The Second Plane of Development:
According to Maria Montessori, humans progress through 4 stages of development from childhood to adulthood. She grouped these “planes of development by age brackets: 3-6 year olds, 6-12 year olds, 12-18 year olds and 18-24 year olds. The Elementary child has progressed through the first plane of development and will experience different physical, emotional and mental changes in their second plane of development.
“The child is also a worker and a producer. Although he cannot share in the work of adults, he has his own difficult and important task to perform, that of producing a man.” (Maria Montessori). Respect, responsibility and resourcefulness are the three areas that children take from the Casa program into the Elementary program and further build on and refine. Children are also questioning and wondering in the why and the how. The children carry with them the growth from Casa in each of the five areas, and continue to build and enhance their knowledge to unlimited levels. The Montessori materials in Elementary continue to be exposed to the children always capturing their curiosity and passion to want to learn. The possibility is given to children to ultimately learn in an environment where children continue to be responsible for themselves and for others, respecting the environment and working in a peaceful atmosphere. Lessons are taught either individually or in group format, always moving at the child’s pace of learning.
Maria Montessori believed that the Elementary classroom should cater to the needs of the child at the second plane of development. The Elementary classroom is an extension of the Casa classroom so the child is familiar with certain materials and classroom methodologies. The children continue to make independent work choices and caring for their environment.
Areas Of Development In The Second Plane
“But that’s not fair mommy!” “You’re not allowed to do that! I’m telling!” Sound familiar? There is a logical explanation why we as teachers and parents of 6-9 year olds must deal with the ever-so dreaded “tattle tale.” When a child reaches the Lower Elementary classroom, he enters a new stage of development- one that involves a particular inner sensitivity, the conscience. They begin to see actions as right or wrong, fair or unfair. They begin to question why some things are considered wrong. Morality and how they can make the world a better place plays a strong role in their lives. As a result, the Elementary classroom will explore issues such as war, violence, poverty and the homeless and how people can make a difference. We gather food, clothing, raise money for charities and sponsor less fortunate children in third-world countries. If the children know that they have contributed and are made to feel that any small contribution will make a difference, then they will feel good inside.
Furthermore, the Elementary child has great powers of imagination. The Elementary environment will appeal to the imagination through fairy tales, myths and fables. The materials appeal to the Elementary child as well. Lessons such as the Timeline of Life in History, the Creation Story in Geography and the main function of the root in Botany are taught using charts and diagrams that allow the child to visually explore that concept that they are learning.
Children in Elementary are social beings. Where Casa children are egocentric, Elementary children want to socialize and feel a part of a group. As a result, the classroom caters to this characteristic of their development by encouraging social interaction to a certain degree. We do not permit the children to spend great amounts of time chatting about their social activities; however we also do not want to stunt the child’s natural social developmental progression. Children are not required to sit in one assigned seat for the entire school year. We promote small group activities and projects. Children take on roles in their groups and solve problems independently amongst themselves. This collaborative learning fosters independence and team work.
The Lower Elementary Curriculum
In the second plane of development children learn from the concrete to the absrtact. They are immersed in the material to get a solid foundation and solidify understanding of concepts. This gives them a strong foundation when they enter the third plane of development.
In the Mathematics area continuous passage from the concrete to abstract allows the child in the Lower Elementary program to strengthen and further his/her knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts and terminology. Fractions, decimals, multiples and factors are but a few of the areas that the child learns about. The core of this program is to allow the child to apply these concepts to real world applications, so that the learning becomes meaningful to the child. Geometry at the Lower Elementary level becomes an integral subject area on its own. The child explores the concepts of angles, lines and shapes, through nomenclature material, with a variety of Montessori material such as the geometry sticks, geomertry cabinet of shapes, as well as 3D figures. In this area, the child learns the importance of these concepts to the world around them.
In the Language area the child begins to do mini research projects. The development of formal writing skills through the creative writing program is introduced. The child also participates in sharing stories, partake in plays and discovering the wonder of poetry. Books are an integral part of the Language program and are used for a variety of purposes; such as research, reading and story-telling. The use of the Montessori material is an integral part of the Lower Elementary program. Through the Skysrcraper material, the child explores the study of words. The child is also immersed in the function of the parts of speech through the Montessori Grammar Boxes.
The Cultural areas in the Lower Elementary program include Botany, Zoology, Science & Technology, History and Geography. Many “Great Lessons” are given to the child at this level , as he or she partakes in the “Understanding of the Universe”. In the Lower Elementary program, the child is introduced to the whole concept, and then they learn about individual aspects through “mini lessons”. The child discovers his or her place within the greater scheme of the world. Each subject area allows the child to further develop their research skills, as they are taught to extract information from various forms of texts. The child is given ample opportunities to share their findings with their peers through presentations and demonstrations. The child begins to develop their public speaking skills through presenting projects and sharing their writing.
Homework at the Lower Elementary level is an extension of what the child has learned throughout the day. Homework is meaningful work, which allows the child to reflect upon what he/she has learned. At the Lower Elementary level homework generally takes 15-20 minutes to complete. This does not include the daily reading or any specialty homework the child may have.