Why We Do Monthly Themes 0

In many Montessori classrooms around Australia and internationally a part of the day will be dedicated to ‘circle time’ or group time. Every environment’s group time or circle time will be conducted a different time of the day. Some schools don't do circle time at all.

During circle time different topics will be discussed and presented to the children. Topics will vary from seasons to our families to the farm to North America to dinosaurs and many more. There is an endless list of possible themes that can be done but the choosing of topics will depend on the class age, maturity and ability to retain information.

The length of the themes that the topics are discussed depends upon the themes itself, for example the North American theme contains lots more than the families theme. It also depends on the children in your environment and their particular interests at the time. 

At I AM Montessori we create monthly themes for our educators to use in circle time or group time. We have learnt about food, Dinosaurs, Seasons, Occupations and even 'The Gift of Giving'.

In our monthly themes we discuss facts about the theme during circle time! We always include printouts, activities for the Montessori shelves, group activities, songs and stories relating to theme chosen!

Monthly themes in our classrooms help to develop the interest and knowledge of the child. By having monthly themes in our classrooms we demonstrate to children all about the world around us and the world we live in! Most children don’t realise that there is a bid world around us, they are egocentric, meaning that they only see the her and now and they only ‘their world’!      

By implementing monthly themes in our classrooms we try to broaden their horizons with different topics!

Monthly themes can be chosen according to a number of different aspects. For example, the child’s interests at the time, what’s happening around the world at a particular time (e.g. earthquake, dinosaur exhibition, season of summer), or what’s happening in a child’s life (e.g. starting primary school or a new baby in the house).

Themes can be as big as North America or a smaller topic like clouds!

By doing monthly themes we are hoping to instil a love for that subject and for the child to extract and retain as much information as they can about all the themes!

If the theme is delivered correctly any child should take away some learning from it! 

By doing important global topics such as the continents we hope to spark awareness of the world we live in! By delivering a theme of the solar system we hope to develop an understanding of planets, stars, our planets and the larger aspect of the world we live in. By doing a theme about trees we hope to enhance a child’s love of nature and to develop and enhance a respect and love for nature!

Monthly topics help to keep both the educators and the children stay focused during circle time and maintain educators and children excitement about our world!

The Power of “Down Time” 0

The idea of a child “day dreaming” has become a negative concept that is frowned upon in the mainstream education system. My Dad and I had a chat recently about how schooling has changed since he was a child. Dad pointed out that when he was young his schooling was very traditional. He remembered that the children were forced to sit up and pay attention all day. However, Dad also said; “but, at the end of the day we would go home, have afternoon tea and then play in the yard until dinner”. This seems to be the difference. When Dad was a child, children were given plenty of time to learn how to “use their own brain”. Playing in the yard, is not only playing, it is an opportunity for the child to experience complete freedom. When children are given down time without adults we give them the opportunity to think for themselves, be creative, imagine, examine, explore, take risks and problem solve. If we do not allow children to learn how to think for themselves and be comfortable with their own thoughts, how can we expect them to grow up to be adults who are critical and creative thinkers?

In my experience, many children who find Mainstream education so difficult and present as “children with behaviour problems” may feel stressed to the max because they have been in environments where everything is programmed for them. For example, a little boy I worked with attended before school care each morning from 6am-9am, then school from 9-3, followed by after school care from 3-6pm. This was his schedule five days a week. The school schedule that demanded his constant high energy and attention was all too much and he often ran away from class (quite tellingly he went to sit on the oval by himself most times. He was just seeking some down time). 

Of course our society has changed so that more parents are required to return to work so that they can provide for their families. This is not something to be frowned on, each family has different needs, however perhaps it is time we looked at how we are teaching the young people in our schools? Have we adapted our teaching techniques to provide these children with a little more space and independence considering the fast paced environment they are living in? 

Montessori classrooms provide something that many children do not get to experience any more in todays fast paced world; the opportunity to experience peace and quiet. In Montessori classrooms children are given the time to pause and reflect and to self-monitor their emotions. They are given the space to think, to reinvigorate and refocus so that they remain happy and energised throughout the whole day. Often you will see children in Montessori classes completing seemingly “menial tasks” like sweeping, polishing or arranging flowers. However, when we observe these children over a period of time we see that these simple tasks are the child’s way of reenergising themselves to tackle the next challenging work. Space and time for contemplation and reflection is a unique feature of Montessori education.  

