Workshop Booklet: Practical Life and Language Across the Planes - HPMS
Practical Life & LanguageAcross the Planes of DevelopmentHamilton Park Montessori School Wednesday, January 25, 2011 6:00 - 8:00
Practical Life Activities on DisplayBridge Program Rock Transfer Bean Transfer with Cups Water Transfer with Sponge Dry Transfer with Pitchers Water Transfer with Pitchers Transferring with TongsEarly Childhood Program Water Pouring with Pitchers Penny Polishing Tissue Paper Art Food Preparation: Celery CanoesElementary Program In Elementary, Practical Life is focused on being a contributing, successful member of an elementary community. Students learn to be responsible for their work by managing their time, and work as a community to keep the classroom beautiful. Many of the Practical Life works are created to help students strengthen their coordination and fine-motor development. Students are exposed to an array of Practical Life activities such as knitting, weaving, cooking, and gardening, all of which create opportunities that support the physical development of the child. Elementary students are also expected to do more writing throughout the school day, which strengthens their fine motor skills while building their writing proficiency. While there are fewer Practical Life lessons in Elementary, Practical Life activities continue. Displayed are some tools of Practical Life frequently used by Elementary students: Clean-up tools, Art tools, Cooking tools and Gardening tools, and Time-Management tools.
Language Activities on DisplayBridge Program Puzzles Object-to-Object Match Object-to-Picture Match Picture-to Picture MatchEarly Childhood Program Rhyming Picture Cards Moveable Alphabet Phonetic Words Sandpaper Letters – Introduction Sight Words Initial Sounds Work Metal Insets Sentence/Picture Matching Writing SamplesElementary Program Phonics: Phonograms Reading Comprehension: Reading for Understanding & SRA Mechanics: The Comma Key Experience Grammar: The Noun Key Experience Grammar: The Verb Key Experience Sentence Analysis: Subject and Predicate Word Study: Antonyms In Elementary, the Language Curriculum overlaps with Early Childhood in its refinement of phonemic awareness and strengthening of the foundational basic word composition and reading. It then extends further into using word study, advanced reading comprehension, grammar and language mechanics, novel study, the research writing process and the creative writing process.
Practical Life: The Foundation of Learning in Montessori “The satisfaction which (the children) find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.” - Maria Montessori Ultimately, the goal of education is to prepare a child for Life. Whatkinds of skills will she need? What level of confidence? What is the bestway to develop her attention span and concentration so that she canmaster challenges? How should she view the process of learning? Howshould she feel about mistakes? How can she best create and maintainpositive relationships with her peers? In Montessori, the entire classroomenvironment is dedicated to creating the best possible scenarios, butthe cornerstone for it all is Practical Life. The Practial Life area it builds physical skills, it builds cognitive skills, andit builds the Self of the child. Rooted in real activities, offers the child avariety of opportunities to carry out everyday tasks requiring a range ofmotor skills and, when completed successfully, enables the child to feelindependent, successful and valuable to his or her classroomcommunity. Physical Skills Consider all the movements, steps, and areas of attention you must employ in order to set up, enjoy (or share) and clean up a snack. You likely used a variety of lifting, carrying, balancing, pouring, spooning or spreading, rinsing, drying, setting down and organizing actions in order to do this one thing: feed yourself or someone dear to you. What a series of tasks for a child to master! And yet, the child learns to do it. The activities in the Practical Life area are developed and sequenced to build the small- and gross- motor skills that children need in order to become proficient at everyday tasks of living: nourishing themselves, dressing themselves, cleaning up after themselves, and so on. Practical Life assists the student in achieving these tasks by providing daily opportunities to strengthen small and large motor skills, overall body coordination, eye-hand coordination, and manual dexterity (especially that pincer grip!). Cognitive Skills An observer in a Montessori classroom will discover that, as she moves along a shelf, the first area of the shelf has simple transfer activities, where a child moves dry beans from one vessel to another by grasping, followed by an activity for practicing pouring beans, followed by an activity for practicing spooning them. Further along in the sequence, there might be the Cereal work, where the child pours dry cereal into a bowl, followed by pouring milk into the bowl, and then spooning the cereal and milk into his or her own mouth, all as part of the same work. Of course, the dishes must then be cleaned and dried and returned to the shelf for the next hungry student, and this requires a whole other set of complex actions. The advanced activities of food preparation, for example, require an increasingly advanced set of physical and skills, attention span, memory, sense of order and concentration. And of course, the nature of the mistake in Practical Life is that it can be resolved: a spill can be wiped up; a dropped spoon can be washed; a broken vase can be swept up and replaced. The child who learns in Practical Life about cause and effect, learns that learning is sometimes messy, and that messes are forgivable when the mess-maker takes responsibility and cleans them up. This is the beauty of Practical Life: through practice and repetition, the physical and cognitive development of the child progress in harmony and happiness.
