The Montessori Lower Elementary classroom continues to support the physical, social ‐ emotional, and intellectual growth of the child established in the Early Childhood Programs. At Kingsley, there is an increased emphasis on intellectual development as the students prepare to enter the rigorous Upper Elementary program.
The Lower Elementary classroom environment is prepared with carefully selected didactic materials that are available to the students for learning. The daily schedule includes whole group lessons and a work cycle during which teachers give small group lessons, and students select work from each of the curricular areas. The classroom teachers carefully monitor the students’ work selection in order to ensure that students are consistently growing their skill sets in all areas of the curriculum. Co-Curricular classes, including Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Education, Library, and Technology often take place both during and outside of the work cycle.
The Lower Elementary classroom operates on a three‐year cycle. Students from First through Third grade work together in the classroom, each following an individualized educational program determined by collaborative work between parents, teachers, and students. Concepts are presented according to a spiraling curriculum, meaning that they are revisited during each year of Lower Elementary in greater depth. In addition, concepts are presented from the big picture to the details, meaning that teachers seek to teach all lessons in context. Finally, the Elementary program represents what Dr. Montessori referred to as materialized abstraction, meaning that all concepts are presented with the most concrete materials first, and then with increasingly abstract materials as students mature intellectually.
In addition to following the traditional principles of Montessori, Kingsley distinguishes itself in several ways. At Kingsley, the arts and sciences are decoupled from the traditional Montessori curriculum, and yet remain integrated with the classroom. For example, the Visual Arts teacher has worked closely with one classroom to plan a unit on the History of Writing. The classroom teachers present historical aspects of the unit while the Visual Arts teacher works to bring the unit alive by having the students create pictographic alphabets on clay tablets. Another way that Kingsley distinguishes itself at the Lower Elementary level is through the design and implementation of a special curriculum for Third Grade students. As they prepare to move to Upper Elementary, teachers provide the Third Grade students with learning opportunities to act as role models and leaders for their younger classmates. In science, the Third Grade students attend a special science class to learn the material. They then present it to their younger classmates in the science lab, under the supervision of the science teacher.
Lower Elementary students plan their work with Learning Journals in their classroom, which provides structure and allows for individually tailored expectations as well as a communicative tool for each student. This planner gives students the opportunity to take part in understanding and planning their “work.” The planner is a written study plan or guide for the day or week. At various grade levels, students and teachers work together to develop the work plans. This allows students the opportunity to understand the expectations and be responsible for completion of their work. The planner lists the basic tasks that they need to complete while allowing them to decide how long to spend on each and what order they would like to follow. Beyond the basic assignments, students research and explore topics that capture their interest and imagination under the direction of the teacher. Often, students engage in extended research of topics related to cultural study or a particular student’s interest. Through this process, each student understands the work he/she will accomplish during the week. This supports assisting students to “own” their learning, an important skill that differentiates the Kingsley student.
The Learning Journals also have a spot for a week-long personal goal. This can be social or academic goals such as to finish reading a book that a child had started, sit with a different person every day, or practice the Bead Frame every day.
The Language curriculum at this level seeks to enrich and expand the students developing abilities as speakers, readers, and writers of language. Through daily oral language work, students develop conversational and public speaking skills. They read challenging fiction and non‐fiction texts with intonation, expression, and comprehension, as well as participate in discussions about literature. With guidance and direct instruction, students learn to write legible paragraphs with accurate spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure over the course of the three‐year Lower Elementary cycle. They explore a variety of genres in writing and reading and learn to understand the functions of words in sentences as well as the parts of the sentence including subject, predicate and object through work with the Montessori grammar and sentence analysis materials. They use language as a learning tool through independently working with a variety of reference texts.
The Montessori Elementary curriculum in Language also has the goal of helping children understand the power of language through an exploration of its origins and evolution. Teachers present children with the History of Language, one of the five Great Lessons in the Elementary Curriculum. Through this work, students explore pre‐history, ancient writing systems, and the evolution of writing tools through interactive, hands-on work. The goal is to help students gain an appreciation for the advanced writing systems humans have developed.
