Montessori CASA Program
The Casa Program Ages 3 to 6 years (preschool age children)
In the Casa class, the teacher-student ratio is 1:8 and the Head Teacher holds an AMI or MACTE Accredited (AMS/MTC/TMI/etc.) Montessori Teaching Diploma. There are one or two assistant teachers, depending on the number of children in the classroom. If there are two assistant teachers, one of them will be trained as vian RECE or a Montessori Casa diploma. In the Casa classroom, children are a mix of 3, 4 and 5 year olds. This mixed age grouping encourages peer learning, peer modeling, confidence and self-esteem as children are afforded the opportunity to learn from observing others (younger children get to watch what older children are doing) as well as helping others (teaching is the extension of learning that helps solidify the child’s skill).
The Montessori Casa classroom is organized into five main curriculum areas. These are Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture. In addition, there is an art area and library corner. Music is an integral part of the class, as well as Specialist subjects. Other Specialist subjects for Pre-School and Casa students are French and Physical Education. Children are also visited by the Librarian once a week. The Montessori materials are designed to stimulate the child into logical thought and discovery. Apart from conveying basic educational information, they develop the child’s senses and coordinate movement in preparation for reading, writing and calculating. The child learns through practice with presented materials. These concrete experiences lead to a thorough understanding of each step of a process, laying a solid foundation for more complex future work.
Practical Life – Exercises assist the children in learning to care for themselves, for the environment and for others. Through tasks such as pouring, polishing, preparing food, tying shoes, washing a table and in cleaning up and putting away each exercise; children develop coordination, concentration and good work habits. Their self-confidence and independence increase with each accomplishment.
Sensorial – Activities help children to develop and refine their sensory powers of smelling, tasting, hearing, feeling and seeing in order to better discriminate and classify their impressions. For example, through the manipulation of a sphere or cube, different lengths of rods or fitting cylinders of different sizes into holes, the children begin to order their perceptions of size and space.
Language – Permeates the program, developing the areas of reading, literature, grammar, creative writing and handwriting, enriching vocabulary and enhancing self-expression. The child progresses from learning the form and sounds of letters to making words with a moveable alphabet, writing words and sentences, learning non-phonetic words and combining these skills to read and write stories.
Mathematics – Presents a unique and exciting concrete exploration of patterns and number concepts. The materials introduce the concept of quantity and the symbols for the numbers 1 to 10. Using a variety of beads and symbol cards, the child becomes familiar with the numbers as a decimal system, including hands-on experiences with the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The children acquire a deep understanding of how numbers function and as they learn real mathematical concepts, the materials lead to the abstract. Because of the concrete nature of the materials, the young child is able to work with the basic concepts of the operations, squaring and cubing, fractions and geometry.
Cultural – Subjects include botany, zoology, science, geography, history, music and art. To the probing, questioning mind of the Casa child, these areas are fertile fields for exploration and an extremely rich and varied curriculum is presented through real life experiences and an exciting array of Montessori materials.
In addition to the basic Montessori program, children participate in Outdoor Education, Field Trips and a variety of School Visits. We employ a program called The Virtues Project to enhance character development and Grace & Courtesy.
IN THE HOME
Parents often ask the teachers what they can do at home with their child to support what they are learning in school. Below are some suggestions:
Practical Life Area
Practical Life exercises teach children how to care for their classroom. Everyone has the responsibility for maintaining it. The more children become comfortable in their environment, the more they will want to look after it. Practical Life exercises allow them to participate in real life activities and encourage self-sufficiency. Children take part in simple chores at home such as:
- tidying their room, sorting and folding small articles of clothing (socks, small face towels) and sweeping
- care of the home environment can also include setting the table, cleaning up spills, watering plants and caring for household pets
Children should always be treated with dignity and respect. Learning how to clean and dress themselves provides children with a sense of accomplishment. It boosts their self-esteem. As they begin to care for themselves, they understand the importance of caring for others. Simple daily rituals at home would include:
- children can wash their face, hands, brush their own teeth and hair independently
- parents can encourage children to choose their own clothing the night before school and help to pack their own lunch
Creating a weekly schedule of simple daily tasks can be an easy way for children to remember their responsibilities and feel a great sense of accomplishment as they tick off each task when completed!
