In the Pre-Primary:
The classroom is prepared to address the sensitive periods before 6 years of age.
Follow the child: the directress watches the child and notes the interest. On this is based the next experience, such as learning letters or pre-writing exercises.
In the Pre-Primary, children are free to work at their own pace in a carefully prepared classroom with material they have chosen. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning. By the third year there is an emphasis on Literacy and Mathematics.
In the 6-12 years environment, children are encouraged to work at a realistic pace following a laid out work contract with the curriculum and its outcomes. There is plenty of individual work and some group work as well. Within this, however, there is still some free choice.
Introduction to Montessori Education in the Pre-Primary and in the Junior School:
Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She was the first woman to achieve a degree as a Doctor of Medicine.
This scientific background is clearly seen in her later work in education. Dr Montessori became interested in the way children learn from a very early age by closely observing them as they really are. She opened her first “Children’s
House” in 1907 and published her first educational work in 1909. She died in 1952 at which time her son continued her work in education, which has spread successfully throughout the world.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a philosophy based on the fundamental tenet that a child learns best within a social environment which supports each individual’s unique development.
What makes Montessori Education unique?
A three year experience – the child stays in the same class with the same directress for three years, first being the young one and then finally graduating to the eldest. Groupings are: 3-6 years, 6-9 years and 9-12 years of age.
The Montessori material – Dr Montessori’s observations led her to design a number of multi- sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials, which facilitate the learning of skills and concepts. The materials become more and more advanced depending on the grade.
The teacher – after extensive training, the Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning, designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper and meticulous observer of each child’s behaviour and growth. assessments are given and four reports of progress are published.
The three-year age span in each class provides a family- like grouping. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. This peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori.
What happens when a child leaves Montessori?
Montessori children are very adaptable and have learned to work independently and in groups. They have been encouraged to make decisions from an early age and have pre-problem skills. They manage their time well and generally have good research skills.
The “whole child” approach. The primary goal of a Montessori programme is to help each child reach their full potential in all areas of life through “individual activity that stimulates and produces development”. Prepared environment – the classroom (both Pre- Primary and in the Junior School in 6-9 and 9-12 years) is set up in different areas based on the child’s needs and the children are allowed to work on the materials which have been presented to them.
Children entering Grade 1 at SJMC have all the advantages of continuing with Montessori as well as the enriched activities of a large school – sport (including swimming, ballet, cricket, tennis, soccer, netball, drama and pottery), a library, a computer lab, a music department, a comprehensive reading book room, a chapel and exposure to Religious Education, Xhosa, Afrikaans as well as a learning support teacher and an Occupational Therapist.