Language Part 4

Today we continue our Language in the Montessori Classroom with part four of our series.

Reading is often done in small groups and chapter books are routinely read to the whole group. Lessons are given on comprehension, vocabulary development, and the students are taught to learn how to predict what might happen in a story, to ask questions that would lead to deeper analysis of the subject and to think about the connections they have to the story. Through this process, students begin to recognize characters, plots and themes of books. Both fiction and nonfiction texts are readily available in the classroom.

Once a month, a book report is due for the 2nd and 3rd graders where they have read a book and then create a report to present to their class. This exercise fosters an expectation that the students will be immersed in reading on a continuous basis. When they present their report, not only have they created an interpretation of what they have read, but they have the opportunity to hold an audience of their peers and strengthen their confidence thereby refining their speaking skills.

“Reader’s Theater” is another tool used in lower elementary, where a theatrical story is chosen and a small group of students act out the play. Each student takes turns reciting their part, giving students the chance to use inflection and explore voice as they express their part. It is in this process, that fluency in reading and speaking begins to flourish. When a student hears language spoken fluently, they can then internalize this skill and deepen their silent reading experience.

IMG_2967Upper elementary provides a continuation of the groundwork laid in the lower elementary classroom, where again, reading, writing, grammar and word study are the chief components of the language program. Reading is a constant skill that is sharpened in the classroom where books are read and analyzed more like the students are in a book club, than simply in a small group. Recently “The Giver” was read in the classroom, and after it was done, the students

made a trip to a local theater and watched a movie version of the book. The students then did an evaluation on the differences and similarities of the book to its adaptation as a movie.

Join us on Wednesday as we conclude our series on Language in the Montessori Classroom.

Language Part 3

Today we are in part three of our Language in the Montessori Classroom series.

The Language arts taught in a lower elementary classroom at FMS, encompasses reading, writing, grammar and word study. Many of the classrooms tie their language lessons to the underlying cultural theme for the month. For example, when Europe is being studied, students will be responding to the lessons by making books, doing research on various countries in Europe, and using their language skills to express their understanding of the broad cultural lessons.

E3Montessori philosophy is always emphasizing hands on, concrete approaches to conveying abstract concepts. When verbs are taught, the children are asked to do the actual verb, such as “jump, walk, throw.” Often, the instruction is written on a card (using the written word), so that the student is reading the directive and then acting upon it. Lower elementary students get a head start on learning grammar at FMS utilizing word study boxes addressing compound words, prefixes, and suffixes, as well at being proficient in diagramming sentences and identifying specific parts of speech.

Writing is a natural component of the lower elementary curriculum as students begin their day with expressing their thoughts in their journals, some times with a prompt and often without one. FMS is guided by Lucy Calkin’s “Writer’s Workshop” which focuses upon personal narrative, the writing process, informational writing, and on composing poetry. This allows students to develop solid writing skills that not only serves them while in lower elementary, but lays the groundwork for further development in upper elementary.

Join us on Monday as we continue our series on Language in the Montessori Classroom. 

Language Part 2

Today we’re on part two of our Language in the Montessori Classroom series.

One of the first language tools used in a more formal lesson with the preschool students, are the sandpaper letters. The sounds are grouped together, so that eventually when the sounds are learned, the student will be able to build a word using the specific letters, such as n,e,t leading the child eventually to saying “net” “The stimulation of the tactile senses through the use of the sandpaper letters and the naming of the letter at the same time will increase the child’s ability to remember both the sound and the shape of the letter.”**

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As a child learns to recall specific letters, they then are introduced to the movable alphabet and begin to associate specific objects with its corresponding name and the student spells out the name of the object using the movable alphabet.

Copy of DSC_9711Eventually, as the student gains skills in using the alphabet, they will then be asked to write the words on a piece of paper. The progression in the Montessori classroom always starts with the most concrete representation of the sound (such as an object), and then to move to its more abstract representation (writing the name of the object on paper). Kindergarten students are immersed in reading and writing on a daily basis, and enter first grade knowing the basic parts of speech and reading books typically above grade level.

**Montessori Research and Development @2006

Join us on Friday as we continue our series on Language in the Montessori Classroom. 

Language Part 1

Today we begin a five part series on Language in the Montessori Classroom.