Already in our modern society, adults are finding it harder and harder to be self-reflective and happy following their own thoughts and interests. Sadly, our first instinct when we find ourselves with nothing to do is to grab our i-phone, i-pod or macbook or turn on the television or radio. Let us remember that the greatest thinkers in our history were philosophers. These people spent a lot of time contemplating, thinking and refining their ideas in peace and quiet. They took the time (and were given the time) to make use of their brain! 

Lets foster this ability in our children and provide them Montessori classrooms that foster deep concentration and most importantly provide them with opportunities to relax and reflect in between all that hard work. 

Answers to a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) 0

Where did the Montessori curriculum come from?

Dr Maria Montessori started the Montessori curriculum in her native, Italy. She was born in a small town called Chiaravalle in 1870 but later, in 1882, moved to Rome with her parents! After her schooling she went to medical school and was the first women ever granted a degree in Medicine in Italy. When she started working as a physician first she worked with the mentally deficient and this is where many of her findings and theories come from.

Montessori opened her first “Children’s House” in a poor area of Rome in 1907. Most of the children that attended the first Casa de Bambini were poor and some were also mentally deficient. Montessori used her finding from her work as a physician and created the materials based on scientific facts and through her observations of the children working with materials her curriculum was developed! Most of the equipment used in a Montessori classroom today has been tested and worked on by Dr Maria herself.

Montessori spread around Europe first and in 1915 she was brought her curriculum to America. She established the Montessori movement in India during the war and left India in 1946. She continued to work on her philosophy and studying theorists and philosophers until her death in 1952 in Holland at the age of 82.

Why are Montessori teachers called guides?

In a Montessori classroom the adults in the class are not teachers! They do not teach anything! They are guides or directresses. They do not teach the children anything because the children are capable of self-learning. The adults guide the children through the curriculum at the child’s pace and show the child how to use the material correctly.

Does Montessori curriculum benefit all children, including children with special need and extremely gifted children?

Yes! Children in the Montessori curriculum work at their own pace and to their own strengths and advantages! Montessori guides or directresses guide the children through the materials according to their own abilities. A child learns self-praise through the independence and self-confidence or completing tasks at their own pace and therefore neither feel like nor compare their achievements to the other children in their class.

What age do children have to be to attend a Montessori classroom? 

The Montessori Curriculum starts at birth and goes right up until 18 years old.

The class structure is a multi age grouping system. From 0-3 Years, 3-6 Years, 6-9 Years, 9-12 Years, 12-15 Years and 15-18 Years! At I AM Montessori our Family Day Care Educators run Montessori Family Day Care from 0-3 Years and our classes at Yeronga are from 0-3 Years, 0-6 Years and Drop Off Classes from 3-6 Years.

Why are classes multi aged?

Montessori’s observations in the early 20th century in Casa de Bambini recognised that children work better in a multi aged classrooms. She found that the older children take pride in setting good examples for the younger children, they like to show younger children how to use materials correctly and they act as guide themselves. The younger children then in turn learn from the older children and strive to be independent like older children.

Is Montessori too structured or strict for my child?

This is a common misconception about Montessori. The Montessori environment is actually a lot freer than other classrooms. The children experience ‘freedom within limits’ in our environment. The children are free to choose any activity that they have been guided through by the directress. They are free to choose activities that they have mastered as well as well as activities that they are still in the process of mastering!

How can I, as a parent, ensure that my child is learning the necessary skills to be ready for school or ready to move onto the next level of their education?

Although the children choose their own activities in the environment every Montessori Directress observes the children and their progress at their own rate. We work with the children at their own pace and we are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, using their strengths to build up and improve their weaknesses. Through the curriculum in 0-6 years the children learn through the practical life area, sensorial area (working through the senses), mathematics, language and culture. Everything they learn is in a concrete way and therefore the children learn it easier than trying to learn the abstract thought for each activity and lesson.

Mainstream Schooling and how it can benefit from montessori 0

Mainstream schooling has changed considerably over the past decade. Teachers are working harder than ever to try to help their students understand more and more content. The national curriculum that has been rolled out around Australia is packed with content and moves very quickly. Primary school teachers are left to highlight key concepts and skills and then find time to teach these thoroughly to their students. To briefly describe the situation, early childhood teachers are now given less time to focus on the basics and, at the same time, are expected to help their children achieve increasingly higher literacy and numeracy results. To make it more stressful for teachers, poor student results are often shown in the media to be a result of “poor teaching and poor teachers” (instead of questioning the curriculum and re-examining the process of delivering this curriculum).  

