Ages 3.5 years to 6 years
The Primary, or Early Childhood, Level is where the children become independent learners. In this specifically prepared environment, the children are free to work in a space that best fits them, whether it be on the floor on a mat or sitting at a child-sized table. The Primary environment is designed to progress each child at their level, with individualized lessons plans that support learning in areas of practical life, sensorial, mathematics, language, geography, art and more. Each child is guided by the teacher to explore and learn lessons that they are interested in, and at their own pace. As they complete and master each skill, the skills or lessons gradually increase in difficulty. This method allows the children to gain confidence in themselves, while also fully comprehending what is being taught before moving on.
Primary is the level where the older children begin to help the younger students with their lessons and activities -- another unique part of the Montessori education. Children collaborate with one another and teaching a lesson to another student helps reinforce the lesson. These are the five areas of learning that make up Montessori curriculum:
Upon first entering the Montessori school children are given the opportunity to develop important life skills which will allow them greater freedom in the classroom. They learn to manage their own clothes using dressing frames to practice buttons, zips and bows. They are also shown how to care for the classroom, using child-sized brushes and dusters. Developing practical skills, such as pouring drinks from a jug and laying tables, and social skills with friends and teacher enable each child to feel that they are capable, self-reliant members of the community.
A child’s first experience with learning is through the senses. Montessori schools use a range of well thought out exercises to help children sort, match and compare objects by shape, size, touch, taste and sound. These early sensorial impressions boost children’s powers of observation and discrimination, broaden their vocabulary and contribute to their later understanding of formal education concepts.
Montessori’s language materials are based on a carefully a structured phonic approach to writing and reading. First, children learn sensorially by tracing sandpaper letters with their fingers while they are told the sounds. Soon they are writing simple words with movable letters, matching words with objects and reading their first stories in phonic readers. When asked how they learned to read and write Montessori children will often answer, “I did it myself.”
Essentially, mathematics is about understanding relationships in the environment and being able to express them in mathematical terms. Montessori materials, like the number rods, golden beads and spindle boxes, are simple and interesting and provide step-by-step learning. They are also self-correcting, which means that children can see at a glance if they have made a mistake and can put it right without a teacher’s help. This enables them to progress at their own rate and understand each stage thoroughly before they move on to the next stage.
In the Montessori classroom children use globes, puzzles maps and flags to underpin activities which build their understanding of other cultures and people. Children are also taught to match, classify and name the elements and species of the natural would by using picture and name cards. Classroom plant growing and caring for pets help to form a bridge between the child’s knowledge of the immediate environment and the wider world.
The Primary Level is the true foundation of a child’s education and is the time of a child’s greatest learning. This is when a child develops a positive attitude towards school as well as a love of learning. They will bolster their habits of concentration, initiative, independence and self-discipline. A child will be well-prepared for not only the next level of their education, but also for the rest of their academic life.
Children play outdoors at least twice daily, weather permitting; otherwise there is an indoor gross motor environment. Additionally, enrichment programs for Primary children includes Physical Education, Spanish, Yoga and Art classes.