Monday, November 18, 2013

My Experience At A Montessori School - Upper Elementary

Last, but not least, is the Upper Elementary Classroom. The Upper Elementary class usually goes from ages 9-12, 4th grade - 6th grade. 


THE UPPER ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM

photo credit - White Rock Montessori

My first look at the U.E. class was interesting - a couch. There was a couch in the classroom. Not something that is shocking to a Montessori teacher, maybe, or a homeschooler in general, but very different from the average public school.  The comfort level was apparent, and very homey.  There were some similarities to a public school classroom, though -  a few full size school desks and tables in the classroom, surrounded by the materials needed for U.E. and LOTS of books! There is only one U.E. teacher in the school here, but the class size is small - probably only around 15 students, give or take a couple.  I got my first look at the decimal board and decimal checkerboard here, as well as the advanced fraction materials.  I also had the curriculum explained to me a bit, in how they go just a little deeper and deeper each year into the lessons that are given each year. 



THE UPPER ELEMENTARY CHILD

photo credit - White Rock Montessori

There is not really a grouping of normalization vs. not normalization needed in this classroom. The children by this age have been through so many years of knowing how to act in the classroom, and now is the time for them to learn independence at a higher level. I will say that they are still just children, albeit older children than the other two classes - I am sure everyone has an 'off' day' now and then!  At this point, although there are new lessons to be learned and group lessons/game times to work on and practice things, there is a push towards more responsible independent work. The children are taught how to make note of what is needed to be done (in a personal planner), and complete it in the time allotted. For example (and this could definitely vary from class to class and home to home) - the teacher told me that the children do one book report a month. They have a theme, and have a month to do it. The first month, especially with the new students, can sometimes end in a child not having their work complete when it's supposed to be, because they were not reminded over and over to do it.  So they end up spending free time on it, to finish.  The next month, after hearing the book theme, etc., for the monthly book report, many get started much earlier to make sure they aren't caught by surprise.  This type of slow adjustment in to expectations can (and will) help the upper elementary child tremendously! The drive to follow their interests was very evident in the classroom itself (hence the books everywhere, enabling research on a topic to be easier). All the teaching they got in research in the lower elementary classroom comes in to play in the U.E. class.



THE UPPER ELEMENTARY TEACHER

photo credit - Litchfield Montessori

It was my pleasure to meet the U.E. teacher and get a chance to talk to her. The first trip I made, I just briefly took a walk through her room, but didn't spend much time there. The second trip I made, I talked with her quite a bit. She was able to give some great advice on things to really stress at the L.E. level, things that will be very important as they get to U.E. (for all the mamas out there working on fractions - be sure to stress the equivalence! It will make a big deal when they get to Algebra!). She personally gave me the first presentation on decimals, so that I could give it to my kiddos  when they are ready, and showed me how to use the decimal board and how they handle that in their classroom. She also walked me through their material and how it circulates deeper and deeper through the three years the children are in the class. She explained some of their projects that they do (this is where I learned how they do book reports, among other things). I also got the chance to talk to her about how they handle the great lessons. Honestly, I am not a fan of the original great lessons. My Boys Teacher has a great post on how to modify the Great Lessons to teach them from a biblical view point. I explained my hesitation and my thoughts on taking a different approach and the U.E. teacher talked about some ways they could be adapted to fit how I wanted to teach them. I really enjoyed spending time with her, getting a good look on how I can implement Montessori learning methods as the kids get to where the materials are fewer, but the learning style is still very much a part of their school!


It was very refreshing to see how the method moves through the ages and grades, from 3 to 12 years of age! The concrete becomes the abstract, the fully guided becomes the encouraged, then the ability to release the child whenever possible to learn about what they are interested in, while still getting the basic foundations built for higher education. The principal and teachers said that the children who move on from the Montessori school almost always adjust very well to the change to a more traditional setting, although I am sure that if it was me -I would miss the environment! 

My Upper Elementary Child - Little Mama


I hope these 'peeks in to the classroom' have helped someone, and in the next couple of days I am going to write the last post in this series, explaining some pointed things I saw that showed me what I needed to see in my own little class of five at home!




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