I believe children in mainstream schools would benefit incredibly  by having access to the full Montessori philosophy. Where this is not possible, I believe children would still benefit from being able to use the carefully designed Montessori materials. 

Teachers are required to follow the National Curriculum. In Queensland, many schools use the “Curriculum to Classroom” material. These documents are lesson and unit plans based on the National Curriculum that outline what teachers should be teaching each day. The documents are complete to the point of detailing which questions teachers should ask their class and videos they should show the children. Often teachers feel they have to use more worksheets in the classroom so that they have written “evidence” to support the “data” that many teachers are asked to produce at the end of each unit plan. Perhaps early childhood teachers need to become more creative in how they record evidence. Videos of children using concrete materials perhaps is a place to start? 

Many early childhood teachers still try to implement as many concrete learning experiences as they can for their students. Concrete materials are those that children can hold, manipulate and touch; real objects to help develop real concepts. Many teachers re-make these at home, in their own time each year or each term dependent on the needs of the children in their classes. I would have loved to have known about the Montessori maths and language materials earlier in my teaching career, as these would have benefited my students so much!  The control of error in each material promotes self-correcting and problem solving. The carefully built and designed materials are mathematically accurate and reinforce the base ten system. Children enjoy the sensorial, tactile experience of touching sandpaper, sand, chalk, wood and other interesting materials. 

Note from Rebecca: There is no reason why Montessori streams cannot be implemented into State Schools if the Principal and School Community want it. This direction has been given by the Head of Government in Queensland. If you would love to see your local school implement Montessori, contact your Principal or even us at I AM Montessori if you would like some help!

Why Montessori Maths just makes sense! 0

I would like to share with you a story that I remember from when I was teaching a year one class in a Brisbane primary school. I walked in to relieve a teacher who had some planning time.  

The lesson I was to complete teaching was a lesson on weight. Students were apparently learning the concepts of “heavy” and “light”. 

I walked over to a little boy who had been unengaged and asked him if I could help him. He looked at me with a very serious expression and said, “No you can’t. He asked me to circle the heaviest one but they are both the same”. As he said this he pointed to two drawings on a page. One was a drawing of an elephant and the other a drawing of a mouse. The boy continued, “They are the same on the page, it’s the same page and its the same pencil. That is not heavier”. 

As soon as this six year old had spoken I realised a few things; firstly, how clever he was, secondly, how correct he was and thirdly, what a stupid and abstract activity this was to give children who were meant to be learning a sensorial concept like weight!

Mathematics should begin as a concrete and physical experience. It is only when we have experienced with out senses concepts like heavy, light, full, empty, long, large, small, big etc, that we are able to remember the essence of these experiences and then solve abstract problems. 

Asking a six year old to decide if an elephant is heavier than a mouse based upon a drawing on a piece of paper is assuming a lot of information about this child. To get this seemingly simple question right, the child would have to; have already hefted heavy and light objects and remember the “feeling” and meaning of each of those words, know what an elephant is, know the true size of an elephant, know what a mouse is and how large it would be in real life and know how to “circle” a picture. Without knowing it, the teacher had bombarded the children with a poor abstract example, that actually presented many other challenges that the adult had not even thought of. 

The Montessori Mathematics curriculum is unique because it still acknowledges the fact that true understanding comes from initial concrete experiences. Children get to feel the number nine when they hold nine spindles in their hands. They get to feel how much longer and bigger the number ten feels as they carry the longest red rod across the room. Children get to experience tall when they build the pink tower. They get to feel and see the number 1000 when they carry a cube with one thousand beads or lay 1000 beads out in a long snake on the floor. The Montessori Maths curriculum is carefully designed to help children develop a true understanding of number and quantity, not just the ability to count by rote or recognise number symbols. 

Maria Montessori recognised that children learn through their senses. It is only when we give children the ability to have these sensorial number experiences that they will really internalise the mathematics they are learning. The greater their foundational understanding of mathematics is, the greater they will be able to abstract from this later and understand harder mathematical concepts. 

{NEW STAFF MEMBER} Today we welcome Jemma to the team... 0

Our team has now grown to four of us! Today we welcome our fourth staff member, Jemma Hicks as Education Coordinator!

