When prospective parents come to visit our little yellow school, a large majority comment on the calmness of the children in the classrooms. Each of our classroom communities consist of upwards of fifteen children aged three until the year they turn six. Surely, this would make for a very chaotic and loud environment. Not in a Montessori school. What people see are classrooms filled with calm and happy children engaged in their 'work'.
Over one hundred years ago, Maria Montessori wrote:
The first essential for the child's development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.
This continues to hold true so many years later. A child engaged in meaningful work is immensely happy. Each day brings many examples of this. Here are some photographs of a few of the children working in the classrooms. They were so engaged in their work that they were not aware that I was taking pictures of them.
Four year old V. is working with the Pink Object Boxes. The Pink Object Boxes contain two and three letter phonetic words. V. has set out the objects found within the box and is reading each word card. She then matches the word to the corresponding object.
Four and a half year old P. and four year old I. are working with an extension of the Cylinder Blocks. The Cylinder Blocks vary in height, diameter or both. The children work with them individually. Working with all four is a later extension. The Cylinder Blocks have many aims - to help develop the child's visual discrimination of size, indirectly to prepare the child for writing through the handling of the cylinders. The photographs do not show that they did complete all four of the cylinders.
Three year old S. is a very determined little girl. Here she is working with the Sandpaper Letters and the Sandpaper Tray filled with red lentils. Cornmeal or sand can also be used. The Sandpaper Letters help the child associate the sounds of speech with their written symbol. They are preparation for writing and reading. S. knows all of her sounds and was very motivated to learn how to write her letters. These photographs show her tracing the 'h' Sandpaper Letter. She then reproduces it in the tray.
Although they are very young, the children are capable of so much. I count myself lucky to be around their determination and enthusiasm for learning.