In the Primary classes, Practical Life has its own area in the classroom. It is full of lessons where the child works on taking care of herself, hand washing, and food preparation. The lessons build concentration and focus, as well as work on fine and gross motor skills. A parent can easily see this important work. Well, the Lower Elementary class is full of practical life lessons, too. Every day students work on time management as they must complete all morning work timely. We organize our own spaces in addition to keeping the materials in good condition. We have meetings run by the students which teach them how to work together. We assist the students in working out conflicts among themselves. The students are constantly building the skills necessary to create a fine young person.
There are two large projects that have many practical life implications: the play and the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). We worked on our fabulous performance of “Demon and the Three Golden Hairs.” The presentation of the play offered many opportunities for the students to grow. Of course, the play provided a safe place to perform in front of an audience. We started by acting in front of the class, then the school, and finally the parents. They had to learn to memorize lines that can apply to math facts and spelling. A play requires collaboration of the students. The students worked with each other and supported each other in the play. They had to cooperate with each other. The play brings characters to life which can be drawn on during our creative writing. All of these skills are necessary for our students in their educational path.
Each year at the end of the year we administer the Stanford Achievement Test. This test provides many practical life skills. The children can learn test-taking in a non-threatening setting.This is not a high-stakes test that causes anxiety in the students.
For the first and second-grade students, this is really just practice, because they are not developmentally ready for this type of testing. We want our students to become comfortable with the process. They learn to work slowly and deliberately. We discuss how the test makers have answers to trick us. We teach them how to eliminate answers to increase a correct answer choice. All of these important test-taking skills. For parents and teachers, the test provides a standardized score for each child, which gives one indication of a child’s knowledge and ability. It does not by any means give the whole picture (for young children it is more an indicator of how they felt that day). The score must be viewed in conjunction with the child’s classroom performance.
The beauty of Montessori education is that we look at the whole child. While our students are generally operating on higher grade level work, they are mastering the process and building the foundation.