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April 30, 2018

The Montessori Elementary

As Henry is finishing up his first year of lower elementary (ages 6 to 9, or grades 1-3 in the U.S.) I've had Montessori elementary on my mind a lot lately. It's been a big shift from the Montessori primary environment that I've become so familiar with over the last several years. That's not to say the change hasn't been a good one, just a change!

Information and resources on Montessori Elementary programs

I can't speak for every Montessori elementary program, but I think the change has more to do with the shift of the child into the second plane of development than it does anything else! Just like in the Children's House, the Montessori elementary classroom seeks to meet the developmental needs of the children in the community. Maria Montessori said, "Education between the ages of six and twelve is not a direct continuation of that which has gone before, through it is built upon that basis. Psychologically there is a decided change in personality, and we recognize that nature has made this a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of environment." 

Practically, this shift means that Montessori elementary programs can include different elements than a children's house. Some characteristics of the Montessori elementary include: 
  • Great Lessons - The imagination of the child is especially strong in this period of development, and children in the elementary years respond to storytelling in a very unique way. As a result, stories (often called the Great Lessons) are used to introduce different academic and cultural concepts. These include the creation of the universe, the story of life, the fundamental needs of humans, among others. 
  • 3 Hour Work Cycle - Children still work in 3 hour work cycles where they have the choice to pick the work they will engage in during that time. 
  • Student-Guide Conferences - Children and Guides work together to set goals and monitor progress of each individual student. This can look differently depending on the individual and the guide, but the basic idea is that they work together to meet the children's individual needs and interests. It might be a time to set goals, it may be a time to see if a child has mastered a concept, or if a child needs a new lesson. 
  • Freedom of Movement - Children continue to have and need the freedom of movement in an Elementary environment, while table work is common (especially small groups of children), children also have the freedom to move around their class, chose work and move their body
  • Collaboration - Because of the collaborative nature of children in the second plane, there is a lot more collaboration between children in a Montessori elementary. Children may create a project and work on it together, or they may choose to work with a friend. Lessons are often given in small groups, and the Great Lessons are given to the group. 
  • Going Out - Elementary programs should not be limited to their classrooms! Children have a need to be out in the community. Children plan, organize, and participate in field trip and community outreach in the Montessori elementary. Ideally children would be responsible for every aspect of the planning and implementing of these trips. 

If you are looking for some more information about Montessori elementary programs or children, here are some resources:

Do you have other resources for Montessori elementary learning? I would love to hear them! 

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taquid said…
Thanks for you great article. I will start next September/October with elementary at home. I am looking for all information possible and in portuguese which is very difficult to find. Your article is really a great source. Diana