Pre-Primary 3-6yrs

A place for learning and discovery

The Montessori pre-primary classroom is a happy mix of a community of children and a place for learning and discovery. The classroom is purposefully designed to allow children to be self sufficient and to work at their own pace with the exercises and materials they have chosen. Children can choose to work either alone, alongside other children or in small groups. In this way children build social awareness, while gaining the knowledge and skills directly associated with the task at hand. It also encourages children to develop self-discipline and a capacity for total concentration. The activities in the Pre-Primary 3-6 year group fall into five major areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Culture. Music, art, science, gardening, and physical education are also part of the daily curriculum.

Absorbent Mind

Dr. Montessori referred to this stage as the period of the Absorbent Mind. She observed that children under the age of six absorb information without effort, through their everyday interactions with those around them and their environment. This important time of development provides the critical foundation of a child’s character, learning, and growth.

Sensitive Periods

As in all stages of child development, Dr. Montessori noted certain sensitive periods during this stage, a time when a child is powerfully motivated, driven, and able to learn certain things. These sensitive periods include aspects of movement, reading, mathematics, order, music, grace and courtesy, and many others. The classroom environment is designed to give the children a place in which they can work and learn freely, following their interests and natural tendencies.

The Montessori Approach

The Montessori approach fosters children’s love of learning and encourages independence by providing an environment of activities and materials which children use at their own pace. This builds self-confidence, inner discipline, a sense of self-worth and instils positive social behaviour. The approach forms the basis for lifelong learning.

In today’s world it is more important than ever, that children become motivated individuals able to develop to their full potential. Montessori takes into account the whole child and his place in the community, hence its relevance for today and the future.

Characteristics of the child aged 3-6 years

The 3 to 6 year old child is undergoing a process of self-construction. The application of the Montessori philosophy and the specifically designed Montessori equipment aids the child’s ability to absorb knowledge and continue this path of self-construction. There are four main areas in the pre-school program: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Mathematics. Considerable emphasis is also placed on Creative Arts, Music, Science, Geography and Cultural Studies. Acquisition of one’s own first culture is the child’s central developmental drive in the first plane of development.
The pre-primary environment serves this drive abundantly, bringing the world to the child. Globes, maps, songs, land forms, collections of pictures of life in different cultures, and much more, is offered, with the aim of helping the child to grow as an individual appreciating the larger context of his or her world.

Prepared Environment

Independence

The environment must be prepared to enable the child to become physically independent of the adult. Because he is able to do things for himself he starts to be able to choose and decide things for himself. The environment must allow for this both in the way that the materials are prepared and in the approach of the adults.

Indirect Preparation
Although activities are prepared with their own developmental aim in mind they also prepare for something that will come later in the child’s development. Sometimes this preparation is for something that will occur in the same plane but it also refers to something that may occur much later in the child’s life e.g. the sensorial base for mathematical understanding in the abstract, or moral development.
Order
Order is something that pervades a Montessori environment. For the small child in the Children’s House the physical order of the prepared environment is obvious but order also underlies all of the less tangible aspects of the environment e.g. the consistency of the adults and their approach, the order of presentation etc. For the older child the social order becomes more important.
Choice
The environment must give the child the opportunity to choose what he does from a range of activities that are suitable to his developmental needs.
Freedom
Essential to the prepared environment is the child’s freedom – to choose, to work for as long as he wants to, to not work, to work without being interrupted by other children or by the constraints of a timetable etc. – as long as his activity does not interfere with other children’s right and freedom to do the same.
Mixed Age Range
Another non negotiable part of the environment is the formation of a community with at least a three year age range, This allows for children to learn from each other in a non competitive atmosphere and directly prepares the child for living in society.
Movement
The environment must allow the child’s free movement so that he can exercise his freedom to bring himself into contact with the things and people in his environment that he needs for his development.
Control of Error
The environment and in particular the materials should be prepared in a way that allows the child to become aware of his mistakes and to correct them for himself so that he understands that it is all right to be wrong and that we can learn from our mistakes.
Materials
The materials that we choose for the environment must act as keys to the child’s development and we need to prepare the environment with this in mind. The keys we choose will be directed by the child’s essential developmental needs at each age range.
Role of the Adult
The adult is also part of the Montessori environment. The role of this adult is not like the teacher in a traditional environment, however – whose role is to teach the children. The role of the adult in a Montessori environment is to facilitate the child to teach himself by following his own internal urges that will lead him to take what he needs from the things and people around him.