The social development of the three to six year old child is something that is often overlooked in our academically-focused world. Social Development is something that is essential to the overall development of the child.
The social development of the child is aided by the role of the family and the role of the classroom environment. Independence must be fostered at home in order for the child to be successful and independent outside of the home. Fostering independence at home includes encouraging the child to do anything from dressing himself or herself to helping to prepare each meal. Dr. Montessori wrote about how the child of this age implores us to "help me do it by myself." When we are encouraging the child to be independent we are aiding in the crucial development of the child.
At school, the children are experiencing independence, responsibility, choice and working with specially designed materials that are developmentally appropriate. The environment is specially designed to promote concentration, coordination of movement and independence. The materials are limited - there is one of each material, not multiples of the same material. This offers a perfect opportunity to practice basic grace and courtesy and learn how to interact with one another in the most peaceful way.
The Practical Life area of the casa supports and develops concentration, independence and control of movement that feeds into the later work of the child in the other three areas (Sensorial, Language and Math).
The children in each primary casa accept the unspoken responsibility to be willing to help one another, which is yet another benefit to the mixed-age environment.
The younger children look up to the older children, and the older children take care of the younger children. And sometimes, the younger ones find ways to help the older ones.
Our active community lends itself to responding to the developmental needs of each child. The children have the freedom to choose where to work and with whom to work. Isn't it wonderful that as young as age three and as old as age six, children can be offered the opportunity to practice essential life skills and basic problem solving during such a formative time? Think of all the group work that they will encounter later - even beyond the school years!
Choosing with whom to work provides the children with opportunities to foster relationships with their peers in learning to work with each other. These relationships offer real-life situations that require problem solving.
And learning to offer just enough help allows for a chance at success and building confidence.
“Our schools show that children of different ages help one another. The younger ones see what the older ones are doing and ask for explanations. These are readily given and the instruction is really valuable, for the mind of the five-year-old is so much nearer to ours than to the mind of a child of three, that the little one learns easily…There is a communication and a harmony between the two that one seldom finds between the adult and the small child."
~ Dr. Maria Montessori
The child's first encounter with music is usually the mother singing, which he can even hear before birth. Even in the womb the child absorbs all the music he hears around him. In virtually all cultures, the mothers and caregivers sing lullabies to the baby. This is the beginning of the child absorbing his musical heritage.
Rhythm is vitally connected with the child's earliest life. The beat gives the music structure. The child's first exposure to rhythm is the mother's heartbeat while in the womb. He will also experience other rhythms, including breathing, walking, speech, and singing. This is why babies are calmed by soothing rhythms of walking, patting or rocking. The children pictured above on the left are experiencing rhythm by using the 'shakers'.
As children get older they absorb the joy of music in daily life. In both our Primary Casa and Toddler Community, children enjoy singing and making music daily. As the child develops musically, he goes through the same stages as language development, with the first stage being a listening stage. Just as the child's first verbal attempts are nurtured, we must nurture the child's first musical attempts.
Refining motor skills is an important part of the Toddler Curriculum. Part of what we do during music includes teaching children to move consciously - one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children. Being in control of one’s physical self is the key to success in all future social and educational settings. Simple games, where we name and explore a specific body part and how it moves, are the first step for our children as they work to gain control of their bodies.
The chants or songs that are often associated with these activities are appealing to the children because they usually contain multiple repetitions, such as “arm, arm, arm, arm” or “head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes”. Children enjoy the repetition of the speech as well as the movement as they strive to gain control and finally mastery of their body movements.
Body Awareness activities that focus on the child’s hands are commonly known as Finger Plays. Children delight in the rhythmic speech that usually accompanies touching and manipulating each individual finger, making the finger play beneficial to your children in terms of both their movement and listening development, and they have the added benefit of increasing your child’s vocabulary.
Here is an easy one to use anytime and anywhere:
· Touch each finger on one hand starting with the pinky
· As you touch it, say the child’s name
· When you get to the pointer finger, slide down to the thumb (as if your tracing) with your finger while you say a very exaggerated ”Whoops”. As you land on the thumb say their name again – then just wait for their smile and go in reverse!
"Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…Whoooops, Johnny
Whoops, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!"
Music in the Primary Casa
Above, the girls are working with Language Cards to learn the names of the instruments in the orchestra. This is an exercise in vocabulary for the younger child; for the older child it is also a reading exercise. The photo on the right illustrates a Cultural Folder. This material is part of the Primary curriculum and serves as a jumping off point for stories and information about people from all over the world. The folder pictured shows examples of music from all over North America.
