Tag Archives: American Montessori Society

The Language of Montessori


By:  Alex Chiu

If your family is new to Montessori, you might think you hear your child speaking a ‘new language’ when he or she returns home from school each day. As the children are learning their new classroom routines, they are also learning some of the terminology unique to Montessori. In order to help you ‘translate’ some of the new phrases that might be coming home, we’ve put together a brief list of common terms you may encounter as you begin your Montessori journey.

The Prepared Environment: This is your child’s classroom. However, the Montessori classroom is specifically and meticulously arranged in such a way as to provide teaching opportunities at every turn. Organized by areas of learning, your child’s prepared environment at MCA includes the full complement of beautiful Montessori materials designed to facilitate learning and exploration in the areas of Math, Language, Sensorial, Practical Life, and Culture/Science. Teachers thoughtfully place the materials, furniture, rugs, and adornments with the children’s needs in mind. You’ll notice that the furniture is just the right size for the children and that artwork is hung at the child’s eye level. The classroom is set up to facilitate independent and group learning, and to offer children a safe, comfortable space in which to grow and learn.

Work: This is the term used for the activities the children engage in at school. Montessori ‘work’ includes all of the meaningful, beautiful materials the children will receive lessons on and then may choose from the classroom shelves while they are at school. At home you might ask your child, “What work did you choose today?”

Normalization: As defined on the American Montessori Society website, “normalization” refers to “A natural or “normal” developmental process marked by a love of work or activity, concentration, self-discipline, and joy in accomplishment. Dr. Montessori observed that the normalization process is characteristic of human beings at any age.” In Montessori schools, the beginning of the year focuses on the activities and skills that lead to a ‘normalized’ classroom in which students understand the expectations and are able to function in the classroom independently and successfully.

Grace and Courtesy: Part of the “normalization” process at the beginning of the school year involves a big focus on “grace and courtesy” in Montessori classrooms. Teachers model and then have students practice using simple courteous phrases such as “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”. Students learn the polite way to ask for help or to get someone’s attention. They learn how to walk around the work rugs of their classmates so as to not disturb them. They learn how to stand in a line or how to sit at circle without interfering with the physical space of their friends. These lessons are the fundamentals of a functioning classroom, and Montessori students learn them quickly and wonderfully!

Work Rug or Work Mat: Students define their work space in the classroom by using a work rug or mat. This keeps the materials contained and safe, and it also designates the area for the child’s activities. Other children learn to walk carefully around the work rugs or mats of their classmates. Your child may also use a special work mat at a table, especially when working with water or paint. The tablemat also contains the work to a specific area and helps in the cleanup of the work area as well.

Three-Period Lesson: When a student is introduced to a new concept for the first time, he or she is given a three-period lesson.

The first period is naming. Using the Montessori materials, the teacher first tells the child the name of or provides the specific vocabulary for the new concept. The teacher will say “This is a cube” or “This is a circle”.

The second period is recognition after being given the vocabulary. The teacher next will use the material in some manner, and then invite the child to show what was just named. For example, the teacher might say to the child “Show me the cube” or “Show me the circle”. The child is required only to recognize and identify the newly learned item.

The third period is when the child is able to provide the vocabulary spontaneously, showing mastery. In the third period, the teacher will ask the child to provide the vocabulary for the new concept. The teacher will ask, “What is this?” and the child is expected to give the name (e.g., “This is a cube” or “This is a circle”).

Note that a child may not reach the third period right away—a lesson may require several attempts over the course of time for a child to be able to master the third period and identify and provide the vocabulary of a new concept.

Work Cycle: Montessori students are given a wonderful gift of time called the “work cycle” during their school day. The work cycle is a long, uninterrupted work time during which the children may choose their activities and then spend time doing those activities for as long and as often as they wish. Montessori education understands that children need time to make choices, complete tasks, repeat tasks, and engage in their learning. During the work cycle, the child may complete many independent tasks, work with a teacher one-on-one, or do activities with a friend or in a small group—all productive and important components of the school session.

Practical Life: Especially at the beginning of the school year, the Practical Life area of the classroom is the most used and most popular. It is in this area that children learn the fundamentals used across all areas of the Montessori classroom. In Practical Life, they learn the steps for selecting work, taking the work from the shelf to the work space, organizing the work, performing the tasks, completing the work, and returning the work to the shelf so it is ready for the next person.

