Monday, August 27, 2012

A Tour of Our Classroom: Part III - Language

Language is an essential part of the Montessori classroom. We use it in Practical Life when we show our children how to politely interact with their peers. We use it in Sensorial when we give three-period-lessons and introduce our children to curvilinear triangles, square-based pyramids, or the concept of dark/darker/darkest, and we use it in Math when we teach our children simple addition and multiple songs.

Our language area includes handwriting activities and all the fun art projects that the children do to strengthen their pincer grip before they even attempt to draw their first letters. This area also includes materials that introduce basic concepts such as opposites, items that go together, sequencing, classifying, and dozens of sets of nomenclature cards (categories of items we think children would be intrigued to know the names of: different insects, occupations, dinosaurs, mammals, landmarks, etc.) that are rotated frequently to maintain interest. It includes a phonetic approach to reading, an introduction to grammar, and it includes all the songs, poems, and finger plays we learn throughout the year.

Our teachers are a wonderful source of language, for they are trained on how to interact with children in a way that will foster language development. For instance, when giving a lesson on the names of different articles of clothing, the teacher will not only name the item as a skirt, but note that it is a red and black plaid skirt, that you would most likely find a skirt on a girl, that skirts can be either long or short, that sometimes, girls like to wear skirts on special occasions, etc. They also read to and listen to our children read every day. Except for special occasions (such as when a Mystery Reader visits our class), we make a point to only read to a small group of children at a time, for our mixed ages makes the children's interests and experiences differ greatly. When a teacher is reading to her small group of students, she is careful to ask listening comprehension or sequencing questions, introduce new vocabulary, and encourage participation in predictable books. Most importantly, our teachers engage our students in conversation, pose questions that encourage them to be more descriptive, and model expressive story-telling.

It is our goal to instill a love of language and literature and help our children become completely fluent readers. We believe this special combination will allow the whole world of learning to be opened to them.

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