The great change in primary children is that their interest expands beyond their immediate environment and they become ‘intellectual explorers of the universe’.
During Stage 1, children use concrete materials and all their senses to arrive at an understanding of basic concepts. Stage 2 differs from this as the children are presented with a wide variety of materials in order to consolidate and enhance the concepts they already know.
Stage 2 is where children move into what Dr Montessori called the ‘second plane of development’: out of themselves and into the bigger world around them. It is a very social age where children’s awareness expands to include others. It is here that they begin to move away from concrete objects and toward abstract concepts and start to see the bigger picture. The Stage 2 child not only reads but understands, not only writes the letters of the alphabet but can apply them to various text types, with a growing vocabulary and understanding of writing conventions.
The work they do in the classroom is different from what they did previously: where they used materials to construct themselves, their bodies and their minds, now they are using the same materials diagnostically, moving into the new realm of formal academics, where they learn to practice and build on academic skills, learning to work in a different way.
The sense of order they developed in past stages seems to abandon them: while they can still order their smaller environment, they come to realise that they have no control over the world around them. Because they are moving into the bigger world, there is considerable emphasis on grace and courtesy, and they develop an awareness of the needs of others, becoming confident enough to stand up for what is right.
The curriculum of the Stage 2 classroom is founded in Dr Montessori’s ‘Great Lessons’, a basis from which to explore the world through an integrated program that touches on biology, history, physical and political geography, physical science, health, cooking, sport, movement, drama, art and music, and that more than readily covers the NSW Board of Studies’ six key learning areas. The classroom director shares this information with the children, who in turn can take the information in different directions depending on their interests. Students in Stage 2 are afforded the gift of time to roam and discover the bigger environment, and to follow their inner compass.
Education in Stage 3 builds on the foundations set in Stages 1 and 2, moving still further into abstraction. The Stage 3 environment reinforces the knowledge already acquired and adds more detail. All prescribed work is still done within school hours: there is extensive individual work, creative endeavours, research and group projects, all with direction from teachers who support the students’ independent learning by allowing them to follow their own interests.
As they master the subject matter, these modes of work also facilitate students’ development of numerous life skills that will serve them for years to come – skills such as time management, responsibility, problem-solving and co-operation. The children in Stage 3 are expected to keep a detailed diary, recording starting and finishing times of work. Presentations in maths, language and geometry are ongoing, and there is a more structured schedule of tasks to be completed on each day.
The characteristic Montessori trait of extending knowledge over the curriculum remains strong in Stage 3, where everything done in the classroom is linked: maths, language, science, etc – all aspects of the NSW Board of Studies key learning areas are spread across a wide variety of activities rather than segregated into separate disciplines. This, Dr Montessori termed ‘cosmic education’, reflecting that the universe only works when everything is connected; nothing operates in solitude.
In the Stage 3 classroom, children are still in the ‘second plane of development’, moving out of themselves and into the world around them. There is no staged competition: each child is encouraged and allowed to learn at his or her own pace, with his/her happiness and personal best potential as the ultimate goals. The Montessori curriculum will have covered more than the traditional school curriculum by the time each child finishes Stage 3. This allows them to adjust to the rigours of high school with relative ease.
To support the increasing independence of children in this age group, an active goal of the Stage 3 classroom is to develop their ‘going-out’ programme: small groups of students with a shared interest, who have come to the end of their book knowledge, leaving the classroom to visit an outside venue such as a museum exhibit for extended exploration. The students plan every aspect of their going-out, developing a schedule, organising transportation, determining costs involved, all with help of their class director. Accompanied by a supervising adult in the background, students realise their plans and see the world outside the classroom walls.
Montessori primary education builds on the pre-primary experience and changes with the needs of the child entering the second stage of development.
Where the pre-primary child strives for physical independence, the primary child strives for mental independence and is no longer satisfied with the immediate environment; he or she wants to know ‘why.’ Typically, children of this age show an innate sensitivity towards compassion, justice and idealism.
The child’s questioning mind, and developing ability to reason and abstract, excites and enthuses the child to want to discover more. In Montessori primary, a child’s own questions provide the basis for learning. Education and knowledge is not imposed but comes from the child’s own intellectual exploration.
Through the Montessori approach to primary education, children develop a high degree of independence and discipline, whilst their natural curiosity is reflected in their ability to select and complete appropriate work.
Southside Montessori School prepares children for external testing including the NAPLAN Program. Along with various life skills that are taught in the Montessori classroom, examination technique is embraced as an essential life skill that needs to be mastered.
Children in our classrooms are free to follow their interests but within the boundaries and requirements set by the teacher following discussion with each child. Montessori educators are not passive; they are directors skilled in observing, monitoring and assessing each child individually. The basics of reading, writing and arithmetic and all necessary curriculum areas are adequately covered over the three-year cycle.
Recognised Educational Standards
Southside Montessori School’s primary program satisfies both the Australian Montessori National Curriculum and the Board Of Studies Teaching & Educational Standards NSW syllabus requirements encompassing:
- english language
- mathematics & geometry
- history & geography
- zoology, botany & science
- personal development, health and physical education
- art, craft & music
- computer technology