Practical Life activities involve a great deal of fine motor control, concentration, patience, and motivation to complete. Each activity assists the child in developing necessary everyday life skills from dressing to cleaning to preparing food, etc. As adults, we often take these skills for granted, but in Montessori classrooms, we know they are learned skills that promote learning across all areas!

Pincer Grip or Pincer Grasp: While not a uniquely Montessori term, children develop their pincer grip as they perform a multitude of tasks across the Montessori curriculum. The pincer grip is the combination of the thumb and forefinger working together to manipulate, move, or grasp an item.

Sensorial: The colorful and inviting Sensorial area is where children develop a heightened awareness of their five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Children also develop understanding of size, space, and sequence, and the Sensorial materials provide a foundation for the Math and Language academic areas. The popular Pink Tower, an iconic Montessori material, is just one example of the Sensorial work your child might choose, building the tower from the biggest pink cube (which is 1 cubic decimeter) to the smallest pink cube (which is 1 cubic centimeter).

Control of Error: Because the child is encouraged to explore and learn at his or her own pace, the Montessori materials have a built in ‘control of error’ that lets the child know whether or not he or she has completed the work correctly. For example, if a child is learning to pour water from one small pitcher into another, the control of error is if the water spills. The child can see his or her success in completing the task without any interference from the teacher. If there is a spill, the child has learned already how to clean it up. Then, he or she can make another attempt at pouring, and another, until he or she pours without one drop spilled. Imagine the satisfaction felt after achieving that goal!

Circle: Again, this is not a uniquely Montessori term, but one that often is used in Montessori classrooms. Circle time refers to the time of day when the entire class of children come together with their teacher(s) and sit (usually in a circle) to listen to stories, sing songs, observe a group lesson, or do some other all-class activity.

Absorbent Mind: As defined on the American Montessori Society website, the “absorbent mind” is the time when “From birth through approximately age 6, the young child experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows her to “absorb” learning from her environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously”.

If you encounter a Montessori term that is new and would like to learn more, or if you’re interested in gathering more information about Dr. Maria Montessori or the Montessori philosophy, you might enjoy reading some of the following books:

A Parents’ Guide to the Montessori Classroom by Aline D. Wolf
Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work by E.M. Standing
Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard
Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents by Maren Schmidt and Dana Schmidt
Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education by Trevor Eissler
The Absorbent Mind by Dr. Maria Montessori

 

preschool open house nj

Five Questions to Ask at a Preschool Open House (Repost from October 2016)

As this is a common time of year for families to begin their preschool search for the next school year, we would like to once again share with you some pointers when attending a preschool Open House. An Open House provides parents with a firsthand impression that cannot be replicated via a website or a brochure. The opportunity for parents to establish a personal connection with the administration, the teachers, and the classroom environment is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Moreover, an Open House gives parents the opportunity to ask questions to help determine whether the school is the right fit for their family. If you’re just starting out on your family’s preschool search, begin by asking the following five questions when attending preschool Open Houses:

  1. What is the school’s educational philosophy?

Today, there are dozens of different philosophies and methods applied in preschool settings.  First, do your research. Once you know a bit about the different early education philosophies, you may be able to narrow your search based on what you believe fits in with your family’s values and educational goals.

At The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA), we believe that a Montessori education benefits children in so many ways. Montessori classrooms are designed to recognize and address various learning levels and styles. Teachers take unique roles as classroom guides and observers, providing children with the freedom and opportunity to learn at their own pace within a carefully prepared, stimulating environment.

It’s also important to determine how strictly the philosophy is adhered to at each school. This is particularly important if you are looking at Montessori schools. Many parents are unaware that the American Montessori Society (AMS) has established guidelines for adhering to Dr. Montessori’s practices. Programs that work with AMS are required to uphold high standards in areas including teacher certification, classroom preparation, and parent education regarding Montessori education. The Montessori Children’s Academy is an AMS Member School.

  1. How does learning take place at the school?

Children must have opportunities to explore how things work, to move their growing bodies, and to engage in activities that they find enjoyable. Especially with preschoolers, hands-on activities involving multiple senses often better facilitate the growth of children’s natural curiosity and their interest in learning for learning’s sake. When attending an Open House, ask what types of activities the children participate in during their school day. How much time is spent in teacher-directed activity? Do children have opportunities to make choices and move throughout the classroom? What types of learning materials are used?

