What is Montessori at The Woods?
The four general areas of a Montessori classroom -- Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics -- interact to provide a child with a rich and rewarding preschool experience.
In the Practical Life area, children choose meaningful tasks that imitate adult work while developing coordination, concentration, independence, and self-discipline. Activities such as polishing, chair washing, sorting, pouring, and cutting develop gross and fine motor coordination and provide an introduction to sequence and good work habits. The dressing frames, which offer practice in buttoning, snapping, lacing, zipping, and tying, promote independence, self-esteem,and the pleasure of doing things for oneself.
The Sensorial area was designed by Maria Montessori to facilitate education through the senses. Through the activities in this area, students are prepared for reading and writing, and for the decimal system in mathematics. The materials used in this area isolate and classify qualities such as size, shape, color, sound, taste, smell, temperature, and texture. Connections are established with mathematics, art, and language arts, as students label colors, sounds, textures, geometric shapes, and solids.
Children in the Montessori classroom work with sandpaper letters and movable alphabets to discover the relationship between sound and symbol, letters, and words. Through this process, students develop phonetic writing skills that precede the explosion into reading. Classroom teachers and guest readers encourage the appreciation of good literature. Students move toward independent reading through read-aloud sessions and independent work with books, which are carefully selected for text support and vocabulary development. Finger plays, poems, and songs allow opportunities for listening and speaking. The Montessori full day students (Lunchers) are introduced to both journal writing and handwriting.
The Montessori classroom fosters curiosity and exploration in math with a wide variety of hands-on experiences with number and quantity. Montessori materials -- rods, spindles, beads and boards, supplemented with counters, balance, and pattern blocks -- are concrete tools that children use to build number sense and actively engage in the processes of mathematics. These materials and the Everyday Mathematics activities and games offer discovery, repetition, reinforcement, and problem-solving opportunities and provide a multi-sensory foundation for mathematical understanding. Simple data collection and graphing exercises as well as work with the clock, calendar, money, time, and measurement encourage an awareness of number, order, and relationship that is natural and fascinating to the young child. Age-appropriate technology activities are integrated into the full day program.
Activities are interdisciplinary, falling into more than one curricular area. No area is complete without the others. In addition, Montessori activities engage the active minds of young children as the students create new knowledge, solidify prior learning, and explore the world around them.
The Montessori philosophy stresses the awareness and appreciation for the many cultures present in our world. Songs, customs, and artifacts from other countries increase children’s understanding of other cultures. World geography is introduced through puzzle maps, which encourages children to see the world as larger than the Washington, D.C. area. As each continent is studied, the child explores new people and places as well as the accompanying vocabulary words, images, foods, clothing, art, and land forms.
After introductory experiences in both French and Spanish as morning children, Lunchers begin to develop oral proficiency in basic French or Spanish vocabulary. Using songs, games, and coloring to reinforce their world language skills provides students with opportunities to follow directions and connect pictures with words. These activities teach and reinforce pronunciation, structures, and vocabulary -- colors, numbers, clothing, parts of the body, family, weather, holidays, seasons, and animals.
Literature appreciation and life-long love of reading are the main emphases on library time for Montessori students. Weekly story time helps develop listening skills and a love of both fiction and non-fiction books. Lunchers learn library etiquette, the proper care and handling of books, and the works of many authors and illustrators. Montessori full day and extended day students (Owls) are encouraged to borrow books each week.
Art education for Lunchers includes learning about, talking about, and producing works of art. The elements of design—line, shape, and color--and the awareness of the power of artistic expression to communicate thoughts, feelings, and experiences through art are introduced. Using two-dimensional processes allow students to use many kinds of tools and media—paint, pens, pencils, markers, craypas--and a variety of paper to explore ideas, texture and space. They can also experiment with color and color mixing. Using three-dimensional processes allow students to experiment with construction and to use clay to experiment with additive and subtractive concepts. Students also learn about famous artists, their style, and their work. Practice with fine motor control, body awareness, gross motor coordination, and art vocabulary are integrated into the program.
Students learn a variety of songs in their classrooms -- fun and seasonal songs, movement, and dance songs as well as songs relating to classroom themes. Each class also has a set of rhythm sticks and instruments. Both half and full day students perform on stage at the Montessori Program at the end of the year.
Morning children begin their music studies by developing a large repertoire of simple songs and song-games that reinforce classroom themes. In music class students sing, move, dance, and play rhythm instruments and xylophones as they learn traditional children’s songs from the United States and other parts of the world. Classes focus on joyful celebration of music, vocal expression, tuneful singing, and steady beat.
In addition, Lunchers learn to identify and demonstrate the following musical concepts: fast/slow, loud/soft, high/low, short/long, same/different, and smooth/jerky. They also learn to improvise texts and motions to known songs. The Lunchers join the Lower School to perform at the Christmas Concert.
In the guidance program, Montessori children have lessons in a variety of areas including identifying feelings, maintaining friendships, solving problems, and dealing with tattling, teasing, bullying, and bossiness. Media literacy and nutrition are also discussed. Social skills are strengthened in these small weekly playgroups where sharing, fairness, and communication are emphasized.
The Montessori physical education curriculum is a balance of movement concepts, motor skills, and character development designed to enhance the cognitive, affective, and physical development of each child. Emphasis is placed on having the children feel comfortable and competent in any physical environment or activity (scooters, hula hoops, parachutes, and all types and sizes of balls). In addition to the introduction of motor skills, safety, and cooperation skills are integrated into each lesson. Children develop sportsmanship and teamwork as well as a sense of healthy competition and fair play.