I’d like to introduce you to two of my students:
"Look! It's isosceles!"
4-year-old Thea* excitedly points to the isosceles triangle she created with wood blocks.
When Thea joined our classroom last year as a 3-year-old, she spoke no conversational English, but she could identify most print letters and numbers by name. She had an exceptional ability to absorb and remember new vocabulary and concepts. As she gradually developed conversational English, she rapidly mastered identifying the cursive lowercase letters and letter sounds, as well as phonograms (sh, oy, ee), etc.
|Forming quadrilaterals with the |
Rectangle Box of Constructive Triangles
"Joey*, what color is your shirt today?"
"Yes, it's red! Let's go find some other things that are red."
Many children know their basic colors by age 3, but Joey struggled. I knew that he could see the difference between the colors - he consistently could match the pairs of red, yellow and blue in Color Box 1. He was familiar that "red" "yellow" and "blue" were words associated with colors, but he really struggled to connect the name with the concept.
By age 4, when the color names still were a struggle, and the typical level of reinforcement and practice wasn't sufficient, we began a new morning ritual. After our usual good mornings, I would comment, "Joey, you have on a red shirt today.... what color is your shirt?" (They wear red polo shirts as their uniform every day). Giving him the vocabulary before asking him to reproduce it helped him feel successful and confident - it was a fun, playful interaction. Eventually, I started just asking him the color of his shirt without stating it first, and then asking him to name the color of other red things in the room. Once he had mastered that red things are "red," that anchor seemed to help him more quickly master other color names.
Differentiation – adapting instruction to meet the needs of the individual students in the class – is an imperative for effective teaching. While differentiation is one of the greatest challenges for teachers to implement in a traditional single-age classroom, it is one of the greatest assets of the Montessori model. Our classrooms are inherently differentiated because each child is moving through the curriculum at their own pace.
We see the wide range of skill levels in a classroom as an asset, and intentionally have mixed age classrooms (most Montessori schools group children in 3 year age spans - 3-6yr olds, 6-9, 9-12). Because the children are simultaneously working with different materials in all curriculum areas, there is little direct comparison between peers. I know that every child has the capacity to learn and grow, and I love how the Montessori approach helps me to give each child an individualized classroom experience.