in need of filling and correcting. The child is considered as the adults own possession and the adults show behavior toward a child he would never show with adults. Then the child clearly observes that he is considered to be unreliable and a source of breaking objects or causing troubles. He thinks of himself as a worthless and unable to do things by himself. If the adult often interrupt the child’s activity and being disrespectful to the child’s activities, the child will think of himself unimportant and hears the conviction of his own inferiority and impotence. The interference and harsh criticism of the adults toward the child lead the child to have discouragement, shyness, isolated, tears, difficulty in making decision and the whole part of inferiority complex.
  7. Deception covers and hides the soul. The child needs clear concepts, ideas, contact with reality, freedom of spirit and an active interest in the good and noble. Deception is a spiritual lie, it hardens the heart. For the child to be free from lying adults must not lie to the child and the child should be exposed to deceitful person.

Normalization through work

In Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, E.M. Standing states “There is one sovereign cure for all these forms of deviation—one only—says Montessori, and that is normalization through work---She started with children –the free children in the Prepared Environment—and they demonstrated it to her: first in Italy, then in Spain, then in America and after that in every part of the globe.” (pg. 173).

The process of normalization is always into the ordered, serene and harmonious atmosphere of the Prepared Environment in Montessori classroom and is ready for the deviated child to enter. Standing mentions more about the interaction of the teacher toward the child’s normalization state in Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work:

“If the directress has done her duty properly, if she has treated him with a mixture of firmness and respect, if she’s been tireless presenting him with occupations, if she encourage him without coercion and left him free to wander round at will—provided he disturbs no one—and if she has let him choose his occupations, then one day will come the great event. One day ---Heaven knows why—he will choose some occupation and settle down seriously to work at it with the first spontaneous spell of concentration that he has ever shown.—He is now at a new phase of life, almost a new life. His feet are now on the path which leads to normality” Standing also says that “Concentration is the key that opens up to the child to latent treasures within him.”

Children may have different form of deviations but when they enter to the spontaneous concentration and keep repeating until it turns into habit, each child has their certain time and place, ultimately they will enter normality. The two streams of energy; physical and mental will be unified

Characteristics of the normalized child

The following are the summarization from The Characteristics of the normalized child, in Maria Montessori’s Her Life and Work by Standing:

  1. A love of order. The child seeks and finds order around it. The order which is within the child goes out to meet illuminate the order without.
  2. Love of work. It means any activity which involves the child’s entire personality and has its unconscious aim the construction of personality. But it is work and not play.
  3. Profound spontaneous concentration. This concentration often isolated the child from his environment. It is a biological phenomenon. We might call it the attention of life.
  4. Attachment to reality. The mind constructs itself through contact with reality not through make-believe.
  5. Love of silence and of working alone. The child likes to concentrate on his work and when the aim of work is more conscious and external –the children frequently work together in spontaneously formed groups.
  6. Sublimation of the possessive instinct. The active possibility of interesting themselves in any object leads them to a stage where it is no longer the objects but the knowledge.
  7. Power to act from real choice and not from curiosity. This children are now motivated in their actions by real choice and no longer by mere curiosity.
  8. With the process of normalization through work, they pass through a sort of novitiate in this virtue. To carry out the command of another has now become a form of self-expression, just because it involves the joyful exercise of a newly developed faculty---the will.
  1. Independence and initiative. The child should acquire as much independence as is possible for him to acquire at each stage of development. As a teacher, we must always deduct the limit of intervention in children’s works. The whole goal of Montessori system can be summed up as the “valorization personality” at each stage.
  2. Spontaneous self-discipline. In a normalized classroom, the children have their self-discipline, they work to meet their inner satisfaction not for the order of teacher. It is one of the most valuable prize of freedom.
  3. Joy. Joy is the crowning characteristic of normalized children. This joy is something far more than pleasure or the happiness of being entertained. Dr. Montessori saw in it a deep mysterious emotion, the joy that nature always grants as the accompaniment to the right use of our faculties.

How Montessori preschools assist normalization

Normalization is the great result of the work in Montessori preschool. By properly and carefully prepare the environment for children, the child will be able to enter normalization. Teachers should limit the interference while the child is concentrating on his work and allow the child the freedom of choice. Normalization can help children who have variety forms of deviation. With the teacher’s love, tireless and never give up hope of the child, one day, the child will eventually enter the stage of normalization. Through the work in the Prepared Environment of Montessori classroom, the child has the love of working and the joy of learning. Normalization brings peace, serenity and happiness to children.


