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Order and Independence
By Munir Shivji
Munir Shivji is the President of the American Montessori Society and Cambridge Montessori School’s Toddler/Primary Program Director.
From birth to age six, Dr. Montessori observed that children have particular sensitivity to order. Children in the first plane of development (birth - 6 years) want consistency from their environment and in their daily routines. We strive to cater to this sensitive period in our classrooms by having a permanent "place" for our lessons, materials, and activities. Daily routines are consistent with a dependable schedule (which is rarely interrupted), clear ground rules and expectations, and an environment kept clean and simple under the care and guidance of the same teacher for three years.
Many times when children seem off balance or stressed, it is possibly due to a change in their normal routine. The tiniest change can affect a child when they are moving through this period; children crave order and consistency.
The Toddler and Primary students have been working hard since September establishing order in each classroom as well as order in our daily routines, flow and expectations – and the skills needed for each student to function independently within our carefully-prepared Montessori learning environments. Our teachers and specialists are responding to the individualized needs and interests of our students every day.
"If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence,” said Dr. Maria Montessori. “It must initiate them into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves and which keep them from being a burden to others because of their inabilities. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is clearly understood, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence."
At the primary level, an additional aspect of independence that we have been working on is social independence; learning to interact with each other and sharing materials and space respectfully and peacefully. This is significant work for three-to-six-year-olds and will be ongoing work for the entire year. The language for social interactions is taught through Montessori social grace and courtesy lessons and stories.
Classroom Activities this Fall
Primary students are enjoying the fall season and learning about apples, trees and their contributions to our planet. Last week, Orange Room students had a tasting circle where they tried three different types of apples (Jazz, Golden Delicious -- from the field trip -- and Honey Crisp), and voted on their favorite one. They tallied the votes and made a graph of the results. Golden Delicious was the favorite! Yellow Room students are having fun learning new poems, the names of days and months as well as learning to differentiate between living and nonliving. Red Room students focused on why leaves change color and how the earth is starting to tilt away from the sun making it for shorter days and colder temperatures. Purple Room students are learning about bats and their importance in the larger food web, landforms, and transitioning from a globe to a flat map.
One of the most critical parts of the toddler curriculum is Practical Life activities. Toddler students have been working on Care of Self (taking off/putting on shoes, wiping noses, washing hands, toileting, getting their snack independently, brushing teeth etc.) and Care of Environment (pushing in chairs, wiping up water spills, hanging clothes on the clothesline, sweeping, mirror washing, flower arranging, etc.) These activities are modeled after the real-life experiences at home. These essential lessons in the classroom lay the groundwork for the rest of the school year. Learning different skills in the area of Care of Self will help your child develop confidence in her/his abilities. By engaging in Care of Environment activities, your child gains a sense of community and respect for their classroom and school.
Families are often curious to learn how our "Specials" program fits into the bigger picture of our CMS curriculum. In the Toddler and Primary program, students have an integrated curriculum that incorporates art, music, library, and physical education into their daily work cycle. Monthly units also include various cultural topics.
In music, students have been engaged in lessons that allow them to explore active listening and discover their singing voices, as well as learn to follow the music with their movement.
Students are doing musical activities to build community and learning seasonal songs for the upcoming Primary Fall Assembly scheduled on Thursday, November 1st at 9:00 am.
In art, each class finished a painting project based on the idea of "There are no mistakes in art." Students read the book "The Dot" and in honor of Vashti the heroine artist in the book, children painted on circle paper. Toddlers are working with play dough and exploring paint and mark making with different tools like scrubbers and rubber kitchen brushes and fun objects such as pig shaped scrubby brushes, rubber cooking basters, and this week toy cars.
During PE, Primary students are taking advantage of the weather with Ibrahim during basketball season. Students are participating in a variety of activities that are useful in developing their running, jumping and throwing skills.
Library classes are also off to a fantastic start! Amy Neale, our Librarian, began with a lesson on parts of the book, difference between fiction and non-fiction, and how to take care of our library books. Toddler students have been reading books and singing songs about farm animals. The Primary students have been studying the life cycle of trees. Kindergarten students have been practicing poems and discussing favorite series. Please feel free to stop by the Library, and check out books!
These are just a few examples of the meaningful experiences taking place daily at CMS.
I invite you to join us tonight, Tuesday, October 16th at 6:30 pm to learn more about the Primary Montessori curriculum. The faculty and I would love the opportunity to share more with you. Be on the lookout next week for our new family bulletin board project! The stars will be delivered to your classroom teachers to be put in the parent folders to take home. Thanks to all who participated!