Language Arts 6-9

Language Arts 6-9

“The underlying structure and order of the universe must be reflected in the classroom if the child is to internalize it, and thus build his own mental order and intelligence.”[1]

Language comprises almost every aspect of the Montessori classroom.  From the language works the students choose to the math problems, art, the zoological and geographical researches, and the various other cultural works, language is an integral part of every student’s day.  Starting from the very first day, students learn the value of the written and spoken language.  The earliest and youngest readers may be saying the names of the alphabet, writing them (for handwriting) and learning to match them with animal riddles.  They can say what the letter’s name is and what it sounds like and can recognize them in our daily message and throughout the classroom.  Within weeks even the newest reader is reading full books adapted for use of phonetic and sight readers.  At this level, puzzle word boxes are fun to go through and see how many can be put in sentences or acted out.  These students are still in the process of perfecting their motor skills with the metal inset work, which, when mastered, transfers easily to learning the names of those figures they have been working with as well as the rest of the insets in the geometric and botanic cabinets.

Our middle readers are already well into phonograms, challenging themselves with reading the message before it is read to them (in cursive and manuscript) and starting (or well into) classifying the language into its grammatical parts.  They are also starting to see that language helps others know what they know.  The researches they choose can help others around them learn a little more about that subject when they write down what they have discovered.  These students are also starting to see how they can become authors by using what they are learning and what they know to write stories.  Although the stories may start out with what they did the other day, they quickly turn into what they might have done, or wish they had done; and finally, become something that is derived completely from their imagination.

“Because he has been exposed to so much information in the Montessori environment, the child is now in a position to produce a wealth of compositions on many different subjects:  history, nature, geography, music, etc.”[2]

Our more advanced readers and writers are learning that what they have researched, once edited, can be published and then read by every single person in the classroom.  They, too, can become teachers as they explore their world.  They have advanced from picture books to chapter books and now retain interest in, and feel proud when they read, books that have over 300 pages.  Their interest in grammar goes beyond the parts of speech and they become fascinated by sentence analysis—a new and unique way of classifying what they already know.  The eighteen baskets have finally made them realize that even phonograms can be challenging and words that they have always known can have two, three, even four different pronunciations and meanings.  They also start seeing connections in words.  The geometric “octogon,” the mathematic “octillion,” the zoologic “octopus,” and the physic “unniloctinium” become a source of interest and then of research once discovered.

Poetry has become something that they feel comfortable creating simply by having questions.  The first taught, the “say-it-again” poems, help them understand how something that they have always wondered about can become a legitimate poem with topic and content.  During the winter season they can create a poem with an “I wonder…” starter about all those mysterious things having to do with cold weather, such as, snowflakes, darkness, Christmas, presents, and evergreen trees.  They quickly move on to poem by topic and understand, on their own, that some people prefer their poems to rhyme.  This is, of course, one more reason for the students to explore the intricacies and varieties of their language.

Handwriting, also, is no longer simply an easy way to do a language work.  Now it is something that must be mastered before being able to do something as exciting as calligraphy.  Once started it is something with a variety of intriguing uses and avenues for exploration.  First, though, the pen must be mastered, which, in itself, is art.  Then there are the various forms of calligraphy, learning all of the letters, and being able to transfer them all to paper and reproduce a classic quote or a famous poem for the class.

“The opportunity to develop self-knowledge is one of the most important results of freedom in a Montessori classroom.”[3]

Finally, the dictionary and encyclopedias have become well-known friends to these students with their limitless need to know everything.  In every area of the classroom, these books are seen regardless of the work that is being done.  Whether it is to look up a homograph for its alternate meaning, to find out how many different species of birds live in their state, or to research the origin of an element, these books (and many others) make up the text book for the Montessori student.  With their thorough grasp of the language, their ability to question, and their confidence that no subject is too difficult, the Montessori classroom is most definitely a laboratory of exploration.

[1] Lillard, Paula Polk.  Montessori:  A Modern Approach.  New York:  Schocken Books; 1972:  p. 56.
[2] Lillard, Paula Polk.  Montessori:  A Modern Approach.  New York:  Schocken Books; 1972:  p. 137.
[3] Lillard, Paula Polk.  Montessori:  A Modern Approach.  New York:  Schocken Books; 1972:  p. 56.

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