Sensorial Development In Montessori Education

In the preface to Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, Montessori used Helen Keller and Mrs. Ann Sullivan as an eloquent symbol of miracle education that unfolds the spirit of man by education of the senses. She states, “If one only of the senses sufficed to make of Hellen Keller a woman of exceptional culture and a writer, who better than she proves the potency of that method of education which builds on the senses? If Helen Keller attained through exquisite natural gifts to an elevated conception of the world, who better than she proves that in the inmost self of man lies the spirit ready to reveal itself? Helen clasp to your heart these little children, since they, above all others, will understand you. They are your younger brothers: when, with bandaged eyes and in silence, they touch with their little hands, profound impression rise in their consciousness, and they exclaim with a few form of happiness: “I see with my hands.” They alone, then, can fully understand the drama of the mysterious privilege your soul has known. When in darkness and in silence, their spirit left free to expand, their intellectual energy redoubled, they become able to read and write without having learnt, almost as it was by intuition, only they can understand in part of the ecstasy which God granted you on the luminous path of learning.”

What is Sensorial Development?

The goal of sensory development is to develop the sensory energies and perceptions of the children. Montessori explains in the book, The Discovery of The Child, “The training and sharpening of the senses has the obvious advantage of enlarging the field of perception and of offering an ever more solid foundation of intellectual growth. The intellect builds up its store of practical ideas through contact with an exploration of the environment---A child of two and a half who comes to one of our Children’s House during the previous year, when his physical and mental powers developing, he has accumulated and absorbed a host of impressions. This remarkable achievement, the importance of which can hardly be exaggerated, has however been accomplished without any outside help of guidance. Accidental and essential impressions are all mixed together, creating a confused but significant wealth in his subconscious mind.” The relevant wealth of Sensorial Development’s impression assists to develop into a child’s clear concepts. The children are received the knowledge by working with sensory materials and also through their own experiences, not through word from teacher.

Here are more purposes and goals of using sensorial materials:-

  • Children receive clear concepts of information with their conscious and can make classification in their environment.
  • From making classification in their environment, they are organizing their intelligence that brings them to adapt their environment.
  • The children, then can be able to concentrate on working with sensorial materials, they use all their senses from using their hands to stereognostic (being able to determine shapes and weight of objects by feeling and lifting).
  • The children, then develop and derive clear concepts of abstractions in concrete ways.

Mental Construction

The operation of the intelligence relies on mental construction which built by conscious and unconscious experience. Montessori sensorial education is greatly helped with child’s clear concepts development. The clear concepts will aid the child to be the better learner. The child age 2 ½ to 6 years old is in the period called “mind in the making”. The sensorial materials that Montessori designed will help children’s mind in making the construction and interior developments that are both essential and simple at this age. Not the teacher but the child has the ability to build herself by absorbing impressions of the materials and culture around her.

Sensorial impressions are not similar to sensorial education. Children can receives so much sense of impression but it doesn’t mean that they can gained more education. Montessori classroom provides sensorial material that children can work through the activity of the hand and it is the kind of education that the mind needs in order to discriminate, appreciate and then brings out clarity of concepts.

Education of the senses

Children see things and learn things through their senses. It is so important for children to see things through their hands. Children love to examine things with their hands. We should remind ourselves about the important of the hand: “Never give more to the eye and ear than you do to the hand”.  By giving children education of senses, teacher is not helping them to do better with their senses but she is helping them to know and understand what they see, she is helping them sort and classify impressions to build up their internal mental construction of clear thinking.

How to give the child an education of the senses

At the beginning, we provide the child obviously opposite sensations for example small and large, then graded them differently in a series which called the distribution of stimuli. The child is learning to compare, contrast and discriminate between sense impression and put them put them into logical and coherent order based on some fundamental quality for example temperature, shapes, size or color. It is commencement of a conscious knowledge of the environment, which in contrast to the unconscious awareness that the child already has stored. In Montessori lesson, the child’s participation and judgment at her specific stage of development on this day is more important than perfection. When the child struggles with the work, the teacher should take note to a fact that she needs a new lesson and offer a lesson to her when available.

