Primary Program

(3 - 6yr)

The Primary program is for children from 3 to 6 years. In this mixed-age environment children spend three years in the same classroom getting to know each other and their teachers well.

A Strong Classroom Community

The continuity of returning to the same room each year makes for a strong classroom community, for children and parents alike.
Dr. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) developed a philosophy of education, which helps children to develop and learn naturally, through spontaneous, self-directed activities. Dr. Montessori referred to the first stage in human development (birth to age 6) as the time of the absorbent mind. They are exposed to a variety of materials for sensory learning and experiences. The child uses all five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing - to understand and absorb information about his or her environment. Dr. Montessori also recognized that during the first six years of life, children experience a series of "sensitive periods". We take advantage of these “sensitive periods” by helping the children refine their senses and assisting them in perfecting these natural learning tools.

Primary children learn by doing. The concrete materials in the classroom allow the children explore the world through their senses, through touch and motion, and by observing and engaging with others. One main feature of Montessori education is its hands-on approach to learning. Students work with specially designed materials, manipulating and investigating until they master the lesson inside. Teachers guide students through the curriculum as children are ready for each new challenge, introducing lessons and then letting children practice what they have learned. As children grow, the classroom materials grow with them in the sense that older children use the materials to explore curriculum in new and deeper ways.

The 3-6 year old goes through an intense period of change, including the transition to cooperative play and more complex social interactions, a language explosion leading to beginning skills in writing and reading, the emergence of number sense and the foundations of math, and great changes in physical development. The Montessori teacher responds to these changes in social and emotional, cognitive, and physical development with appropriate lessons to support each child’s growth and emerging capabilities. Primary children come to school five days a week, and may choose to stay for mornings-only or a full day. Kindergarteners enjoy a full day of school.

The Kindergarten Year

Kindergarten, the culminating year of the Primary cycle, provides an extraordinary opportunity for 5 and 6-year-olds to develop their leadership skills. Kindergarteners act as positive peer models for their younger classmates, assuming positions of responsibility that further strengthen their capabilities and self-esteem. Everything that children have learned in previous years comes together in Kindergarten, giving children a readiness to meet new challenges.

Kindergarten students visit the Elementary school weekly, meeting with their older work buddies, participating in Physical Education, or attending presentations of Elementary students’ work. Kindergarten students also collaborate with Middle School student to work on storytelling and STEAM activities. Some other special activities include an annual Kindergarten breakfast designed and created by students for families, specialized Kindergarten field trips and their own springtime musical performance in the spring.

Primary Curriculum

Throughout the classroom, students explore specially designed Montessori materials that are multi-sensory, hands-on, concrete and self-correcting.

There is dynamic interaction among the various curriculum areas of the Montessori classroom. The specific skills of each area build upon each other and are interrelated to and dependent on skills learned in other areas of the classroom. This connection enhances children’s natural interest in and enthusiasm for learning.

Each child progresses at his or her own individually appropriate pace, allowing each to be appropriately challenged and to become proficient in each area according to individual development and needs.

List of 16 items.

  • Practical Life

    Practical Life activities are central to the Montessori classroom and prepare the child for all other areas. Practical Life exercises give children the opportunity to refine their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, hand strength, balance, concentration and ability to do things for themselves. Through the repetition of Practical Life activities, children develop practical skills that will serve them all their lives. Some of the Primary Practical Life exercises include Pouring, Lacing, Scooping, Flower Arranging, Food Preparation and Serving, and Table Washing.
  • Sensorial

    Sensorial materials are designed to help children learn about qualities like color, size, shape, length, texture, and sound. 3-6 year olds are increasingly able to make finer and finer discriminations of the many stimuli all around them. Sensorial activities assist children in refining this skill and becoming good observers of the world. Montessori saw the importance of the manipulation of objects to aid the child in better understanding his environment. Through the child’s work with Sensorial material, the child is helped to make abstractions, he is helped in making distinctions in his environment, and the child is given the knowledge not through word of mouth, but through his own experiences. Sensorial materials in the Primary classroom include Knobbed Cylinders for practice with dimension, Color Tablets, Rough and Smooth Boards, Geometric Solids, the Pink Tower, and the Binomial Cube.
  • Language