Acquisition of language skills begins long before a a child sets foot into school. The sound of the mother’s voices cues the ears and brain of a developing child to the lifelong interaction of the child listening to the human voice. As a preschool child enters a Montessori classroom, “the child’s own tools for language are vision, hearing and speech, as well as the skills necessary for writing and reading.”**  The entire preschool classroom is set up for the student to develop their vocabulary by learning the objects in the environment, and various attribute words such as large, small, long, short, think and thin. Many of the attribute words are learned by the child manipulating materials in the sensorial area of the classroom (including the brown prisms, the red rods and the pink tower, just to name a few).

10.3.6-2The practical life area of the classroom holds the key to the development of eye hand coordination and creating a lasting impression of doing work from the left to right, in the same way a child will learn to read from left to right. “Thus in scrubbing the table from left to right and back, the eyes are following the movement of the hands. The child needs to develop a good visual span.” “Preparation of the eyes and the hands is an important factor in the Montessori classroom. The use of the practical life material not only prepares the hands but the eyes also. Eyes follow the movement of the hands. In the practical life area, the child uses the whole arm, thus giving the movement necessary to prepare the arm for its role in handwriting.”**

L1080509“The repeated use of sorting exercises prepares the fine muscles of the child’s hand to hold a pencil but also prepares the eye to distinguish between like and unlike objects. This is a good preparation for reading in that reading is the recognition of like and unlike letters and words in the formation of language which is written.”**

**Montessori Research and Development @2006

Join us on Wednesday as we continue our look at Language in the Montessori classroom. 

Volcanoes – Part 2


In addition to understanding the science behind volcanoes, Upper Elementary students took a broader, social view of the effects of communities living near volcanic sites. Stratovolcano or cinder cone volcanoes are potentially much more dangerous to live near when they blow their tops, than living near a shield volcano where lava is oozing out the crown instead of exploding violently. Students learned about early warning signs that a volcano may soon be erupting by the increased amounts of earthquakes in the area and by measuring increased gasses emitted from the crown of the volcano.


Finally, students researched active volcanoes and studied some of the myths that have evolved to explain some of the natural behaviors of volcanoes, such as the goddess Pele who monitors Kilauea on the Island of Hawaii. Legend has it that Pele is aware of any piece of lava missing from the volcano and responds with fury (flowing lava) until the piece is returned.

The culmination of the volcano studies happened when sulfur (a naturally occurring element in a volcano) and other compounds were added to the volcanoes and then ignited; there were sparks and smoke and the face of the volcano was forever changed, replicating the natural process.


Volcanoes – Part 1

For the last three months, “volcanology” has been on the minds of Upper Elementary students and their teachers. The foundation of their volcano studies began with an understanding of plate tectonics. On Earth, there are seven or eight major plates (depending on how they are defined)and many minor plates. Our students investigated 16 different plates. Where plates meet, their relative motion determines the type of boundary: convergent (move towards each other), divergent (move away from each other). Earthquakes and volcanic activity occur along these plate boundaries.


Three different kinds of volcanoes dominate the landscape. Stratovolcanoes are tall and explosive, think Mt. Fuji. Cinder cone volcanoes are not as tall as stratovolcanoes, but are still explosive, such as Mt. St. Helens. Finally, the third variation is call the shield volcano, which is flat and not explosive, but is always putting out steam and oozing magma, like Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii.

L1080785Once the students had the big picture of why certain volcanoes form in different parts of the Earth, depending upon the plate tectonics, they began to investigate the parts of the volcano (introduced to Montessori primary age students) and started to see why the magma chamber in a stratovolcano looked so different from the magma chamber of a shield volcano. The pressure in a stratovolcano keeps building up, until there is too much force and it explodes violently.L1080908

Viscosity is another important feature of volcanic studies. It is the measurement of “the extent to which a fluid resists a tendency to flow.” Some volcanoes have high viscosity such as a shield volcano, where the magma can be observed (relatively safely) as it is oozing slowly out of the main crater of the volcano, cooling and building land as it hardens. In class, the students learned about the concept of viscosity by running a side experiment where they timed the movement of molasses, versus oil, to see which one took more time to reach the end of the board (molasses has higher viscosity).

*Join us on Wednesday as we conclude our two part series on volcanoes. 

Montessori Math: Part 3

Today we conclude our look at Montessori Math. 