Three–period lesson

  • Sensorial materials are materialized abstractions which they seclude a specific quality of an abstraction and make the entire lesson to become concrete in the mind of the children. The intelligence working in concentrated way on the impression received pass the senses brings out the development of intellect to the child.
  • Refinement of the senses, at age three years old, the child already turned to be well acquainted with the world. Many impression of the environment has stored up in the unconscious mind but not yet knowledge, it hasn’t been conscious and available in his mind. The child’s work is to gain conscious knowledge. It is performed by his intelligence comparing, discriminating, classifying and organizing the impressions.
  • As the child performs the concrete work with sensorial materials, the mind turns to be aware of the qualities itself. When the mind fully perceives the category and the differences between gradations, later the child is ready to learn the names of the qualities.  The teacher has to understand that a clear concrete impression in the mind comes first. And when the child forms the clear concepts, teachers attach new words in the most direct manner, simple way and by using three-period lesson.
  • Three period lesson for language arrives after the sensorial work. We may add language at the appropriate time via the three period lesson for most of the Sensorial materials showing the child: 1.This is…, 2. Please show me…., 3. Can you tell me, what is this?
  • Sequence in the material. Each material displayed in an ordered sequence from simple to complex. For example, we start with the sense of touch, from rough to smooth, second board has rough and smooth altering rows, then gradation of matching rough and smooth on sand paper tablets and finally more refined gradations with pairs of fabrics.
  • Order within the material. Each Sensorial exercise has level of order inherent. The material is mathematically accurate in its gradations. For example the cube of the pink tower starts from the size of 1 cm. squared to 10 cm. squared with intervals of 1 cm. The order within each Sensorial exercise supports the child to look for the order within other aspects of life. The child who works with pink tower at the begining, when he moves up to elementary school, he may work with the pink tower by calculate volume which tells him that there is concrete intellectual material in the simple work.

Hands-on activities build the child’s mind

From Montessori’s observation without prejudice and the freedom of each child she created in her outstanding environment, Montessori discovered the important of manual activities in the development of mind. I n this stage 2 ½ - 6, the child’s attention may be drawn to an object, the object may stimulate the child’s imagination but it doesn’t essentially clarify concepts or develop the cognitive process as the real hands activity with prepared materials. The child is working hard building his mind. At this stage we may call “hand –minded”. Montessori mentions that the work of muscular carries the concentration of the mind as if it was an instrument catching the rays of splendid psychic energy. Sensorial materials we provide to the child, the child will concentrates and focuses on her work for period of time with clarity concept which is weaving together yet another outlook of her mental framework. The visual aids the child needs are the materials themselves that appeal to her eye, hand and mind.  Concentration is the way to learn and the only one catalyst to “normalization through work.”  The technique of isolation of quality is a truly aid to concentration of the child. Each Sensorial exercise controls itself to impairing one specific concept, length, weight or shade of color. Montessori recommends us to isolate the sense the child is working on for example using the blindfolds when the child is working on tactile stereognostic or weight experiments. The blindfold will make the child concentrate deeply on her sense of touch. What the child learn while she does the work of sensorial materials; she learns discriminating sizes and learns about mathematical precision unconsciously, she learns control of movement, arms, fingers and she had understood that perseverance brings achievement. At this age, if the child has no opportunity for interesting in hands activity, character, intellect and dexterity will be all defective.

Cooperation between the senses

When the child using or working with all sensorial materials, his eye cooperate in learning to see the difference of sizes and shapes. In Sensorial materials, each piece usually in a ten series is the same color; so that color doesn’t distract or is not a second thing that must be discriminated.  Materialized abstractions are presented through movable objects which can be carried and ordered in many different ways. Teachers shows the first few ways and let the child feels free to find other relationships and means to build logical progressions with the materials. Each piece of sensorial materials is handle in a very particular way that helps the child to receive the most sensorial information from gradations in the series. The pink tower gives the concept of big and little. It is carried by a grip across the top of each cube so the whole hand expands the same amount each time. The red rods gives the child the abstraction of length in a concrete concept when the child carries each rod from both sides of the hand. To bring red rods and pink tower needs ten trips to the shelf which we call “travelling”. Each time, the child will carry the one object at a time, the child feels the increasing size and weight with each successively bigger piece.  The child prepares to sit down and concentrate on one piece at a time.

