The Third Plane Of Development:
Why Montessori at the Upper Elementary School Level?
Some regard Montessori education to be important only at the preschool (Casa) level. However, the work of developing into fully formed, self-reliant, and responsible individuals continues beyond this period. Children at the elementary school level have a whole new set of needs that call for the continued sensitivity of the teacher.
From birth to age six, children are sensorial explorers, studying every aspect of their environment, language, and culture. From age nine to twelve, children become reasoning explorers. They develop new powers of abstraction and imagination. They utilize and apply their knowledge to further discover and expand their world. During this time it is still essential that the child carry out activity in order to integrate acting and thinking. It is his/her own effort which gives him/her independence, and his own experience which brings him answers to how and why things function as they do. The teacher’s role is to prepare an appropriate environment with those materials which have value and purpose, and to foster and protect the child’s endeavor to explore. The teacher serves as a guide and is the link between the child and the environment.
The Upper Elementary Curriculum
In the third Plane of development Upper Elementary children use the concrete material as a springborad for more advanced learning. They have now established an excellent foundation from the Lower Elementary program and are now able to use what they have learned as a basis for a solid understanding of fundamental, abstract concepts.
In the Mathematics and Geometry areas of the curriculum, students are engaged through hands-on activities. They learn how to use formulas in real-world applications and experiences. They strive to understand the “why” of things. They still learn many concepts concretely, such as square root, cubing, and powers of numbers, just to name a few. We believe in educating our children in understanding where and why these fundamental concepts and formulas came into practice. Geometry is also taken to the next level in the Upper Elementary program. Students study and explore Transitivity, Insets of Equivalences, as well as, Area and Perimeter of many different shapes. They also learn the formulas for Volume of different objects. All work begins with the concrete materials, and as students build a solid understanding of the fundamental concepts, they are taught how to translate the information into everyday experiences and applications.
Language encompasses all areas in an Upper Elementary classroom. Children are always encouraged to read, write and research on a daily basis. Students are well versed in the steps of the “Writing Process”, and utilize it in all formal written pieces. This helps them generate and formulate well written sentences and paragraphs. The teacher is there to guide and conference with the student to ensure that all ideas are presented to the best of the child’s abilities. Students are introduced to a wide variety of genres and are given ample opportunity to create interesting works using the “multiple intelligences” as a guide. They produce a wide variety of projects, plays and art to translate what they have learned. They are also given an opportunity to practice public speaking whenever presenting information to their peers. They learn grammar and spelling rules through various advanced material within the classroom, such as the advanced sentence analysis charts.
In the Upper Elementary classroom the Cultural subjects are integrated into a student’s learning. Botany, Zoology, History, Geography and Science & Technology are the core subjects that encompass the cultural program. Each subject area provides a wide variety of information that helps students learn about the world around them; both past and present. Through the cultural subjects, students learn to master research skills and are given ample opportunities to record and present information in a variety of ways. Language development is key in this area and students are given opportunities to share their findings with their peers on an ongoing basis.
Homework at the Upper 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 Upper Elementary level homework generally takes 40-50 minutes to complete. This does not include any specialty homework the child may have.