The goal of the mathematics curriculum at the Lower Elementary level is to introduce children to increasingly complex concepts using the Montessori materials in a sequential, concrete to abstract manner. The curriculum builds on the material based understanding of numbers and their relationships rooted in the Early Childhood curriculum while helping the children to transition into more abstract thinking. This fundamental aspect of Montessori is often simply referred to as the progression from “concrete to abstract” and it is exemplified by the Lower Elementary math curriculum. Within this construct, students learn about place value and operations with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals. They develop an understanding of key geometric concepts and develop and apply knowledge of measurement and currency systems. They also develop and apply knowledge of data collection and probability. Finally, they complete word problems based on all of the above. Kingsley uses the Montessori materials to teach most concepts in mathematics while supplementing with other math materials. As with Language, teachers strive to introduce students to the big picture in the area of mathematics through the introduction of the History of Mathematics. Through this work, students explore ancient mathematicians, counting systems, and the origins of geometry. The goal is to introduce a sense of awe regarding the work that has been done to develop our current mathematical systems and to help students consider the contributions that they, too, may make.
The Science curriculum for Lower Elementary is an extension and continuation of the Montessori Cultural curriculum that focuses on the life sciences, biology, physical science, and astronomy. Kingsley offers a Science curriculum that offers hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities for all students. Students participate in inquiry using the Scientific Method to determine relationships, to collect data, to participate in facilitated discussions about the process, and to evaluate their explorations. Students work with materials in the classroom and also receive an additional Science class with a Specialist teacher once a week for the first two years of Lower Elementary, and then twice per week in the third year. Each year, the Lower Elementary students participate in a thematic science fair focusing on one of the major components of the science curriculum.
The primary goal of the Cultural studies curriculum at the Lower Elementary level is to help students understand that the Universe is a dynamic system and that they have a place within it. To this end, students study the five Montessori “Great Lessons,” the Story of the Universe, the Timeline of Life, the Timeline of Man, the Story of Mathematics, and the Story of Language.
They also develop knowledge of world and local geography including both political and physical geography, and explore economic geography and the interconnectivity of goods and services.
Peace Education, embodied by global awareness and local community service is, as in the Early Childhood Program, embedded into the fabric of the Lower Elementary curriculum. Principles of grace and courtesy are practiced from the time the students walk into the classroom, as they learn to shake the teacher’s hand and say good morning each day, clean up after themselves, and take responsibility for their own actions. The three‐year cycle enables third-year students to take on a leadership role in the peace education curriculum by modeling grace and courtesy and direct communication, and through increased involvement in community outreach.
During Morning Meeting and in daily interactions with teachers and peers, students focus on expressing their thoughts and feelings through the use of “I” statements. Teachers help students to speak clearly and maintain eye contact while stating their feelings in complete sentences. Students also receive support in developing their ability to respond appropriately to concerns that are brought to them.
Kingsley implemented a Social Emotional Learning curriculum from Yale University called RULER. This is not just a curriculum delivered to students via lesson plans and during group times or morning meetings; it pervades the social and emotional learning fabric of our everyday activities for children and adults. We believe this integrated home/school connection further supports our parents as partners to deliver the best education for each student. All of the specific curricular pieces we implement stem from using RULER and Montessori Grace & Courtesy as the foundations.
Many of the behavior guidelines that are established at the beginning of the year in each classroom are designed to ensure each student's safety and well-being and to create a culture and community of acceptance in the classroom and the School at large. All students and faculty follow a common set of guidelines known as classroom charters. All behavior management is based on an understanding of the developmental needs and growth of each student.
Respect and kindness toward others and responsibility for one's own behavior are important values in the school community. Students are to always act with integrity, whether that be with their social relationships or academic work. Students’ positive behavior is reinforced by the respectful ways in which their teachers work with them. Teachers are expected to be willing to put in the time necessary to help and assist students to effectively process through academic and social issues in a timely fashion. Students are involved in age-appropriate ways in developing and understanding acceptable behaviors within their classroom environments.
Practical Life in the Montessori Classroom is commonly identified as serving four areas of development. These are coordination, concentration, order, and independence. Students at the Elementary level continue to build these skills through work across curricular areas. In particular, the youngest members of the classroom continue to refine their hand-eye coordination and gross motor dexterity through work with pencil and scissor grips, carrying materials, and moving about the classroom and school environment. Students build concentration as they continue to self-select their work and workspaces during the three-hour independent work cycle each morning.
Students have increased responsibility for planning and executing their day as they choose their morning assignments with the guidance of a teacher by filling out a work plan. They are then responsible for using their work plan to guide their morning activities as they initiate, follow through, and complete assignments independently. As in the Early Childhood program, students develop order through independent care of self and of the environment. In particular, students have increased responsibility for order in the environment as they develop organizational skills through keeping materials such as unfinished work, completed assignments, and homework in designated areas. Throughout the day, students synthesize their nascent coordination, concentration, sense of order, and independence as they consistently move throughout the classroom environment taking care not to disturb others or their work.