Common to all sensorial objects

  1. The materials are regulated & precise. The sensorial materials of development are consisted of objects grouped system conforming to a determined physical quality of objects for example, dimension, form, weight, color, texture, temperature or sound. Each group performs a simple quality in incremental gradations. The objects are regulated and precise and are built upon mathematical principles. Each series shows the clear contrast when placed together.
  2. The materials are appealing and engaging. The materials are attractive and well designed and represent “the voice of things” such as sound cylinders or beautiful geography map that invite children to learn.
  3. The materials offer the child the activities of movement. The child is not only have interest and attention but the child has a chance to use control of movement, using his senses through the materials. The child doesn’t just sit still and listen to the teacher but she does a real work all by herself. She is teaching herself a lesson.
  4. To get rid of the confusion, the material must be limited. Limitation carries order to the mind and help the interpretation of the objects within the child’s environment. Limitation helps maintain the psychic force and aids in development. For example, there are ten red rods which is enough and not overwhelming the child’s work.
  5. Control of error is built-in. Control of error helps the child by being self-correcting. By working with sensorial materials, the child can find out that if she makes a mistake, she can find it and fix it by herself.
  6. Isolation of stimulus within the materials. Each of materials targets on only one quality which allow the child to fully concentrate on her work with that one quality.

Eight groups of sensorial materials exercises

  1. Exercise of Visual sense helps the child to discriminate the differences of the objects visually. Discrimination form: Geometrical, Botanical and Geographical. For example, Geometrical cabinet and three set of cards help the child to discriminate basic figures, the contrast of shapes; circles, triangles, polygons etc., Geographical maps which Dr. Montessori designed the little knobs located exactly where capital cities of all countries are. By working with this material the child progresses from matching sensorial to the building of an entire continents by herself, then she learns the name of the countries, capital cities of the world.
  2. Exercise of Tactile sense helps the child learning about sense of touch which allows the child to focus on the feeling of her hands through a concentration of her sense and part of her body. For example, the Touch Board helps the child discriminate the rough and smooth surface, she learns about the contrast and gradations. ( Surfaces, textures, Touch boards, texture of fabrics)
  3. Exercise of Baric sense helps the child learn the difference of objects by pressure or weight. The child can increase her sense by using the blindfold for closing her eyes and focus on using her hands instead. (Baric Tablets, Pressure Cylinders)
  4. Exercise of Thermic sense helps the child refines his sense through the temperature of objects. For example, the child feels the glass, marble and iron materials and discriminate the difference of their temperatures.
  5. Exercise of Auditory sense helps the child discriminate the difference of sounds which allows her ability to refine the sounds in her environment or eventually, creating music. For example, Sound Cylinders helps the child to discriminate the sounds, pair the sounds and feels the sound such as soft sound or loud sound, Musical Bells helps the child discriminate the musical tones, the child matches right tone of the bells and later learns the name of the bells.
  6. Exercise of Olfactory sense helps the child to discriminate the smells such as flowers, soap, cinnamon, lime or vinegar. The child learns to discriminate and match such as sweet smell, sour smell, strong smell, fresh beautiful smell or even stinky smell. (Smelling Cylinders)
  7. Exercise of Gustatory helps the child discriminate the tastes such as salty, tangy, sweet, bitter or tasteless. (Tray of bottles)
  8. Exercise of Stereognostic sense helps the child being able to determine shapes and weight of objects by feeling and lifting. The child feels the objects and recognizes based on what she feels. For example, the child exercise her stereognostic sense by working with mystery bag, the child puts the hands in the bag and tries to figures what kind of objects she feels on her hand, without seeing.

As we observe the children in Montessori classroom, we realize how deeply integrated the hand is in all of the child’s activity. Teacher presents materials for all of the senses through the hand. The sensorial materials are developed to present fundamental qualities. Each of them has a basic, simple concept to convey which we don’t need many more materials to cause the confusion.

The following video provides you with the correct English pronunciation of the word " stereognostic", to help you become a better English speaker.Montessori’s sensory materials that we see and use at the present time are the outcome of Dr. Montessori’s observation, the long experience of development and experimentations, the ideas and materials of Dr. Itard and Seguin, then with her own. Sensory development is one of the four primary avenue that Dr. Maria created into her prepared environment.


The ABC's of Attachment

I have a wonderful memory that illustrates the ABC's of attachment that I'd like to share with you. It is a story of a group of hill tribe children in Thailand that I met back in 2003. I was a college senior student who came to the small hill tribe village to become a volunteer teacher as part of my thesis.

