We all want our children to be successful adults, but what can we do to help them reach this goal? In order to be successful, our children need to master organization, time management, responsibility, and finding answers, not memorizing them. The Montessori Elementary classroom provides an excellent environment to master these life skills.
Organization in a Montessori classroom begins with the environment. The class is divided into different areas allowing the child to physically see the different areas of the curriculum: math, language, science, cultural studies, etc. This sense of order carries over to the actual lesson as each lesson involves the child working in a particular order and sequence. Here is a picture of a student working with the stamp game in math. You will notice how each number is set up in pairs. This allows the child to easily count the numbers and see odd and even numbers.
The elementary students are responsible for planning their work. First graders learn to plan a day at a time. The second and third graders actually plan their work for the week. The students have to balance the work that needs to be completed with the amount of available time. When an elementary student arrives in the morning, she reviews her work plan. The student chooses the order she will work in the morning. Some students prefer to do their favorite work first; some want to do the hardest piece first; and, others start with the easiest. Regardless of where the student starts, she knows all of her work must be completed and checked, and corrected if needed, that morning. Working independently in this time frame allows the student to learn how to manage her time. Upper Elementary students have monthly work goals as well as a daily plan. The Upper El student must learn to make long-term work goals and meet these goals.
The class works together as a community. The students are responsible for returning their work to the shelf ready for the next person. The students establish their ground rules together to help them work as a community. The only way a community can be successful is if every member takes responsibility for his own actions. As a community, they hold meetings and learn to work out any disagreements. In addition, as a community, they recognize the differences among the group and accept these differences.
Montessori students don’t memorize facts. Instead, they conduct research to find answers. Research is an important part of the curriculum. The students first have to ask what are the important questions. Then, they learn where to look for answers, how to determine what the answer is, and finally how to report the answer. First graders write a few words for their answers. Second graders write complete sentences with proper capitalization and punctuation. The third graders’ answers are in paragraph form with a topic sentence, information, and closing sentence. Then, in Upper Elementary the students actually write research papers complete with note cards and an MLA bibliography. We use field trips to reinforce what we are learning in the class to help them answer these questions.
Think back to when you were in elementary school, what lessons do you remember? With time, much of what we learn is either obsolete or forgotten. The jobs our children are preparing for have not even been invented so we as teachers can not know what skills will be needed for these jobs. However, all jobs require an employee or business owner who is organized and manages his time well. In order to be successful in a workplace, one must be responsible for his actions and able to get along with others. Finally, in business, you need to keep up with the times. You must be able to know what questions to ask and where to find the answers, which Montessori students do now.
One of our fathers, who was a high-level manager at an international corporation, often joined his child in the elementary class for lunch. He was so impressed with how the students were organized, managed their time, and could get along with others. He told Ms. Carolyn that he wished his employees had mastered these skills. Clearly, Montessori elementary education is preparing our children for the future.