You can read more on Jemma below:


There is a strong focus in mainstream education to improve literacy and numeracy results. This may seem like an honourable mission, but in my experience many children are missing out on building foundational social, emotional and fine and gross motor skills in the process. Children who are not able to hold a pencil correctly, use scissors, open their own lunchbox or go to the toilet independently are expected to learn a list of sight words each week. Five year olds who are unable to initiate conversations, take turns using equipment, ask for help, (or if they can play with their friends ball at lunch time), are expected to write abstract character descriptions and persuasive texts for english. As you would expect, many five year olds find it difficult to write a persuasive text and many early childhood teachers are pulling their hair out and wondering why they are asked to teach this in the first place!
I started working in education as a Primary School teacher in 2009 because I have a passion for Early Childhood education. As I worked as a Prep and Year One teacher for six years I saw the focus in the mainstream classrooms begin to shift away from the children. Over the years the Early Childhood curriculum in Queensland schools has moved away from the play based, constructionist approach with concrete materials, to an extremely formal and abstract system that I feel would be more appropriate in the middle or upper school. Instead of focusing on social and emotional skills and helping children develop their independence and self-esteem, Prep and Year One teachers are “under the hammer” to ensure their children are reading and writing at pre-determined levels by the end of each term. 

Montessori education has been around for more than 100 years and I believe we need it now more than ever. I believe the reason Montessori is becoming more popular is that parents and children are feeling the effects of the mainstream schooling system that is pushing our young children to “achieve” without stopping to look at the result. I have spoken with many parents who feel distressed because their child does not want to go to school or already feel they are failing. In a Montessori environment, children learn to be independent, persistent and self-motivated. They are given time to develop their social skills, emotional independence and creativity. They are given time and the concrete resources to really play with and explore each concept.  I believe Montessori education is a real education. Children are given the freedom to learn and grow and the freedom to develop their unique personalities and interests.  How can we expect young adults to enter the workforce as self-motivated, independent, creative and resilient people if we never give them the opportunity to develop these skills throughout primary school?

 

We look forward to the impact Jemma will have on I AM Montessori and the direction we are heading!

If you would like to contact Jemma you can email her at jemma@iammontessori.com.au or call 07 3848 2391

FIST PUMPS, FOCUS AND FREEDOM - For a teacher the end of term is a feeling of sadness and joy 0

Teachers generally look forward to the end of term as they need the mid term breaks to regenerate their own batteries and recuperate from the routine of school but for the teachers at I Am Montessori they dread it as it means saying goodbye to some of the children who aren’t re-enrolling!

Each child is cherished at our classes at I AM Montessori and every child is guided through the Montessori curriculum at their own pace! We teach about one hundred children per week and each one is unique and special to us.

During the ten weeks of any term we see a huge progression in our children.

For a new child starting term it is common for them to be unfocused and easily distracted but as the term comes to an end it is so rewarding to see a child finish a task and see the self-praise on his face! Often at the beginning of term parents fret about their child not being able to concentrate and not being as settled as other children but with a little reassurance and some persistence they too can see that the building up of these skills doesn’t take long!

During term 2 I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my classes! I’m not going to lie, some days have been a struggle coming into work being homesick and other health issues but I can honestly say that once class starts and I see the magic of Montessori come to life in my classroom my mood is instantly uplifted and I forget about everything else!

There have been a lot of touching moments in this term from cuddles to high fives and even fist pumps! But my favourite thing during a ten-week term is to see the progression and accomplishment of children finishing tasks they struggled with or were not even interested in at the beginning.

From the child who on their first class couldn’t focus on any particular activity and was easily distracted to the same child pouring water for 20 minutes on week 4 of term. Or the child who struggled to go the bathroom at 3 years old alone to progress on week 6 and go to the toilet unaided! Or to see the child who has special needs being unable to focus in week one to being much more focused by week 3 and completing tasks that are beyond their development! There is also the infant who cannot do a lot of tasks but thoroughly enjoys trying and keeps trying to place the ball in the Imbucare Box and in week 4 he finally places the ball in, opens the drawer takes out the ball and replaces it in the hole! Or the child who is on the brink of reading who reads her first sentence. Or the child who is so excited about learning ‘big’ numbers and has the ‘light bulb’ moment when she sees all the beads laid out on the mat! Sometimes the simplest tasks can be a struggle for some children and it is amazing to see a child choosing her own work from a shelf who previously needed to be guided to choose an activity!

I am looking forward to a break but I’m looking forward to seeing all my special little people after the break more!

We love Montessori!