Language in the Stage 1 Montessori Classroom
The Montessori 3-6 classroom is a natural extension of the patterns of communication that have already been absorbed. Through every conversation, every book read aloud, every new word that is taught, the Montessori student is learning language, and thus, learning to read. In the Montessori Preschool/Kindergarten environment, emphasis is placed on the process of acquiring language. Knowledge is constructed by mental and physical activity rather than on passive learning. Writing is taught before reading through the direct and indirect aims of the Montessori Practical Life and Sensorial works. In the Montessori 3- Language curriculum, writing itself is seen as a direct preparation for reading.
Montessori parents and educators use precise language that is neither too simplified or given to baby talk in order to give credence to the work the child is doing to acquire vocabulary and language skills. As Montessori educators, we help the child to focus her attention to the sound of her own speech, making fine distinctions between sounds. From our attention in oral language development emerges the child’s need to write. Written symbols are introduced and from there, the child bursts spontaneously into reading. The curriculum focuses on the pivotal components of language:
- recognising the written symbols of letters
- learning the phonetic sounds of letters
- combining phonetic sounds to create words
- practising the fine motor skills required for holding a pencil and writing
- writing letters, words, and sentences
- reading short phonetic words
- recognizing sight words
- reading sentences and stories
- understanding the function of the parts of speech
- composing creative stories
Maria Montessori did not believe that reading, writing, spelling and language should be taught as separate entities. Pre-primary children are immersed in the dynamics of their own language development and the Montessori approach provides a carefully thought-out program to facilitate this process. Oral language acquired since birth is further elaborated and refined through a variety of activities such as songs, games, poems, stories and classified language cards.
Indirect preparation for writing begins with the practical life exercises and sensorial training. Muscular movement and fine motor skills are developed along with the ability of the child to distinguish the sounds which make up language. With this spoken language background the directress begins to present the alphabet symbols to the child. Not only can children hear and see sounds but they can feel them by tracing the sandpaper letters. When a number of letters have been learned the movable alphabet is introduced. These cardboard or wooden letters enable the child to reproduce his or her own words, then phrases, sentences and finally stories. Creativity is encouraged and the child grows in appreciation of the mystery and power of language.
Italian in Stage 1
During term one, Stage 1 started an introduction to Italian with Simona. They have learnt to greet their teacher in Italian and sing a welcome song in the language. They sing their welcome song "Ciao Buongiorno" at the beginning of their lesson each week. They have also learnt how to introduce themselves in Italian (My name is ....) as well as how to count to ten and say the colours. This term we have started a new topic about animals. The children are currently learning the words for animals in Italian and they are learning how to sing "Old McDonald had a farm". The students learn through songs, flashcards, stories and movement. Each week we finish our lesson with an Italian story time which is relevant to the topic we have been exploring that day.