The Montessori School of the Mahoning Valley divides the students at this developmental stage into two classrooms: the Lower Elementary for children ages 6 to 9, and the Upper Elementary, for children ages 9 to 12.
The Reasoning Mind
The period from ages 6 to 12 can be called The Reasoning Mind because of the child’s desire to understand why and how the world works, and to be able to independently find out the answers to these big questions. This new developmental period is marked by increased desire for collaborative and social engagement, heightened imagination, and deepened intellect. Morality and fairness become a point of focus. Our Lower Elementary classroom is designed to engage your child in a broad range of study limited only by his or her imagination, while supporting independence, social awareness, and human potential.
Lower Elementary: Building on the Foundations of the Primary Experience
After completing our Montessori Primary Program, your child moves on to our Lower Elementary. In the Primary classroom, your child has learned focus and concentration, and this has prepared her or him to fully engage in everything the Lower Elementary Program provides. The Lower Elementary classroom is scientifically designed to sustain the independence children gained in our Primary Program, and foster exploration of the expansive Montessori curriculum.
You’ll notice that many of the same materials appear in the Lower Elementary classroom as in the Primary classrooms, because the Lower Elementary lessons are built upon those learned in our Primary Program. At this level, new ways of using these materials are introduced, and there are many, many new materials presented as well, to engage your child with variety, making new discoveries, and more deeply understanding the abstract concepts in math, language, and Cultural Studies. Cultural Studies include Biology, Botany, Zoology, Geography, History, Earth Science, Life and Physical Science, and Ecology.
You will also notice an energetic hum of activity in the classroom. Because the child from 6 to 9 is much more socially aware, there is a great drive at this stage to collaborate. Students bounce ideas off one another, work on projects together, and ask each other big questions. No longer content with the questions of the Primary child, the Lower Elementary child wants to understand bigger questions of how the world works and why.
The Great Lessons
In the Elementary classrooms, learning is not defined by a limited, single-year curriculum--it is driven as far as your child’s imagination will take him. Dr. Montessori understood the power of a child’s mind, and designed a series of “Great Lessons” which ignite imagination and stimulate inquiry throughout the academic program. The Great Lessons begin with “The Birth of the Universe”--an elaborate story told by the teacher with artwork and science experiments--which includes chemistry, physics, astronomy, earth science, and geography. This lesson inspires students’ imaginations, and becomes the jumping off point for independent exploration of these subjects.
The Montessori Elementary teachers encourage children to ask questions, discover answers, and reason for themselves. Independence, interest, and passion for what they are learning creates joyful scholars!
Starting Where You Are
Because your child is learning at his or her own pace, there is freedom to work until mastery is achieved, and move on when new challenges are needed. With the new desire for social interaction, some lessons are given in small mixed-age groups based on readiness for the skills introduced. Other lessons are given one-on-one, to meet the individual needs of the child.
The Montessori students are self-directed; that is, students choose their work based on their personal interests, moods, feelings, energy level, and peer interests. Each student is self-guided. Unlike a traditional classroom, where the entire class is told to get out their math books, put away their language books, etc., Montessori students make choices and work independently. Although lessons are given individually and in small groups, the learning occurs when children follow-up on the lessons on their own or with their peers, doing projects and research, independent of adult guidance. Lower Elementary students create individual work schedules to help them complete daily activities and engage in projects and research. Our Primary Program prepares children for this self-guided approach.
Time Management: Accountability and Responsibility
Montessori Elementary teachers scientifically observe and record data to track each child’s growth, mastery of skills, lessons given and needed. Weekly conferences with each child help keep the child accountable for his or her work. At the conference and after each lesson, the child and the teacher discuss the minimum amount of work or practice that will need to be accomplished by the next conference. If something is preventing the child from progressing--interest in another area, or extra social engagement, for example--the child and teacher collaborate on ways to manage time better to meet goals and responsibilities. How wonderful to learn time management skills as a 6 year-old, rather than facing a whole new way of thinking when getting to college!
The Joy of Learning is Contagious
The children in the Lower Elementary classroom are free to move about, observing the work of other students. This results in the spread of ideas and interests. Children are inspired by each other, not only the lessons provided by the adult. Because each child is inspired uniquely by group lessons, he or she has freedom to work alone or form a group focused on concepts shared in the lesson. Older students’ work inspires that of younger children, and sharing their more advanced understanding provides older students a deeper form of learning.
