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5 Subject Areas
Activities in the Children’s House fall within five subject areas. Each area contains a carefully selected range of activities displayed on shelves for the children to access. Each of the learning areas are open for all the children to explore.
Practical life activities help the child to practice skills needed for everyday life, for example pouring, tying laces and laying a table. Many of these activities may also be done in the home. As well as helping the child develop his/her physical co-ordination there is the added advantage that the child learns to focus attention for the entirety of an activity. By completing a task properly the child achieves a sense of fulfilment. Practical Life activities also focus on developing the children’s social skills in a multi-age setting.
Small children are vividly aware of the world, taking in impressions through all their senses. The materials in this area stimulate and train the senses not only visually but also through touch, sound, taste and smell. An experience using one sense may often be reinforced by experiences gained through another sense – for example feeling a shape may reinforce a visual impression. Our materials reflect qualities of the environment such as colour, size, shape, texture, and sound and develop the child’s powers of observation, communication and exploration. Work with the sensorial materials lays the foundation for further work in mathematics, language and art.
The Children’s House provides many opportunities for developing the children’s ability to express themselves. Emphasis is given to the development of vocabulary based on ‘real’ experiences and the preparation required for reading and writing. Advanced activities take the child well beyond the basics to reading and writing for interpretation, creativity and pleasure. Many books are available in the book corner and the staff maintain a good mix of literature for the different ages within the class, reflecting a variety of cultural and social backgrounds as well as general aspects of daily living.
The Montessori mathematics materials enable even very young children to achieve, through their own efforts, a natural appreciation of basic mathematical concepts by providing experience in the ‘concrete form’. This helps children to avoid developing mental blocks which can so often occur if children are faced with abstract concepts such as quantity, value and ratio in only written or pictorial form. The specially designed materials provide concrete ideas and sensory experiences of numbers, quantities and mathematical operations.
Here the teachers in the Children’s House cover a wide range of subjects which reflect the broad interests of young children. The Montessori environment aims to stimulate these interests and extend the children’s knowledge, appreciation and understanding of music, craft, art, history, geography, science and the natural world. Different cultures from around the world are also explored.
Individualized, Independent Learning
Each activity on offer in the Children’s House is designed to be a complete piece of work within itself but they are also interrelated. That is, by using one learning material a child is also subconsciously developing the skills and awareness necessary to engage in more complex tasks. The activities are also designed to be self-correcting, so children are able to work through the challenges of activity unassisted and may practice it over and over again until they are satisfied.
As in all Montessori settings, the learning takes place at the learner’s pace, and the teaching adults monitor and record how each child interacts with the environment, working quietly as a team to provide help and assistance only when it is needed.
The Montessori ‘child community’ plays a vital role in the Children’s House. When a child enters the class for the first time they take their place in a community of children where the older, more knowledgeable ones act as role models and teachers to the younger ones. It is a self-perpetuating system that also keeps order and discipline that the children themselves maintain, held together by simple notions of fair-play, sharing, and mutual respect. When a child uses a piece of equipment they learn to replace it ready for the next child to use. And when a child behaves in a disruptive way, a selected group of children might be called upon to model and practice appropriate behavior. For example, instead of focusing on the child in question, the focus is redirected to ‘the behavior’ instead. Using communication in a social setting not only helps to maintain order in the community, it also teaches children about the broader uses of language, using it as a means of creative expression as well as to resolve problems. Exploring these methods and ideas at an early age can be an invaluable lesson for life.
When the child community is fully functioning it is an extremely powerful element in the children’s learning and development. This aspect of the Montessori approach – helping children to think of themselves as part of a community – is a defining feature of the Montessori approach.
Day to day activities in the Montessori setting aren’t generally planned in advance. Each day starts anew – the classroom director watches how the children’s interests manifest and develop in the learning environment and any pre-planned activities for particular children are introduced at an appropriate moment in the day.
In the morning, there is a 3-hour work session where the children spend their time in and around the Children’s House engaging in a range of Montessori activities. Mornings usually offer the best opportunity for developing concentration and the work of the teaching staff revolves around helping children to do this. Children can choose to work by themselves or collaboratively with friends, inside or outside, and can choose which of the activities they want to do.
After lunch, the children have over an hour of playground time where they can exercise their imaginations and build their social skills. There are many toys and tools available with which the children can play and build in the sand. Mr. Kel also leads an activity class every afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. in which the children participate in a structured physical activity that is designed to teach them how to use their bodies and follow specific instructions. This activity class is offers a break from the usual Montessori work throughout the day and provides an opportunity for the children to have fun and explore their physical abilities.
The children finish their school day with one hour of Thai Montessori work. That means the same Montessori work options from the morning, but all instruction is in Thai as well as all reading and writing materials. This time is intended to provide an opportunity for the children to learn how to utilize the Thai language and experience the Montessori materials in a different way.