Montessori Lower Elementary Curriculum (ages six to nine)
In the lower elementary classroom (first through third grade, or ages six to nine), the initial expectations are that the child will be able to accept direction, will listen attentively in small and large group presentations and will be able to work in a cooperative learning atmosphere. In most cases, the children who make the smoothest transition have been in a Montessori preschool learning environment; however, many children who have not had the benefit of a preschool Montessori education are able to make a smooth transition when guided effectively by the teacher.
Each child is provided with clear expectations in the form of a workplan or contract. Most teachers give each child his own individual plan on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. The plan provides a direction for the child and allows the teacher to guide him in the concepts he needs to review or learn. This also allows the classroom to follow the Montessori curriculum while continuing to meet (and often exceed) the standards set the state. The workplan and environment may be altered based on each child’s ability to accept direction, his independence and other special needs.
The children run the classroom. From the first day of school, the children meet and discuss guidelines for class rules. Children who were in the class the previous year often remember situations that upset them, and these experiences may help drive the rules the children create together. Children in the classroom have work responsibilities, help each other and allow the class to run efficiently. The teacher acts as a role model, mentor and guide. She interferes with the children’s work as little as possible while providing lessons that capture the children’s imagination and interest. She also helps the children when conflicts arise, calls meetings to discuss problems with the class in an open forum and communicates the children’s progress to their families.
The teacher gives the children freedom and choice as they exhibit that they are ready for them. Privileges to go to the bathroom, have snack and get water are earned independently, although all children start out with the same rights. If a particular child is unable to handle certain freedoms or responsibilities, the teacher maintains the right to help the child to be successful and safe by taking those away until the child is able to handle himself.
Each child keeps his work in his own record books, which usually are notebooks in which each subject’s work is recorded. The child’s record books and papers are stored neatly in a storage space or cubby. Although children do not have their own assigned work spots, they do have assigned areas in which to keep their things. Materials in the class (such as supplies) are for everyone to use and share. This allows the children the opportunity to learn how to be patient and share with others.
As in preschool, the lower elementary teacher presents the work through concrete, hands-on materials that engage the child. It is also the teacher’s role to help children develop their academic potential to the highest level possible. The prepared environment fosters peace, tolerance for others and independence in a highly motivating atmosphere. This is an extremely successful combination that prepares the child for the upper elementary classroom or any other learning situation.