Social Skills and Collaboration
Dr. Montessori recognized that the basic human need for social engagement and collaboration develops at this stage, and designed the Elementary classroom to provide ample opportunities for small group lessons and follow-up projects. These works require development of social skills within a group dynamic: learning how to work well with different personalities, group planning, delegation and division of duties, collaborating with resources, sharing, and group decision-making. Students learn to take responsibility for their own actions and the actions of their group. Constructive and respectful conflict-resolution skills are developed under the guidance of the Montessori teacher. These are all significant life lessons which help the child build community and progress toward global citizenship.
Understanding Concepts, Not Memorizing Answers
All of the Montessori materials, the Great Lessons, the structure of the classroom, the curriculum, and the guidance of the Montessori teachers, create an atmosphere of inquiry. Children learn how to ask big questions and find answers for themselves. They are not memorizing facts to be temporarily retained until the test, after which those facts are dropped and replaced with the next batch of memorized facts. They are understanding concepts, mastering skills, and applying knowledge in meaningful contexts across the curriculum. Learning how to learn creates life-long learners, with the ability to learn in any setting across a broad scope of concepts and ideas. Montessori education is more than education--it is learning for life!
After completing the 3-year Lower Elementary program, your child is now ready to move on to the Montessori Upper Elementary Program (ages 9-12).
Lower Elementary Montessori Concepts
- Language Arts
- Cultural Studies
To transform into independent problem-solvers, Montessori children build a foundation of understanding concepts using concrete materials which lead to abstract thinking. Math is used across the Elementary curriculum as children learn to express their understanding of their surrounding world. Math in the Lower Elementary includes: Understanding of Operations; Intro to the history of numbers/numeration; Hierarchy Lesson (to 1,000,000,000);; Understanding of Money Measurement concept, history; Laws of Arithmetic; Intro to Fractions; Study of Multiples, Divisibility, Factors; Intro to Decimal Fractions; Squaring and Cubing; Graphs; Problem-solving Skills and Logical Reasoning. Geometry in Lower Elementary includes: concepts of Point, Line, Surface; Solid Study of Angles, Triangles; Congruent, Similar, Equivalent Figures; Volume; and Area.
Reading: Lower Elementary students are exposed to reading as a method for learning and for pleasure, for they are encouraged to follow their interests, and all genres are available for children to explore. The Elementary environment contains many reading opportunities across the curriculum, and reading aloud, reading silently, and listening to others are all freely available. Analytical and crucial-thinking skills are promoted through treater circles, as children learn to connect literary themes with real life experience through self-reflection and respectfully acknowledging peer viewpoints.
Communicating: Oral presentations and interactions in community meetings help develop and refine expressive and receptive language skills, expanding their vocabulary for giving accounts of learning experiences, emotions, and opinions. Foreign language vocabulary and grammar build on the 3-6 studies.
Writing: Writing studies capitalize o the child’s iterate i classification and rules of order, with a deepened std of the parts of speech. Montessori materials and symbols are used to connect the imagination with the mechanics of language. They practice spelling skills across the integrated Montessori curriculum. Students explore many styles as they learn organization, voice, drafting editing, and presentation.
The Cultural Studies are the backbone of the Montessori Elementary curriculum, as it is through Cultural Studies that the other curricular areas of language arts and math are integrated. As the elementary child develops from concrete understanding to abstract thinking, they imagine the world around them, focus on how it works and why things are the way they are. Students explore personal interests with teacher guidance through long-term research projects and the learning cycle of inquiry. They form hypotheses and conduct experiments. Research projects typically result i final products taking many different forms that demonstrate student under-standing. Field trips enhance cultural studies. Lower Elementary students develop a sense of their place in the universe through development of a sense of time (past, present, future) , a sense of space (geography, astronomy) and a sense of systems and cycles (biology, chemistry, physics, history, and economics).
In addition, Lower Elementary cultural studies include: Zoology; Botany; Biology; Introduction to Vital Functions; Intro to the Five Kingdoms; Classification System; Geology; Weather; Biomes; The story of the Universe; Functional, Political, and Human Geography; Physical Sciences; BC/AD Timelines; Timeline of Life; and Human Anatomy.