Personal Development Perhaps the most subtle and beautiful element of Practical Life is its impact on the spirit of the child. Children naturally wish to learn, engage with their environments, and be valued contributors to their communities. Children, like adults, are enormously social creatures: they want to be able to do as their peers and elders do, and they want to be valued according to the values of the society around them. Practical Life helps them in these efforts. Confidence: A child who has the time and opportunity to work on the activities of Practical Life is a child who learns that she can meet her own needs. She recognizes that she has much to learn… and that she is capable of achieving. She can set out to accomplish a task and, after some practice, witness her own success. What a joyful day, the day she learns to pour her own milk without spilling or tie a bow without help. What a momentous occasion, to realize you have achieved something great, simply because it’s obvious! Independence: The goal of the education, Montessori said, is to help the children reach the point at which they no longer need the teacher. It is a goal that will take a child into adulthood to fully realize, but it certainly progresses by leaps in Practical Life. When a child learns that he can feed himself, he has taken a very long stride indeed in his movement toward self-sufficiency. When a child learns that he can learn from and solve his mistakes, he has taken a very long stride in his relationship with learning. A Gift Worth Sharing: Maria Montessori realized that all the skills and cognitive gains in the world can only go so far to prepare a child for Life—we are social beings, we long to be valued by the communities in which we live. For this reason, the area of Grace and Courtesy is also an integral part of the Practical Life curriculum. It is through lessons in Grace and Courtesy—from waiting a turn, to learning to interrupt, to resolving conflict peacefully—that children first learn to share their environment with each other. As he begins to see the respect that grows up between himself and other children who are learning Grace and Courtesy, a child learns sincere empathy, compassion, respect and camaraderie. He learns to value the community of which he is a part— and he learns the joy of being mutually valued by that community. It becomes a joy of the maturing student to be a help to the younger students—when he learns to button his own jacket, suddenly he begins to volunteer to button the jackets of those who have not yet mastered the feat. When he sees a younger peer overwhelmed by a spill, he walks over to help, mop in hand. When he sees two children distraught with conflict, he jumps into action and tries to resolve their distress. It is a hope for humanity that the child who learns these lessons in his classroom will one day take them out into the world. Practical Life is both the pouring of beans and much more than the pouring of beans. It is a gift to our children and to those who may one day rely upon them. “Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie hisshoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joyand sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.” - Maria Montessori
Language in the Montessori Classroom “The ability to write will be acquired as a result of the analysis of the words each one possesses and of the activity of one’s mind which is interested in such a magical conquest.” -Maria Montessori.Language is communication, a form of exchange whose masteryrequires the recognition, comprehension and retention of sounds,words and rules if one is to make or translate the abstract relationshipbetween an object and a string of sounds. Language is affected byhints of locality, mood, class-structure, and countless other factors.Language is in fact, such a complex and layered pattern of linguisticequations; it is a wonder that all humans embrace it. And what awonder it is, as Montessori pointed out more than a century ago, thatthe most proficient learners of language are children!Even before imitating the first syllable, a child is taking in language and responding by turning towardvoices, watching people speak, expressing emotion with body language, differentiated cries, cooingsounds, etc. This is the beginning of a very long journey that begins simply by connecting sounds withfaces and will eventually grow into the ability to read and express abstract concepts in writing.Oral Language Development Oral language and vocabulary development are ongoing, occurring parallel to other languageactivities, and are not confined to any one area of the classroom. Children are presented with namedobjects, then pictures, helping them to learn that objects can be represented by symbols. Thesenomenclature and vocabulary enrichment lessons expand the child’s vocabulary through preciseterminology, enhancing their ability to express thoughts. This ability to express oneself verbally is directlyrelated to the development of writing skills, since the child’s writing is an extension of their orallanguage. Children are read to often. Books are of high literary quality and are beautifully illustrated inorder to inspire wonder and enjoyment. Frequent group discussions promote freedom of expression andpeer