Grace and Courtesy deals with the development of morals and values. It is the basis of the Montessori pedagogy that provides children with the tools for treating others, their immediate environment and, in the future, the entire world with respect. Children should be encouraged to:
- greet visitors with a handshake, share with their siblings, cousins and neighbourhood friends, as well as giving and using manners, such as “please” and “thank you”
- consideration of others, such as making way for someone to pass and interrupting (how to wait for their turn by placing their hand on someone’s shoulder)
Sensorial materials cannot show children how to feel, or tell them what they are seeing, etc. These materials are used by children to consciously classify the sense impressions that are received. They build up cognitive capabilities to their full potential. Sensorial materials provide ‘keys’ to the universe. Colour, texture, taste, sound and smell are individually introduced. Each exercise provides a key which motivates children to explore the environment through games and, later, appropriate language is added to enrich the experience. Activities encourage matching, grading and sequencing, which are preparation for Math and Language work.
Children continue to explore their home environment through their senses. Simple games can be played with children at home or even when traveling by vehicle or foot, such as:
- asking children to find primary and secondary colours in and out of doors
- pointing out the visual shades of colours, diversity of size, length, dimension and diameter of objects and encouraging children to use language such as tallest/ shortest, largest/smallest, thickest/thinnest and darkest/lightest
- encouraging children to use their tactile sense to explore and continue to enrich language such as rough/smooth, heavy/light and cold/hot
- exploring the sense of hearing when taking walks outdoors (listening for nature sounds, mechanical sounds, etc.)
- involving children in cooking and encouraging smelling and tasting of a diversity of foods
- enriching awareness and language of both 2 and 3 dimensional geometric shapes (2 dimensional: oval, ellipse, circle, square, etc./ 3 dimensional: ovoid, ellipsoid, cube, cone, cylinder, etc.)
Language is a learned behaviour. Children come to class in a sensitive period for language. The materials isolate elements of language. Every exercise is a key to its exploration. Through the exercises for the ear, eye and hand, development occurs. Children will learn how to listen and express themselves verbally and, eventually, on paper. Language is the expression of the human spirit within each of us. Preliminary exercises can be practiced at home; these exercises provide the basic foundation for writing, such as:
- naming objects in the home environment
- exploring books that cover topics such as transportation, clothing and tools
- reading stories and poetry
- Question, I Spy and Sound Games that explore phonetic sounds of letters
Writing is complex and requires different skills. Control and coordination of hand movements is necessary. The hand must be able to adapt its movement according to the space available. This can be practiced at home:
- introduce 3 individual lower case cursive letters in one sitting and practice 3 letters until child can identify, then move on to new letters
- letters are presented in class by grouping, first orange letter box explores the following letters: a, b, c, n, s, t
- a tray with corn meal or sand for practicing the formation of lower case cursive letters
- matching first letter to a picture, i.e. “a” for apple
- practicing 3 letters at a time (m, a, c) and hiding them in the house and asking child to retrieve them one at a time
- writing out 3 phonetic word labels and matching to things in the environment (i.e. jar, cat, rug)
Mathematics is based on order, classification and quantity. Order, precision and exactness in the environment will draw children naturally into math. Each exercise has a specific purpose (i.e. learning numbers to ten) and allows repetition and exploration. Children learn to identify, form and associate the symbol (numeral) to its quantity.
- review numerals in groupings, such as 0-9, 11- 19, 20 – 90
- work with 3 numerals at a times, play hiding games where the child hides 3 numbers around the home and retrieves the numbers the parent asks for
- play a memory game by forming numerals (by groupings) on small pieces of paper, ask child to look at number, than turn paper over, ask child to go and find the quantity of items in the house (i.e. 2 pillows, 4 pens, 7 forks, etc.)
- form numerals on a cornmeal tray or chalkboard
- count out objects or items that are used every day (how many napkins are needed for dinner)
Children come into our environment trying to find trying to find their place in the world. Soon, they are curious about the world around them. How do we fit in the animal kingdom? How do we affect the world? Where are we in relation to other human beings? Culture is there when children are ready to explore beyond their immediate surroundings. It’s a curiosity of what lies beyond their backyard. Children can continue to explore the topics of the Botany, Zoology and Geography at home by being active listeners and participants in the environment that surrounds them:
- take nature walks and learning about parts and diversity of the plants, trees, flowers and leaf shapes found in Ontario and other places visited
- explore the world of animals through books, the zoo, the backyard and nature areas. Touch on topics such as parts of the bird, fish, turtle, horse and frog and the Living/Non-Living Worlds as well as adult/young, vertebrates/invertebrates
- visit landmarks in your town, city, province or beyond!