    Language pervades the Montessori classroom and crosses all curriculum areas. Primary students discover the awesome power of writing through the use of sandpaper letters, the metal insets, and the movable alphabet. Simultaneously, they experience the ability to associate sounds with symbols and discover the mechanical ability to translate that knowledge into writing. The ability to write opens the door to reading. Children expand their ability to communicate by increased auditory discrimination, developing an enormous vocabulary, critical thinking, and fluency. They are exposed to concepts of print, develop a reading and writing protocol, and build a relationship with narrative literature. The simultaneity of writing and reading leads to participation in group discussions, reflection, sharing, drawing, singing, poetry, storytelling, read-alouds, dramatic play, and creative movement.
  • Math

    Classrooms are filled with stimulating Montessori mathematics materials designed to promote primary student growth in understanding mathematical concepts. Children develop numeracy and numeral recognition using sandpaper numerals and teens and ten boards and become  confident in manipulating numbers and representing various quantities with numerals. They explore the operations of arithmetic through the unique Montessori Golden Beads materials.

    Kindergartners take full advantage of drawings, graphs, maps, charts, and numerals to record their understanding of mathematical concepts. Measurement exploration including comparison, estimation, time, fractions, and money is introduced concretely and sensorially, leading to translating operational concepts into number sentences and equations. Performing operations of arithmetic with the
    Golden Beads leads to strong establishment of place value and the memorization concepts. The Bead Cabinet, whichincludes long and short chains with beads,provides concrete, multi-sensory experiences of the squaring and cubing of numbers from one to ten, at once reinforcing the memorization of multiplication, addition, subtraction and division.

  • Science and Nature

    Children are introduced to concrete lessons and activities in earth, life, and physical sciences. The child develops an introductory understanding of living and nonliving things, how they differ, and how to categorize plants and animals. Students care for plants in the classroom. They water the plants and spray and clean the leaves with water. The children may have a small plot of land to plant seeds, weed, water, feed, and harvest the crop.The children learn the nomenclature for parts of a plant—a leaf, a flower and a root. Students observe and participate in science experiments related to the needs of the plant. Also, by having a pet in the classroom, children are exposed to the traits, habits and food needs of the animal and are responsible for its care. Children attend field trips and horticultural visits and go on outings to enhance their experiences with plants and animals. Teachers and guest presenters present science lessons on topics such as parts of the earth, water and weather systems and rocks and crystals.

  • Geography

    Building on their early experiences, children sort and classify the contents of their world and construct the knowledge of how all things are interconnected. Geography is an important part of the Montessori curriculum. The curriculum begins with the two hemispheres of Earth and becomes more and more detailed as children learn about continents, and then countries. The very young child will use the wooden puzzle maps as puzzles, but the older child can use the pieces as a guide as he makes his own maps, labeled with his own handwriting when he is ready. They build personal timelines, which foster discussions of past, present, and future as a prelude to the study of history. In geography, the children are introduced to other cultures and discover what they have in common with all people.

  • Grace and Courtesy

    In the Montessori classroom, children and adults take care to be gracious toward and courteous of one another. This area of the curriculum encourages respect for oneself, for other members of the community, for the living things in the classroom, and for the environment. Carrying things carefully, returning them to their place so others may use them, moving gracefully and carefully, using polite and respectful language, showing consideration to others, good table manners, properly introducing oneself, and interrupting politely are all part of the lessons in Grace and Courtesy.
  • Peace Education

    Peacemaking and conflict resolution are a daily part of the Montessori curriculum. The Peace Table is full of lovely, interesting and calming objects from around the world, like music boxes, smooth stones, or tiny flowers, for children to touch and hold. There may be a mirror, so children can see how they look when they experience different emotions, and books with peaceful messages. At the Peace Table teachers help children to be good listeners and forge mutually agreeable solutions to conflicts. It is also a place where children can choose to go to enjoy a peaceful moment alone.
  • Art