sharing. Children develop self-confidence in speaking by talking about their own experiences. Oral expression begins simply, beginning with one idea at first, and gradually increasing thecomplexity and layers of ideas expressed. Some opportunities for vocabulary development include: - Names of objects in the environment; names of objects illustrated in pictures. - Matching exercises (i.e. colors, fruits, flowers, clothing, animals, environmental objects, etc.) - Attribute words (i.e. big, little, short, thick, thin, etc. Could be in connection with the use of sensorial equipment.) - Classification (i.e. things that go together, mothers and their young, opposites.) - Geometric, geography and science terms. - Group Discussions and opportunity for oral expression (i.e. Circle time, seasonal holidays, any time which allows for common discussion.)Phonemic Awareness & Word Composition Phonemes are the individual sounds that make up the words we use in language, and are largelyrepresented in writing by a single letter or pair of letters. In Montessori, the Sandpaper Sounds are usedextensively to teach the visual representation of these phonemes. These lowercase letters of sandpapermounted on tablets are introduced to the child as soon as there is reasonable hand control to tracethe letters. This tracing movement insures maximum use of the child’s muscular memory, pronouncingthe phoneme aloud employs auditory memory, and the eye movement as they follow the handemploys visual memory. Lower case letters are presented because they are they symbols most used inreading and writing. The sounds of the letters are taught as opposed to the names because the soundis what the child hears in words.
“…education is not something which the teacher does, but a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on this environment. The teachers task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment for the child.” – Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.The Sandpaper Sounds provide the child with a sensorial experience that is both enjoyable and useful tothe child who is beginning to recognize the important role that letters play in words that he or shecherishes: his or her name, the names of family and friends, the words that represent favorite objectsboth at home and out in the world, and so on. Once a child has a working knowledge of about 10 phonemes expressed as letters, he or she may beready to begin composing words-- even if s/he is not yet able to write with pencil and paper. TheMoveable Alphabet is introduced during this special time in the child’s development: it is a writingexercise, and although there are no manual writing skills involved, the child is able to place letters tocompose words. Montessori observed that the children often go through the process of wordcomposition before acquiring the skill of reading. This process of encoding involves taking a word,analyzing it into its sounds, finding the letters to represent the sounds and placing them in propersequence. At first the child is not asked to read back the words, as reading requires decoding, aseparate mental process for which the child may not be ready. After much experience with theMoveable Alphabet, the child may create words, sentences and even stories on their own.Writing One of the most exciting things possible in life happens in early childhood: A day comes when theyrealize that they are able to write a word with a pencil. And then another, and another, and another!Montessori calls this phenomenon the “explosion into writing,” and it opens up many doors for the childwith many thoughts to share! Many of Practical Life and Sensorial exercises assist the child in developingthe hand coordination needed for writing. These skills are further refined with the use of the Metal Insets,which also give precision to the movement of the hand. In order to write, the child must understandthat written symbols represent spoken sounds.Reading There are two separate skills needed in reading: - Decoding, or the ability to decipher words, primarily through breaking them into their phonemes, but occasionally through use of memory (for non-phonetic words). - Comprehension, or the ability to understand which concepts and thoughts are being conveyed. Decoding skills are developed through a series of exercises that teach sounds, phonograms, sightwords (sometimes called “puzzle words,” these may be non-phonetic words, such as “sight” and“would”) and give practice in sounding out printed words. Many tools are used to build decoding skill,from continued work with the Moveable Alphabet and Sandpaper Sounds (which include digraphs andlong vowel sounds) to word booklets and Dolch Word activities. Comprehension, more than simply recalling the definition of a decoded word, requires more subtleskills than those of decoding. Comprehension is what will allow children to enjoy the nuances oflanguage, consider meaning, and think critically about what they have read. Before the child isable to comprehend, they must have been exposed to differentexperiences, encouraged to experiment, to question and to makejudgements and draw conclusions. Maria Montessori recognized that the process by which a chldlearns to read is more than putting letters together; it is a process ofgaining access to the world.