The Montessori method is a child-centered educational approach that encourages children towards independence, order and a freedom to explore but with boundaries. By encouraging self-directed and hands-on experiences in the prepared environment with the prepared educators, children can maximize their individual learning outcomes and achieve their potentials. There are 5 major areas in Montessori Cycle 1 learning experiences: practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics and cultural learning.
Practical life activities are normally the first activity that introduce to the children within Montessori environment as they help child learn how to do living activities in a purposeful way. We start with practical life activities as it helps children to smoothly transit from home to the new environment as the familiarity of the activities and materials can assist the children to orientated in their new environment.
Practical life activities help children gain functional independence through acquiring the skills of taking care of themselves and meet their own needs in various scenarios, such as food preparation, washing hands. All the practical life activities have movement import which allow children to practice both their fine motor and gross motor skills. These practices will help develop and refine children's movement that allow their functional independence.
Practical life activities also help children with the integration of their personality and assistance to self-construction. Practical life activities can help children learn to control their body and the coordination of their movements, as well as develop better awareness of cooperation.
Taking care of the environment is also part of practical life experiences, such as sweeping, taking care of plants. Based on Montessori research, children have the instinct to follow what adults are doing that including care of the environment-clean and maintain the environment.
Grace and courtesy activities in practical life area help children work on the social interaction of people to people. Children can learn how to move and speak in various scenarios that assist them in all aspects of their social development.
Sensorial comprises of activities and resource materials that are designed to focus on five senses which are visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory and gustatory as well as stereognostic and mixed impressions. Sensorial activities support human tendencies and help children to analyse, classify and category the impressions they have received to distinguish, discriminate and make judgements.
Sensorial activities help children refine their senses. It helps children from 3 to 6 years old who we believe have absorbent mind to organise, order and classify the impressions received from the environment. All of these sensorial experiences help children build a store of abstract concepts. For example, children can develop better understanding of comparative and superlatives through the hands-on experiences and first-hand impressions. This will help children's social and language development as well.
Children start to develop their language since they were born through their unconscious absorbent mind and gradually sorting and organizing through their conscious absorbent mind. It's not only the language activities help children with their language development, various kinds of Montessori activities support children's language development in our Montessori environment. For example, table washing and metal polishing in practical life area, children need to move their hand in the smae direction as we read and writing and the circular movement also prepare the child's hand for writing. Tracing shapes and leaves in sensorial activities can refine child's wrist and fingers movement that indirectly prepare the child for later writing.
Oral language is one part of the language activities. It provides preparation for the mind and lays foundation to all writing and reading. For example, sandpaper letter and sandpaper phonograms introduces the symbols, helps children to realize the sound in a visible form and to stimulate children to further explore their own language in writing form.
Writing is another important part of language activities in our Cycle 1. The mechanic writing focuses on child's wrist and fingers movement and it involves the skills of holding a pencil and writing on paper. Creative wring allows children to express themselves. For example, moveable alphabet is a creative writing encourage children to express their own thoughts.
Montessori believes that human being is born with a Mathematical mind as we all have the ability to calculate, measure and estimate. Mathematical mind works together with absorbent mind, human tendencies and sensitive periods to find patterns and build order. Mathematical mind embedded in various kinds of activities Montessori Cycle 1. For example, practical life activities help children become familiar with order, sequence, precision and measuring as all practical life activities have their sequences. Sensorial materials fit in order, sequences and precision also help indirectly prepare children's later Mathematics activities.
There are six major groups of Mathematics in Montessori Cycle 1: The first group is numbers to 10 which include 0. This has to be done first as it lays the foundations. The second group is the decimal system. The third group is continuation of counting. Memorization of essential number combinations is the fourth group in Math. The fifth group in Math focuses passage to abstraction and fraction is the sixth group as it works with number less than 1.
The Cultural learning in Montessori Cycle 1 introduces Geography, Science, Botany, Zoology, History, Arts and Music.
We explore geography through various individual and small group activities. Things like land, air, water, maps, continents, people, food and music are all part of our geography exploration that help children make sense of the different cultures around the world and who they are.
Science is another part of cultural learning. We normally include topics such as seasons and related them to senses. We also explore different objects through experiments, such as float and sink experiment.
There are Botany, Zoology, History, Arts and Music education embedded in different kinds of Montessori activities. For example, care for plant from practical life area helps children develop better understanding of the botany, botanic cabinet in sensorial area introduces different shapes of leaves and 3 part cards in language area may involve various kinds of animals.