The materials in Montessori classrooms are attractive, inviting, and meaningful. They also grow with the children, as the lessons move from concrete to abstract concepts. Every aspect of the Montessori classroom promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills, the expansion of new knowledge, and the joy in learning. Children have a balance of independent work time where they choose what they would like to do, small group learning lessons, and large group activities. Learning opportunities are integrated into all aspects of the Montessori classroom.

  1. What is the school’s standard for teacher qualifications?

Some early childhood facilities, like cooperative programs run by local parents, and traditional day care centers, do not require state or nationally recognized teaching certificates for their staff. Regardless of the type of school setting, it is important that preschool teachers understand how children grow and learn. You will also want to find out whether teachers and their assistants are trained in CPR and First Aid, and if they regularly attend continuing education workshops to stay current in their field.

If you are looking exclusively at Montessori schools, check that the teachers have their Montessori teaching credentials. This will ensure that they have been trained in the Montessori Method by a qualified teacher education program. You can learn more about AMS Montessori teaching credentials from the Montessori Center for Teacher Development.

  1. How is discipline handled?

Preschools have a very important responsibility in how their teachers manage their classrooms and help children grow and develop in a healthy, safe environment. Since preschool is often a child’s very first school experience, how discipline is handled can make a difference in how children view school and how well they succeed in learning.

MCA focuses on positive discipline and conflict resolution. Teachers are keen observers in their classrooms, and they are carefully trained to manage a variety of situations before there is any escalation of improper behavior. Redirection, positive reinforcement, and logical consequences allow teachers to help children learn respect, self-control, and responsibility in the most natural of ways. Peace Education is also a significant component of the Montessori curriculum, and children are guided through conflict resolution techniques with the aid of teachers and peers. Montessori classrooms are communities, and children learn that every member of the classroom is valued and important.

Later this month, MCA will host guest speaker Teresa LaSala, a positive discipline expert and author. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please consider attending this Parent Education event, as it is open to the public. Details can be found on MCA’s website.

  1. What will a typical school day look like for my child?

This is an important question because it will help to alleviate some of the common anxieties that parents have when the first day of school arrives. Understanding how the day flows will help you to determine if your child will be comfortable in the classroom. As young children thrive on routines, it would be helpful to learn about things like what the procedures are for eating snack or lunch at school, using the restrooms, spending time on the playground, or having a resting time. It is important to know how much structure is in the school day. You might also ask what opportunities the children have for socializing with peers, spending one-on-one time with the teacher, or learning responsibility by having a classroom job.

At any Open House, it is important to get a feel for the facility and to meet the staff. Above all, you want to be able to picture your child in the classrooms. If possible, bring your child along to the Open House so that he or she can meet the teachers and interact in the school space. Watching your child explore might make your choice just a little bit easier.

The Montessori Children’s Academy is hosting Winter Open Houses at each of its campuses on the following dates:

Morristown: Saturday, January 21, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

Chatham: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

Short Hills: Saturday, February 4, 2017, 9:00-11:00AM

 

Montessori Childrens Academy NJ

Montessori Around the World

Last spring, Montessori education made international headlines when the United Kingdom’s Prince George was enrolled at a Montessori school in England. George’s family has a history with Montessori education; his late grandmother, Princess Diana, worked in a Montessori school as a young woman. Diana later sent her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to Montessori schools. Royalty aside, the Montessori approach has stretched across continents since Dr. Montessori first entered the classroom at Casa dei Bambini in Rome in 1907. We’d like to share with you a little bit of the story about how the Montessori philosophy made its way around the globe.

The Beginnings of the Montessori Method in Italy

The Montessori Method was born in Italy when Dr. Maria Montessori, one of the first Italian female medical school graduates, turned her interest to the field of education. Intrigued by her observations of children, Dr. Montessori began developing specialized materials to facilitate the children’s natural tendencies to explore and their desire to do things for themselves. She also worked extensively with teachers at training institutes, eventually conducting her own Montessori teacher training sessions, using the materials she developed to help teachers reach a wide range of students and promote their independent learning and growth.

The Spread of the Montessori Philosophy

After the publication of Dr. Montessori’s books The Montessori Method and Pedagogical Anthropology, the Montessori message spread beyond Italy and into England, France, Spain, Switzerland, Argentina, and the United States. Some schools adapted Dr. Montessori’s methods into their existing curricula, while other schools were being created specifically to follow the approach Dr. Montessori outlined in her books. International teacher training sessions were well attended, as more educators wanted to bring this innovative and effective approach to children in their home countries.