    The Primary classroom includes an ever-changing selection of art and creative activities for children. Fine motor practice, color work, and imagination all come into play in the Art area. Lessons on great artists, matching activities with fine art prints, collage and glue, cutting with scissors, hole punching, markers, crayons, paint and our own play-dough are all part of the Art curriculum.
  • Spanish

    Spanish is introduced to students using songs, dance, books, images, poems, activities, and simple games. Children begin to recognize simple vocabulary by listening. Through conversation only in Spanish, children explore familiar topics including counting, colors, animals, body parts, clothing, families, shapes, school, nature/weather, and food. Movement and manipulative materials play a key role in language acquisition at this level. As much learning as possible takes place outdoors in nature, as well as on the playground and around the building throughout the entire day.
  • Studio Arts

    Art is about process and exploration for toddlers and preschool-aged children. It is a visual language of marks that happen in three basic growth stages of drawing that are critical for creative development and in laying the groundwork for the muscle control needed to write.

    The Toddler and Preschool art curriculum offers experiential art activities that foster process over product and allow children the freedom of going through the crucial stages outlined above. Children are exposed to different mediums such as painting, printmaking, pottery, drawing, collage, and sculpture, along with a variety of tools to inspire sensorial and physical exploration. They learn about artists and artistic styles through hands-on exploration and interactive materials.
  • Musical Arts/Eurythmics

    Primary music classes meet weekly for 30 minutes and support nurturing the love of singing, chanting, and moving to the beat and rhythm of the music. Classes provide the children with positive, joyful, and creative opportunities to experience musical subjects.

    Kindergarten and the Second Year children have a weekly Eurhythmics lesson. Eurhythmics is a method of learning that invites the child to respond totally to music by singing, playing, listening, and moving, natural means of self-expression. Activities in the class are carefully designed to focus attention on certain musical concepts, such as up-and-down, fast-and-slow, short-and-long, same-and-different, and loud-and-soft, wherein children develop skills and learn musical concepts. They come to know beats and measures, note values and phrases, and scales and intervals through active participation. They find their singing voices and learn songs which express feelings and tell stories.
  • Physical Education

    Movement, cooperative games, teamwork, and athletic skills are the focus of the Physical Education program. During weekly physical education classes, students develop strength, balance, hand-eye coordination, tactile awareness, directionality, and agility. They also learn the rudiments of teamwork. The older students, particularly the kindergarten children, are prepared for athletics by being introduced to the separate skill steps found in team sports, and each child gradually builds a menu of skills to facilitate full participation.

  • Library

    Students participate in weekly library visits and story reading, perusal of books, and the experience of being read to in a group. Primary children continue to visit the library weekly as a resource and choose books to read and borrow. Children learn about print, how to care for books, and begin to identify fiction and nonfiction. Kindergarteners learn about the library’s resources and organization, and meet notable authors and illustrators. They learn to read a picture, make inferences, recall favorite stories, share information, and use the basic procedures to check out and return a book.
  • Field Trips

    Kindergarten students enjoy a variety of off-campus experiences, traveling to places such as the DeCordova Museum, Plymouth Plantation and the Marine Science Center. This allows them to have a greater experience of the community and areas around them. As well as have experiences with resources outside of their classroom.
  • Community Service

    Children learn about our responsibility to the community at large and learn much from their experiences with others. The entire school raises funds for Heifer International, with Toddler and Primary children hosting a bake sale, Elementary children participating in “Read to Feed,” and Middle School students selling crafts.
Located in the heart of Cambridge, MA, CMS is a private school serving children eighteen months through grade 8 in four distinct programs: Toddler, Primary, Elementary and Middle School. CMS educates the whole child, applying the Montessori philosophy in a joyful learning environment.


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