Practical Life Studies (three year cycle)
The Practical Life exercises are important elements in Montessori education. They provide the fundamental building blocks on which the entire Montessori Method is constructed. The Practical Life exercises are the ones that are presented first to the young child entering a Montessori school.
The aims of these exercises are both developmental and environmental in nature. By developing the child’s coordination and concentration, and enhancing his/her natural sensitivity to order, the child accumulates successful interactions with the classroom environment. This success grants the child ever greater self sufficiency and independence. Practical Life exercises are simply various kinds of everyday domestic activities such as pouring water, scrubbing a table, polishing silver, etc. The Practical Life exercises develop and refine the child’s fine motor abilities while preparing the child’s hand for writing.
The Practical Life area also includes the integration of graceful movements with courteous behavior called Grace and Courtesy. Opportunities are provided for the continuous growth of the child, thereby building a foundation upon which all of the more “academic” achievements of a Montessori program are constructed.
The Sensorial materials in the classroom are designed to heighten the child’s senses by isolating each sense and developing it to its fullest. These exercises help the child develop skills needed for later academic areas such as observation, comparison, judgment, reasoning, and decision-making. The Practical Life activities are the foundation of the Montessori experience and the Sensorial activities are the heart. Working with the Sensorial materials helps the child to order his/her sensory impressions; the senses are the keys to the acquisition of knowledge.
Sensorial learning is considered to be the indirect preparation for mathematics. The Montessori Math materials are concrete and provide the child with visual, manipulative representations of mathematical concepts. The child does not consider math to be “work”. Instead he/she is drawn to this area by an internal drive to bring order and form to his/her world – to classify and to understand it. Order links the impressions of a student’s outer world with his/her inner world.
The purpose of the math materials in the Montessori preschool curriculum is to assist the child in developing a clear understanding of the mathematical concepts while engaging with the materials. This process is referred to as concrete learning. As the child moves through the curriculum and matures he/she is ready to move to abstract learning.
The Montessori language program fosters the development of auditory, visual, and motor skills that are later refined. The exercises in Practical Life and Sensorial are rich with vocabulary and therefore encourage the child’s natural ability to write words and phrases. For some children this occurs as early as age four. It was this spontaneous writing that four year olds demonstrated in Dr. Montessori’s first Children’s House that in part made her method world famous.
The Montessori approach to reading is phonetic and multi-sensory. The child is first introduced to the sounds of the letters (phoneme) in our alphabet. Once the child has developed a phonemic awareness base and understand that a word is made up of a beginning, middle and ending sound, they begin to construct CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. The child’s abilities further progress from reading on a word level to reading on a sentence level with the introduction of sight words. Opportunities for oral reading are provided for the child to further develop fluency and comprehension.