I was reminded recently that Maria Montessori did not provide us with an elementary curriculum, simply with materials and the instructions on how to use them. (This is aside from the underlying philosophy—I am speaking simply of the tools we have in the classroom.) This can mean that we have, as my trainer Sister Mary called them, “gaps” in what a Montessori child learns.
I remember hearing about one child who left a very high-quality Montessori program in 3rd grade to enter a public school, only to have the new teacher discover that he could not count money. Sounds silly, but this kind of thing happens more than we’d like to admit. There’s no official Montessori material for teaching money, and it is up to the teachers and parents to make something or buy something that they can use for this concept. When they don’t, we end up with gaps.
Since we try not to use too many workbooks in Montessori (which is a good thing overall), it can also mean that Montessori children are not familiar with concepts like true/false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blank. On the surface it seems like those “testing skills” don’t need to be taught, but there are actually tips that can help a child when they are being tested can help alleviate testing anxiety. Many Montessori schools incorporate standardized testing, and children often leave the Montessori environment at some point and face testing.
How can we bridge those gaps? Often, it means buying or creating materials that fill in some of those extra concepts. Even a quick lesson with a dry erase board can be enough – once the child is exposed to the concept, that’s enough. In other cases, they will need hands-on practice to master the skill.
Unfamiliar with any of the concepts below, or not sure how to teach them? Google is your best friend. Simply Google the term you’re interested in (“telling time activities”, or “library skills for kids”) and the top results will be great sources of information. You’ll find free lesson plans, free printables, suggestions for activities, and more.
Concepts to include in the Elementary 6-9 Classroom:
Most 3-6 and 6-9 classrooms have some sort of telling time material – often in the form of matching cards, with a rubber stamp in the shape of a clock. This is a great beginning, but elementary-age children should be doing word problems with time concepts as well.
Even if introduced in 3-6, elementary-age children should have a chance to learn the names of the coins and paper currency of their country. As well, they should do word problems involving money and learn how to make change. Giving them play money along with the word problem helps them count it out concretely.
Many Montessori elementary classrooms use “Editing Sentences”, which are sentences with mistakes that need to be corrected. The mistakes should include grammar, spelling, and syntax. Even if you don’t have pre-printed sentences, you can write a sentence on a dry-erase board incorrectly and have children correct it. Don’t know the proper proofreading marks? Google “proofreading marks” and you’ll not only find lots of helpful websites, but printable charts that show the marks and their meanings.
Venn Diagrams are overlapping circles used to show relationships between sets of things (objects, places, animals, people, or characteristics of things). One nice way to use them is to integrate them into the Montessori materials. For instance, you can ask elementary children to choose two nomenclature card sets (two vertebrates, two invertebrates, or one of each) and use a Venn diagram to show any characteristics they have in common and any that they do not have in common.
Children should be shown a variety of maps, including the world map, continent maps, country maps, state or province maps, and the globe. They should also be shown different types of maps, including geographic, weather, and political. They need to know what the symbols are and how to interpret them. They should also learn about how distance is shown to scale and how to calculate distance on a map.
There are many ways to graph information, including pie charts, picture charts, tallying, bar graphs, and more. Children should have at least a cursory knowledge of each kind.
Children should be familiar with a variety of formats, including multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false. They should be shown how to use process of elimination to make answering multiple choice questions easier, and should know tricks that tests use, like including answers that are very similar to make it harder to choose the correct one.
Dictionary & Thesaurus Skills
Children should know how to look up words in a dictionary, and should be familiar with how definitions are laid out (pronunciation, parts of speech, multiple meanings). They should also understand the use of a thesaurus.
Health and the Human Body
This subject is covered in the 9-12 materials, but not 6-9. Children should learn about all the systems of the human body and how they work, and be familiar with concepts like the senses, good nutrition, and personal safety.
Children should be able to look up books in a library computer system, and have a basic understanding of the Dewey Decimal System and how books are categorized in a library.
Computer skills can include programming, coding, robotics, graphic design, desktop publishing, designing a website, blogging, and building a computer.
You also might be interested in:
The Comprehensive List for 6-9 – a list of every single material and concept necessary for the 6-9 child, (including everything I’ve mentioned here) in a handy checklist format