There are 4 major areas of the Montessori curriculum in the Primary classroom: practical life, sensorial, math and language (including the cultural subjects of geography and science). Below is a brief description for each area.
The exercises of the Practical Life curriculum are designed to foster independence, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self control, characteristics that play a critical role in subsequent intellectual growth. Color-coded items and their location on the shelf help categorize the materials needed for real tasks of everyday living for the child.
These tasks include moving around carefully, moving things to appropriate locations, taking care of oneself, maintaining one’s surroundings, and interacting appropriately with others. Dr. Montessori classified these sets of exercises as Control of Movement, Care of the Person, Care of the Environment, and Grace and Courtesy. The different exercises of each category develop concentration, sense of order, attention to small detail, awareness of exactness and sequence, and coordination.
The key ingredients of each activity are order, beauty, demonstrated sequence and precision, and, on the child’s part, repetition. Active participation in the everyday affairs of the child’s life grows self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-discipline as the child masters the tasks represented in the individual exercise. Order, exactness, and detail cultivate aptitude for logic, mathematics, science, and composition.
Repetition allows for extended concentration, more accurate hand-eye coordination, and a sense of deliberate action manifested in the feeling of self-initiated control: “I can do it myself!,” the first step on the road to self-discipline.
Children receive impressions through their senses from the moment of birth. Designed to isolate and categorize qualities of the environment perceived through their senses, the Sensorial activities focus on the development of sensory perception.
As adults, we rely heavily on visual and auditory perception for acquisition of information. The Montessori program offers a multi-sensory approach to learning, encouraging children to use the optimum combination of senses for learning. Using the senses easily, with refined distinctions, increases productivity of experiential learning activities.
As perception skills develop, appropriate language is added in the positive, comparative, and superlative of the quality illustrated in the material. For example, the Pink Tower activities compare the visual qualities of “large” and “small”, highlighting the comparative qualities of “large, larger, largest” and “small, smaller, smallest”. A variety of games for each material extends the primary lesson.
The incremental differences manifested in the materials are mathematically based and develop faculties of mathematical understanding. As Aristotle said, “There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses…”
The specific Math curriculum (there has been quite a lot of math cognition development activities presented in the Practical Life curriculum and Sensorial curriculum already!) begins with activities to teach sequence, recognition, and quantity of numbers 1-10.
Two parallel lesson formats continue with the concepts of (1) the process of the operations (addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division) and (2) the memorization of the math facts – the tables of addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division.
Eventually used together, these two disciplines from the foundation of working complex math problems “in one’s head”. Other lesson series introduce and develop math concepts and skills such as odd and even numbers, linear counting to 100, skip counting (2…4…6…8…) and place value of numbers from 1-9000.
The Language activities encompass all areas of curriculum, aiding the development of vocabulary and writing skills, the emergence of creative writing and composition, and the progression into reading.
The cultural subjects (geography and science) extend the use of the language materials by introducing subject matter that interests the child to explore and discover new and fascinating facts using picture cards, puzzles, games, real objects from culture, and non-fiction books.
Just like the other areas of the curriculum, lessons are presented in a sequential manner from simple to complex to ensure that the child will be able to successfully move onto the next level with little adult assistance. The usual progression into reading is: enrichment of vocabulary (picture cards); phonetic sounds (sand paper letters), writing (moveable alphabet), reading (picture cards with labels).