At first, people treated me like strangers but after spending 2 months in the village, teaching & helping them harvest rice, learning to live like a Karen tribe member and speaking their language, I had become bonding with a group of children in that village and we are still connected with each other until now.

The village had no electricity. It was very hard to commute, the car could not get into the village. Villagers lived in the mountain and have their own language. It was hard for me to communicate at first and I really wanted to be able to communicate with children and parents. So I asked the village headman to tell villagers if they want to learn the Thai language with me and I will learn the Karen language with them.

I remember those sweet memories very well when a group of little girls from age 4-10 years old walking down the foothill to learn my language at my cottage and I learn their language. In their hands they carry candles. We laughed and use body language and then we later on starting to be able to communicate. I felt like I became their family. I had close bonds with those group of little girls who helped me learn to speak their language. We attuned to each other and we felt so connected.

At the end of the program, the headman of the village asked if I could stay and teach their children. I cried and little girls cried. We can easily bond and feel safe and feel connected very strongly with people who aren't related to you. This friendship is forever. Teaching at this small hill tribe village inspired me to become a teacher. The degree I graduated with was not a teaching degree - it took me 11 years to enter the Montessori path at Age of Montessori in 2014.


The Prepared Environment & Montessori Education

My first exposure to the Montessori method was seeing an experienced teacher gracefully giving a lesson to children in a beautiful, tranquil prepared environment while living in Phoenix back in 2012. That was the moment that sparked my desire become a Montessori teacher - and for a time, that was all I saw myself as, simply a teacher.

Instead, as I studied and become more versed in Montessori, I started working towards creating my own in-home Montessori preschool, which I  started from scratch with a small amount of my own money, the help of my family. It was a lot to take on all at once, and I lacked confidence in myself - but I was guided by the belief that Montessori education is my true calling.

The Montessori Prepared Environment

Part of that education is creating a prepared environment. In my view, being prepared isn't only preparing the classroom but also includes the school’s vision & commitment, administration, financial preparation, zoning & regulatory permits from city, marketing, resources, budgeting, classroom learning materials, the classroom layout, as well connections with the teachers, children, family, and local community being served.

All of these things should exist in your vision for the Montessori school - and once that is crystal clear, you can take physical actions and make a commitment actualizing your plan. When the city gives a school permit and the legal matters have been taken care of, then it comes time to manage school budgets for buying materials, getting resources, creating a classroom environment, promoting & advertising the school, and getting ready to welcome registered students into Montessori prepared environment classroom.

The prepared environment of the classroom

Inside the classroom must have big open space that fresh air can flow, sunlight can warm the classroom, non-poisonous indoor plants can grow where children can help grow plants inside the classroom and lots of rooms and spots for students to freely move and work both at the tables or on the floor. There are areas for working, learning, reading, relaxing, socializing, group engaging and peaceful mind and spirit developing to support our students second plane of development; mind, body and spirit. Montessori Learning Materials for age 6-12 are provided in the classroom to help support the second plane of development.

Outside the classroom, my ideal environment includes a large, safe & easily accessible area that allows children to easily go outdoors. I favor a natural environment containing trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables and animals that children can enjoy and learn about living things on earth.

The prepared environment of the teacher

Without a guide in a beautiful Montessori prepared environment, your students will be lost. The teacher is a guide in the classroom, and must be mentally and emotionally prepared for each day. Inside of the teacher’s heart, she must be happy about herself and her work with children. Her heart is prepared, ready to serve, and willing to guide her students with love. She knows that there will be good days and bad days to come and she have prepared and keep loving her children through up and down. She understand wholeheartedly about the nature of children development.

The teacher's external appearance is also important because children love to observe and model themselves after the people they interact with. The teacher is not only a guide, but also a role model in the classroom. She should be in good spirit inside and out, which includes taking care of herself to maintain a healthy lifestyle, dress appropriately and maintain her good personal hygiene habits.

The prepared environment of the parents & guardians

Children spend half of the their day at school. The rest of their time is spent with guardians or parents, as the child has entered to school, the responsibility of taking care of each child is not just teacher. That being said “It takes a whole village to raise the child.” We (family, teacher, community that are surrounded the child) are in this together. The more we know about the child’s personalities and characters the better we can help meet the child’s need of his learning development.

Parents and guardians are also the roles model of children at home. Their perspectives, believes and attitudes toward themselves and others can influence the child. Parents and guardians also have to prepare the healthy positive environment and have trust that the child will thrive in the Montessori learning environment.