In offering music to the Primary class, we use the principle of 'isolation of difficulty'. This means that we introduce different elements of music in isolation. Some of these elements include: pitch, rhythm, intensity, timbre (the quality of sounds from different instruments), melody, harmony, and music related to cultural subjects - nature study, geography, and art. The names of the instruments of the orchestra are another element, as well as exposure to names of classical music and composers.
The Bells are a Primary material which gives children the opportunity to train their auditory sense from an early age. The bells give the child the opportunity to focus on an isolated pitch. They also allow for manipulation of the material. The bells are set up as a diatonic C scale, which is the basic measure of music in western music. The work with bells gives the child a very valuable foundation. With this foundation, she will expand her knowledge of music with great ease as she learns to write, read, and compose music, sing, move to different rhythms, and listen to different genres of music. We want to make sure that we give every child the opportunity to have his or her life immensely enriched through a greater appreciation of music.
In addition to all the daily music work done in both the Toddler and Primary rooms, we are blessed to have Ms. Julie as part of our staff. As our Toddler Teacher, Julie recently completed her Montessori training. She holds her Bachelor and Master's degrees in Music Education from UGA School of Music. In addition, she has received the Musikgarten training for preschool age children and is a certified Suzuki cello teacher at NATE. The Suzuki philosophy has many similarities to Montessori. Once a week, Ms. Julie works with the Primary class using the Musikgarten curriculum. It is a lovely complement to the work the children are doing daily in class.
In today’s world, spoken language is not valued. Email, text messages and IMs have taken the place of phone calls and face-to-face communication. I-pods, apps, and MP3 players have taken the place of family sing-alongs on road trips. While this may lead to more effective communication and fewer tantrums in the car, there is a down-side to consider: the greatest source of energy for the brain is the sound of the live, spoken (or sung) voice.
We all want the best for our children, and often that means buying an expensive item – the fastest computer, the best quality musical instrument, the latest, most up-to-date software, etc. Isn’t it amazing to think that one of the most effective things we can do for our children is to feed their brain by engaging them in conversation and storytelling!
Written by Julie Cutcliff and Stefanie Graper
We enjoyed an absolutely perfect fall morning at Berry Patch Farms. For the past seven years we have enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the Durden family and their staff. Last Friday, we met as the morning mist was clearing and we loaded up the tractor for a ride out to the pumpkin patch. After the children chose their pumpkins and explored a bit, we headed back to the farm to sample some yummy apple cider and play on the playground. Below is a slide show of the morning. Thank you Berry Patch Farms for another great field trip!
Time. We use it wisely, try to be efficient with it, make more of it, waste it, watch it pass
too quickly. Time is a precious item and luckily in the Montessori classroom, there is plenty of it.
The Montessori casa gives children the time they need to explore and grow.
Children are busy trying to keep up with our adult pace and we have all heard or said, “Hurry up we’re going to be late”, “Come on, we don’t have much time”, “Let’s go”. Keeping a schedule is a part of life that will not go away and these phrases are all too familiar.
The Montessori classroom allows children to enter a community that is child centered and at a child’s pace. Children become self directed and confident decision makers by having long periods of time to work independently, one on one with the teacher, or in small groups of two to three children.
Children instruct themselves through materials that allow them to make their own discoveries about how things work. Of course, the materials are presented one on one by the teacher/guide (who keeps very specific lesson plans and records for each child), but once they have been presented the child is free to work with that material for as long as he or she wishes. Once the child is accustomed to the work period, concentration begins to grow and the feeling of “hurry” subsides. They are given the gift of time and are not interrupted in their activity which brings them peace.
Just think if you were allowed to finish a task with no interruptions from anyone and there was actually someone there to protect your time…one of the many beautiful gifts Dr. Montessori gave the casa!
We are very proud of our garden at COLM, which acts as an important extension of our classrooms. It is also a certified Schoolyard Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Each fall we spend a morning working together in the garden and getting it ready for winter. Thanks to the help of our dedicated parent volunteers, we got a lot of work done today!
First up was weeding and cleaning up. We found some stray summer vegetables and A LOT of weeds!
We also pulled out some really long roots. Finally, we were ready to plant. We planted mums, pansies, herbs, cabbage, radish, carrots, and kale. The grownups helped prune and do even more weeding.
It was really amazing how hard the children worked. They loved spending time outside and spent almost the whole morning gardening.
We finished the day with a lovely 'pizza picnic' in the garden. What a blessing it is to be able to share this beautiful space with our children and families! A huge thank you to everyone who donated plants and helped this morning. We couldn't do it without you!
We are an AMI accredited Montessori school growing daily in spirit & intellect!