By the time a student has transversed fundamental math concepts, and is entering FMS middle school (7th & 8th grade); they are amply prepared for experiencing pre-algebra, algebra and pre-geometry. Not only do the students perceive the “why” behind the concept presented, there is a context in their minds for the fundamental ideas being addressed.


When they are asked to perform a computation from more of an abstract level, they have a visual and tactile memory of using the Montessori materials concretely. They are the owners of their math skills, instead of simply being a retainer of math facts.

Our FMS graduates are so well prepared for high school math, that the majority of our students successfully test into honors geometry as freshman. They know how and why math concepts are employed to solve equations. They are also steeped in the joy of being able to use their knowledge as a language into solving real life problems, such as creating a matrix that analyzes the costs of doing a school dance, or for solving other real life math questions.

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DSCN0493Math is demystified and made accessible to all students using the Montessori method, because the steps are presented with concrete materials, and the explanations for using the materials are methodically explained. The consistency of using the same materials from primary lessons through their elementary lessons (such as using the bead stair) forms a strong foundation of understanding math concepts from a concrete perspective. When more abstract math is introduced, FMS graduates have a true conceptual understanding of the math principles used.


Montessori Math: Part 2

L1080842In Lower Elementary (6-9 years old), students explore operations using the checkerboard (multiplication), racks and tubes (division), and also using the bead frames to bring home the concepts of place value and manipulating numbers to solve 4 and 5 digit equations.

L1080855Multiplication boards are employed for learning math facts, first in a tangible way and then as a tool for memorizing math facts so there is rapid recall; thus preparing them for the next big leap in doing Math in Upper Elementary (9-12 years old).  Students at this level become very familiar with practical life skills of using a ruler, telling time and working with money.

It is during the Upper Elementary years that we see a significant jump in standardized test scores, where the underlying concrete understanding of fundamental math concepts and functions help the students to outperform their peers from more traditional backgrounds. It is at this time, that students spend time working with Montessori materials to understand fractions, decimals, percentages, positive and negative place value in the decimal system, and operations with whole numbers (addition and subtraction).

L1080833Some of the critical foundations of doing higher math in high school are laid in the Upper Elementary grades.

L1080834Students become very familiar with counting, adding and subtracting fractions, percents, and converting percents to decimals. Using negative numbers and delving into pre-algebra by creating and solving algebraic equations is routine for students in these grades.  Finally, substantial effort is made to make square roots an easily understood concept.


*Join us next Tuesday as we continue to look at Montessori Math

Montessori Math: Part One

DSC_8615Today we begin a blog series on Montessori Math. For our first addition we will be discussing Montessori Math in the Primary years.

The Montessori Math program at FMS is a pathway to a deep, concrete and useful relationship with the power and recognition of numbers and their corresponding values. One of the early math works for our primary aged students are found in using the sandpaper numbers. The student feels the rough impression of the number on their finger tips, while the teacher is saying the name of the number.

11.22.6As the primary-aged student begins to understand the correspondence between the number and the quantity, they have elevated their understanding to a new level of mastery.

Within the primary aged classroom, the Montessori math materials create an array of tools that solidify the child’s grasp of recognizing 1-10, the concept of 0, recognizing and creating teens and tens, and then being able to put the whole picture together by doing the 100 board.

5.16.1Seeing the child connect the concept of counting 10 on a ten bar and then adding 1 single red bed to now create 11, is a milestone in their development.

DSC_8610Number chains afford the student the opportunity to count the beads and see the patterns emerge, such as the “2 chain” which is made up of two sets of two beads. Number chains are eventually used to demonstrate skip counting (i.e. counting by twos). Each number 1-10 has its own unique chain.

L1080575As the primary aged student learns about the golden beads, they are able to do the decimal layout and tangibly work with place value of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

L1080536This is truly a stepping point for the students because once this is mastered, they are now ready for performing the operation of addition (4 digits), followed by multiplication, subtraction and division.

L1080693Eventually, golden beads are replaced with the stamp game. The stamp game is made of color coded wooden tiles representing units, tens, hundreds and thousands. The work is used to do the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division; affording the student the same advantage of using golden bead materials to solve the problems (and reallysee place value), but in a more contained manner.



Join us on Thursday we discuss Montessori Math in the Lower and Upper Elementary Years. 

Summer Camp 2015