Children thrive in a prepared environment

According to the plane of development, in this period of growth, children’s sensitivities are abstraction, imagination, moral & justice, culture and peer interaction. They are now moved from absorbent mind to reasoning mind and they are aware of places, people and they are capable of doing things independently. Adults should let children know before they are entering into the new environment so they can be prepared mentally and physically. Especially, new family who just moved from different state. It is so important that children need to feel value from teacher and friends and they do need to feel belong in the environment.

When we walk into a new place to meet new people, new friends and knowing that this place will be the life learning places for three years, all senses of our body are full of awareness, the excitement are rising up, we can really sense energy of people and things around us. As we put much of loving, caring, warming and commitment into creating the lovely learning classroom environment from the walk way through we have plant positive energy all around. First impression of teachers, staffs, friends, environment inside and outside the classroom will make a long-lasting memory for the rest of the school year.

At the end, action speaks louder than words, let us use all of the abstract imagination above to create a concrete work to serve the children and the community.


The Benefits Of Montessori Education

Montessori education benefits our children and helps to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens with an understanding and appreciation for learning.

  • Each child is valued as a unique individual. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace, each advancing through the curriculum as he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
  • Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the individual’s emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), toddlers through adolescents.
  • Students are part of a close, caring community. The multi-age classroom—typically spanning 3 years—re-creates a family structure. Older students enjoy stature as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Teachers model respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Montessori students enjoy freedom within limits. Working within parameters set by their teachers, students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. Montessori advocates understand that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime.
  • Students are supported in becoming active seekers of knowledge. Teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions.
  • Self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.

Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century.


The Importance Of Music In Montessori Education

In a Montessori classroom, metal insets not only teach children age two and a half to six years old about shapes and fine motor skills but they are also the door that leads elementary children to be creative and inspired to design their work or their art work freely with his or her own choice.

I love how Dr. Montessori described children being surrounded by nature doing their observation and how that activity serves to nourish the child’s esthetic imagination. I was in awe how children demonstrated what were in their minds when I first saw the film, “The Art of The Elementary Child”. Children are real world observers.

I also love what Dr. Montessori stated, “To confer the gift of drawing, we must create an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, a soul that feels; and in this task the whole life must cooperate. In this sense life itself is the only preparation for drawing. Once we have lived, the inner spark of vision does the rest.”

The music in a Montessori classroom plays important role in the development of children as well. The matching bells is the basic exercise for children to recognize sounds and gradations. Once they have been practicing and mastering the work, they can go further to read and write the notes of music. Little by little children gradually experience the world of wonderful music.

Many researchers have shown that music helps children develop language skills, problem solving, movement coordination and more. Children love to move, dance and enjoy listening music, just like adults.

Our amazing human beings when we were born into this world, we have the special abilities that is different from other living things. One of them is the ability to create art and music. Art and music are the beauty of our world that all human beings can enjoy. When we see art, it can affect our mind in amazing ways. We can feel inspired, uplifted or at peace. Music also plays such big impact in our lives. Music can help lifting up our moods or shift the moods into whichever type of music you are consuming. Music can also bring back old memories, and helps to relax and focus during our classroom exercises.


Montessori's Four Planes of Child Development

To have a deep understanding of how children think, learn & behave, we need to have a holistic understanding how children in certain age ranges develop. We're not just talking about physical growth and maturation - we need to examine this from a holistic perspective, including the development of the child's mind, body and spirit. Dr. Maria Montessori based her concepts of children development through the four planes, which we'll explore below:

The First Plane: Birth To Age 6

At this stage, knows as “The Absorbent Mind”, children take in everything for their learning in their environment. The learning ability of the child is like the sponge that absorbs water, children explore their learning with all senses. From birth to three is a period of construction that has immense intensity, their senses and identities are less than the three to six years period. As Marry Ellen mentioned in the video of Unit 4, Stage of Development that for the first three years of human life it would take 60 years for adults to be able to accomplish what the infant has been through in this development process.

At about age of three children develop their physical, psychological and independence. Children also form the conscious mind. The three to six years period, the child now develops identity, sense of self and loves to independence on choosing activities or do things for himself or herself. The common sensitivities are movement, language, order, senses, small objects and socialization.