Due to political turmoil and the breakout of war in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, Maria Montessori lived as a political refugee in many different countries, including Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. During this time, she continued to travel widely, giving lectures about her philosophy and peace education.

Maria Montessori passed away in the Netherlands in 1953, where the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), established by Dr. Montessori, remains headquartered. This is significant because the Netherlands is a country known for its culture of tolerance and its support of education. After her death, Dr. Montessori’s son, Mario, carried on his mother’s legacy, enlightening educators about the Montessori Method throughout the world.

Montessori in the United States

Some of Montessori’s earliest supporters in the United States included the likes of Alexander Graham Bell and Margaret Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the President. However, her philosophy didn’t truly strike a chord in the world of American education until the 1960s when Nancy McCormick Rambusch returned to the United States after being trained under the guidance of Mario Montessori in Europe. With Mario’s support, she later founded the American Montessori Society (AMS). A resurgence of interest in Montessori education was cultivated, and new Montessori schools began to crop up throughout the country. Today, AMS oversees thousands of schools in the United States. Montessori schools that are affiliated with AMS are held accountable for upholding the classroom standards set forth by Dr. Montessori.

Montessori Around the World Today

Today, approximately 20,000 Montessori schools serve children from birth through 18 years of age. The Montessori Method, with over 100 years of practice, is recognized worldwide as an educational approach that helps children achieve their fullest potential. Montessori schools are often the first educational choice for immigrant and expatriate families because of the international recognition of the Montessori philosophy. The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA) has certainly experienced this phenomenon in recent years.

MCA’s International Community

MCA’s school community reflects the international acceptance of the Montessori philosophy. Our area is culturally diverse in part because of the many international companies headquartered here. When international families relocate, they have a desire to enroll their children in Montessori schools because the philosophy is already familiar to them. In addition to the many MCA families born and raised here in America, our schools include families from Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, India, Pakistan, China, and Australia. Due to this diversity, a celebration such as the International Day of Peace becomes even more meaningful. Diversity also allows our students to expand their knowledge of different cultures and traditions, which we believe will encourage them to grow into tolerant, responsible, and informed global citizens.

Montessori Childrens Academy NJ

 

Notes and sources for this post:

The Montessori Children’s Academy is an AMS member school and the Montessori Center for Teacher Development is our Teacher Education Program that is fully affiliated by AMS and accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).

School Is In Session for MCTD’s Adult Learners

By: Hannah Ferris with Doreen Adamo and Bernadette Fasolas

The summer months are filled with activity at The Montessori Children’s Academy (MCA).  We are busy running our MCA Summer Camp, preparing our classrooms for the upcoming school year, and our Teacher Education Program, Montessori Center for Teacher Development (MCTD), is hosting our third cohort of enthusiastic Adult Learners.

Montessori Center for Teacher Development, which is one of the seven subsidiaries of The Montessori Children’s Academy’s family of schools and services, was founded in 2014 and is one of just three Montessori Teacher Education Programs in the state of New Jersey. MCTD operates out of the Morristown campus of MCA and is led by Program Director Doreen Adamo and Assistant Program Director Bernadette Fasolas.  Mrs. Adamo and Mrs. Fasolas are also Head Teachers at MCA during the school year that bonded over their own shared Montessori training experience years ago.  Together with the rest of the talented and experienced MCTD staff and guest lecturers, they are excited about sharing their passion for the Montessori Method with future generations of Montessori teachers.  MCTD’s Early Childhood Teacher Education Program is affiliated by the American Montessori Society (AMS) and fully accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE), and works closely with both to develop and deliver the highest quality education for future Montessori teachers.  Upon successful completion of the program, the Adult Learners will receive Montessori Early Childhood Certification through AMS, permitting them to become Head Teachers at Montessori schools throughout the US.

In addition to our Early Childhood Teacher Education Program, MCTD is happy to announce a new Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Training Program that will be offered later this summer,.

Early Childhood Teacher Education Program

MCTD’s Early Childhood Program is affiliated by the American Montessori Society and fully accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.  This program is for Adult Learners seeking certification that would allow them to become Head Teachers in a Montessori Early Childhood environment.  Recent Adult Learners have come from diverse backgrounds to gain additional certification in the field of education, to re-enter the workforce, or to completely change careers.

