(6 TO 12 YEARS / 1ST TO 6TH CLASS)
At six, there is a great transformation in the child, like a new birth. The child wants to explore society and the world, to learn what is right and wrong, and to explore meaningful roles in society. The child of this age wants to know how everything came to be, the history of the universe, the world, humans and why they behave the way they do. He asks the BIG questions and wants answers.
A fully trained Montessori elementary teacher has spent many months learning to give individual lessons in all academic areas, and to guide the child in direction and methods of their own research. Though planning groups form occasionally, with the teacher or among the children, the main work is still done by the individual. Just as in the 3-6 class, it is the protected period of concentration and focus, interrupted by scheduled required groups, that is the hallmark of Montessori education. This is what heals and fulfils the child, and reveals the true human who naturally exhibits the desire to help others and to make a difference in the world.
MONTESSORI IS DIFFERENT FROM TRADITIONAL SCHOOL
Teachers who have taught full 6-12 age span see the definite benefit of this method, rather than breaking children up into groups of children closer in age. There are six years worth of wonderful possibilities to which each child is exposed, and this is vital because it is not just what the child does that results in learning, but what is casually taken in from the work around him.
A 6-12 span helps the teacher avoid group lessons, and so helps the children reach a much higher level of independence. It necessitates children teaching children, a vital element in Montessori education. When group lessons are kept at a minimum, periods of concentration protected, and children exposed to the amazing amount of work in the 6-12 class, not only are the state curriculum requirements easily met, but children work at a level one would not have though possible. As I heard many times during my elementary teacher training The teacher is in charge of the minimum, the child the maximum.
The curriculum is given to all the each child to see what she must accomplish at each grade level, 1st grade through 6th. The teacher meets with the individual student periodically, depending on the needs of the child, to plan how this should be done. One child will want to do the required work on Mondays, another for the first hour or so each morning. Together they make a list for the week, or the month, and the child is in charge. This teaches time management skills, and leaves the child free from interruption.
If a child is having trouble getting down to work it might be suggested that for a short period of time, she keep a time journal, marking the clock time throughout a few days to see just how her time is spent. As soon as she discovers the problem and gets down to work, such a record ceases as it would be in impediment to the creative flow that is so evident in the Montessori elementary class.
The Montessori curriculum is built around the five great lessons given at the beginning of each year: creation of earth, coming of plants and animals, the arrival of humans, language, math and invention. Each year the new students gather for these five group lessons. The older children come if they like, or hear them from afar, experiencing them differently each time dependent upon their own growth in understanding. The teacher designs each lesson using stories, music, impressionistic charts, experiments, and games. The idea is always to inspire, not to require.
THE GOALS OF ELEMENTARY CLASS
We wish to help the children work towards freedom of choice in their intellectual endeavors. We want them to be able to go where they wish as far as they wish in cosmic education(includes all the subjects in the universe). The only limit to this freedom is given by the child's personal responsibility towards the public school curriculum. Beyond that the children should be given perfect intellectual liberty. When the public school curriculum is not used actively to set the foundation for this freedom, then the freedom can not be truly given.
We work towards having group cooperative work as the norm of the elementary class. Any individual work that is done should be because an individual is practicing a particular skill he / she needed to acquire or to fill a gap in knowledge, or because a child is pursuing a personal passion. As gaps are filled the skills acquired, there should be less individual work going on.
Unless group work gets going, the psychological characteristics of the elementary child will be lost sight of. The child can form no coherent ideas about the nature and structure of society and his / her place in it if there is no freedom to construct model societies within the social group.