Children are now ready to use their language that they develop to communicate and socialize with their family and new friends. And this period in the Montessori classroom, we always see children choose their own sensorial work or work on practical life, for example, sponging work, pouring work, cleaning a table etc. After their achievement and repetition of practicing, they are so proud and confident to do and choose work for themselves.

The Second Plane: Ages 6 to 12

At this stage we call “Elementary years”. Children begin to build a new mind called “Reasoning Mind”. From www.ChildoftheRedwoods.com, The Planes of Development, The Constructive Rhythm of Life demonstrated that “at age nine six to nine, about age of nine is a period of calmness and happiness marked by a state of health, strength and stability: mentally proficient and ready for cultural studies.” Children at this ages group have common sensitivities of forming abstraction, imagination, having sense of morality and justice, they like to focus on culture and interaction with their friends, they are now very independent. They also love learning new things. I have a 10 years old daughter. She is quite independent. She loves to make her own breakfast and lunch. She likes to read her favorite book, The Mystery of the Three Investigators before bed. She enjoys taking care of her garden and loves to have sleepovers with friends. She likes to design her houses and condos on the Roblox online game. She helps with loading dishes and folding laundry. It is such a transformation to see from change and develop from birth to ten. She is calmer than when she was four.

The Third Plane: Ages 12 to 18

The adolescence period has an immense of physical, emotional and hormonal growth. At the early adolescence, they now starting to realize their changes. At the age of fifteen, they form social independence, social justice, heroes and models, personal dignity and their sense of belonging. At about 15 to eighteen, they are more calm, they refine their moral compass while growing a stronger sense of responsibility and making their own choices.

I saw some of teenager practices driving, spending time with their friends and taking their responsibility on their own assignments. It is a such big change. Girls start having monthly cycle. They have to learn how to take care of themselves and good personal hygiene. As parents, we need to provide trust and understanding for our teenage children as we want them to be safe and protected while they are exploring the new stage and have more freedom of choices.

The Fourth Plane: Ages 18 to 24

This is the last plane for young adult. We also name this period “Maturity Period”. This is a time that young adults think about their contribution to the mission of humanity. They are also managing and figuring their paths, career and finances. They have the full independence of spirituality and morality. Their common sensitivities are they now have personal interests, responsibility, social independence, evaluation of social policy of their own.

Metamorphosis

All four planes of infancy, childhood, adolescence and maturity are the process of human life which Dr. Maria Montessori compared as the metamorphosis. The first two periods have fulfilled with environment learning that children need adults and society care and preparation for them to be able to grow and thrive. They depend on adult to help them to life at zero to six. At six to twelve, they become independent but still need good moral guidance and need to be surrounded by their family and friends in the community to help build their mental strength and stability. The third period, they are experiencing the change of physical body and mind. They are getting ready to become the adults.

For me, this final period brings to mind memories of moving out of my parent's house to live in a dorm near my university for four years. Then, I  went to volunteer in a poverty area as a teacher in a hill tribe village in Thailand. After that, I decided to explore the new world, learn a new language, and see a new land by visiting America for a while and living in Canada after that. The last maturity period is fulfilled with life learning lessons and experiences that you are on your own like a young and strong independent beautiful butterfly ready to explore the world.


Welcome To The 2020-21 School Year!

Hello Parents and Guardians! Welcome to the 2020-21 school year. We are so thankful that you enrolled your child in Amity Montessori, and look forward to teaching your child with you.

We are starting this school year during a stressful time, but we want to provide a well rounded, positive learning experience for your child as they begin their education. We have put together an online preschool program to fill a need for young students, and our program will continue to evolve as we have more time and feedback to fine tune things. For any big updates, we will include that in our monthly newsletter and on our youtube channel. We appreciate your understanding as we grow together.

Things you'll need for September through December:

Kitchen Utensils, Cups, Bowls, Containers: Various sizes and fun designs, Apples, Flour/Flour substitute, Trays, Rice or beans, Other items will be needed for the cooking videos, ingredients are listed in the video descriptions. A printer for pdf downloads.

September Lessons:

  • Welcome to our online preschool Getting to know each other Pouring lesson
  • Spooning lesson
  • Opening and closing lesson Names of apples
  • Parts of an apple (with & without cards) (Download file)
  • Life cycle of an apple / Apples are just like us

Extension videos:

  • Making Apple Nachos
  • Making Apple sauce
  • Apples (Book)
  • Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall (Book) Leaf print craft (Sept Seasonal craft) (Download file)