The Early Childhood Teacher Education Program begins each summer with Academic Phase I.  This involves a four-week, intensive session with courses in Child Development and Montessori Philosophy, as well as Practical Life and Sensorial curricula.  Academic Phase II begins in September of the same year, as the Adult Learners reconvene for evening and weekend courses in Math, Language, and Cultural Studies (Science, History, Geography, Art, and Music).  Throughout both phases, the Adult Learners participate in Student Teaching Seminars that are aimed at preparing them for a Montessori school setting during the Practicum Phase of their training.  These Seminars include Parent Involvement, Classroom Management, Observation, and School Administration.

To begin the second year of the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program, the Practicum Phase, the Adult Learners seek an Internship in a Montessori school to fulfill the requirement for student-teaching hours.  Gaining practical experience in a classroom alongside an AMS Montessori-certified Head Teacher is a perfect example of the “learning by doing” principle set forth by Dr. Montessori.

Some of MCTD’s current Adult Learners are looking forward to beginning the Practicum Phase in September, while others will continue to work through Academic Phase II.  All are looking forward to the next steps in their Montessori journeys.

The 2017-2019 Early Childhood Teacher Education Program is currently accepting applications on a rolling basis. Open Houses will be held in January, February, and March of 2017.

Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Training Program

This summer, MCTD expanded its course catalog to include our Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Training Program.  This program is designed for individuals currently employed as Assistant Teachers who are looking to expand their knowledge or for those interested in gaining employment as Assistant Teachers in a Montessori environment.  MCTD holds the belief that a more thorough understanding of the Montessori Philosophy will allow Assistant Teachers to flourish in the classroom.  This new program gives a foundational overview of the Montessori Philosophy and the basic curriculum areas of a Montessori classroom, with both lectures and hands-on experiences.

Two “Modules” are being offered for the Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Training Program.  Module I includes two days of classroom instruction on the Montessori Method and Philosophy.  Module II includes three days of training on the materials used in the Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, and Cultural areas of the classroom.  Adult Learners have the option of taking either Module I or Modules I & II. (Module I is a prerequisite for Module II.)

Montessori classrooms, especially Early Childhood classrooms, are incredibly busy places.  There is not always ample time, especially at the beginning of the school year, for a new Assistant Teacher to learn the ropes from his or her Head Teacher.  MCTD recognizes this gap in teacher education and has designed this new program as a stepping stone into the world of Montessori.  MCTD is excited to be welcoming Adult Learners into our new program this summer and hopes that it will inspire some of the current Assistant Teachers to become AMS certified Montessori teachers in the future.

MCTD is currently accepting registrations for the Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Training Program. The program will run from August 15-19, 2016. For more information and to register, please visit: http://www.MontessoriCenterForTeacherDevelopment.com/AsstTeacherTraining.html.

Lunchtime for the Adult Learners

I recently asked Doreen Adamo and Bernadette Fasolas (MCTD’s Program Director and Assistant Director) to share their favorite things about leading MCTD.  They fondly reminisced about their own experiences as Adult Learners during their training years and then pointed me in the direction of the MCTD lunchroom. The MCTD Adult Learners studying this summer in Academic Phase I were preparing to share a meal. Once a week, a self-selected student takes her turn in preparing a family-style lunch for her classmates. They began this little tradition after bonding over their love of trying different cultures’ cuisines.  This summer, they have already experienced a variety of loving prepared meals including homemade Sri Lankan curry.  The most recent menu item was a colorful, fresh veggie and pasta salad.  They are also eager for this cohort’s exceptional baker to take her turn to participate in this new tradition!

The current Adult Learners have more than just adventurous eating in common; they have bonded over their desire to work with children, their previous work experiences, and their varied life journeys.  Their friendships are just beginning, and given the lasting friendship between Doreen and Bernadette, which was formed during their own Montessori training, it is likely that these, too, may last for many years to come.  Moreover, these friendships formed during MCTD’s Teacher Education Program are complemented by the common passion of carrying on Dr. Maria Montessori’s legacy.  Both MCTD and MCA is delighted to support this current cohort of Adult Learners as their Montessori journey begins.

For more information about MCTD’s programs, please visit http://www.MontessoriCenterForTeacherDevelopment.com/ or contact Doreen Adamo, Program Director at MC4TD@aol.com.