A Montessori elementary class is designed in philosophy and environment to meet the needs of the elementary age child. At Millhopper Montessori School we have developed and adapted our elementary program over a 21 year period.
Usually, each class has an age range of approximately two years or more. A Montessori premise is that children learn by example from their peers. The Montessori materials are the finest in teaching academic concepts while integrating the modalities of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences. Concentration, developed in early childhood through the area of Practical Life, allows for the elementary student to be competent, confident, and accelerate into the academic areas of math, language, geography, and science.
The reading/literature program at MMS begins in the preschool years. The children entering our first grade class are usually well prepared and can read simple books. Montessori elementary teachers are trained and are qualified to teach reading to their students. Because Montessori education originated in Italy, there is much supplementation and teacher-made materials in the classroom. SRA, Reading Counts, Phono-Graphix, Junior Great Books, and many other contemporary and complementary programs are incorporated into MMS’ reading curriculum.
The Junior Great Books program begins in the second grade and continues through the sixth grade. The second grade Great Books program is an introduction to some forms of literature and specifically Newberry Award books. Depending on the material, stories are read to the class or a chapter is read from a novel. Reviewing vocabulary, idioms, and events that are happening takes place at pauses during the reading. The children discuss characters, plot, dilemma and theme. The Great Books program in the second grade is a strong base for the long in-depth analysis that is the hallmark for the third grade program. Through the third grade, Junior Great Books is facilitated by the classroom teachers. The fourth, fifth and sixth grade students take part in a combination of Junior Great Books and novels with our upper level reading teacher and librarian/media specialist, Martha Horter. Literature class follows a Socratic discussion format. Responses are read and discussed in order to fully process and understand the author’s ideas and intent. Vocabulary is built into this curriculum as well.
Additional reading occurs through the Reading Counts program in which all the elementary students participate. In the upper elementary grades, reading takes a shift from learning how to read, to learning to enjoy literature.
First-Third grade Phono-Graphix
Along with the reading activities provided in class, the students benefit from extra time with a reading teacher. In first through third grade, the students have formal reading group time daily, or several times a week depending on their level and needs, with our reading therapist, Elaine Manion. The program we use is called Phono-Graphix (PG). Phono-Graphix, a reading method developed by Read America, and researched by the University of South Florida is based on rigorous research in the field of reading. PG addresses auditory processing, code knowledge, and cognitive strategy in the curriculum. The (PG) program in MMS’s lower elementary provides students with a decoding method that presents the units of sounds (sound pictures) that are contained in words. A sound picture is a letter or group of letters representing a single sound. Unlike phonics which teaches letter sounds in isolation, PG always teaches them in words so there is meaning. PG also sets the stage for spelling skill proficiency.
Creative Writing and Composition
Creative writing and journal writing begin in kindergarten and continue through the elementary grades. In early childhood, the children are encouraged to write with their developmental inventive-spelling. Creative writing and simple research writing begins in kindergarten as well. The fourth grade students participate in the Florida Writes program by practicing narrative as well as expository writing. Composition in the fifth and sixth grade is called the Writer’s Workshop. The emphasis in composition class is developing the writing process of prewriting, writing, revising, editing, and rewriting. The seventh and eighth grade students write and layout the MMS yearbook.
The Montessori curriculum for grammar, mechanics and spelling is superior to any other single curriculum approach. Using symbols for parsing and logical charts for diagramming, the students can engage in concepts that are usually reserved for older students. The purpose for this is to enhance writing skills and gain a deep understanding for our language and builds a foundation for approaching other languages as well. We do not use a text book series for conventions but utilize many printed resources along with the Montessori curriculum of lessons, demonstrations, and independent work. After a lesson is given on a new concept, the students work independently on their contract (work plan) and practice their skills. In first through sixth grade, the students have work plans that the teachers create for the different ability and grade level groups in their class. Some of these activities require the use of Montessori manipulative materials and some are work sheets that the teachers either create or copy from printed resources. The work plans are checked by the teachers and assistants and the students are required to make corrections. The students are given the opportunity of getting one-on-one assistance from the teachers and may also work with their peers or independently.
In kindergarten, the children are presented the D’nailian technique. This is done primarily to ease them into cursive. Cursive is presented in first and second grade and continued practice is built into the third and fourth grade class as well. There is no formal writing instruction beyond the fourth grade. Third graders learn keyboarding skills and students in upper elementary are encouraged to type their research projects.
Mathematics and Geometry
In first through sixth grade, the students have work plans that the teachers create for the different ability and grade level groups in their class. Some of these activities require the use of Montessori manipulative materials and some are work sheets that the teachers either create or copy from printed resources. The work plans are checked by the teachers and assistants. The students are required to make corrections. The students are given the opportunity of getting one-on-one assistance from the teachers and may also work with their peers or independently
In grades fourth through eighth, the senior elementary students and the middle school students have formal math instruction in small ability-level groups. These groups occur at the same daily time block allowing for the integrity of developmental placement and a wider breadth of math levels to be offered. The fourth through sixth grade elementary instructional time is forty minutes and the seventh and eighth is much longer. The two classes are divided into five to six groups of six to twelve students. The students are placed in the groups by means of placement teats at the beginning of each school year. The lowest level offered is a fourth/fifth grade Saxon Math grouping using the Saxon 54 text. The levels progress through Saxon 65, Saxon 76, Saxon 87, Pre Algebra UCSMP and Algebra 1 UCSMP (University of Chicago School Mathematics Project).
The fourth, fifth and sixth grade students use math manipulatives for algebra, cubing, square root, and integers when needed. The students are not drawn in some way to the materials as much as when they were younger due to preferring to solve mathematical problems with algorithms. The middle school students do not use manipulatives for mathematics.
The students can choose to come to study hall in the afternoon to receive additional help.
Montessori elementary teachers are trained and qualified to teach science as classroom teachers. A significant amount of time is given on scope and sequence and teacher-made scientific charts and materials. The focus is predominantly biology, the human body and health, and the earth sciences. In the lower elementary class (first and second grade) the focus is on biology and physical science. Methods are presented in biology to introduce the children to the observation of the phenomena of life. Through group lessons and individual use of manipulatives, children learn to identify, organize, and classify information concerning animals and plants and to understand the life functions of both. In the early childhood classes, the children focus on the external parts of vertebrates. This continues in lower elementary along with the introduction of invertebrates, the internal parts of animals, and classification of the Animal and Plant Kingdoms.
In physical science, the focus is on the properties of objects and materials, light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. The children also learn about properties of earth materials, objects in the sky, and changes in the Earth and sky. The first and second grade students also look at the role of technology, in regards to designs such as bridges.
Beginning in the third grade, the students are introduced to the text curriculum: Scott Foresman Science. The fourth/fifth grade students use the fifth grade level text over a two year period. One year would cover biology and the human body. The alternating year would cover physical science, earth science, and health. The students use the text book as an in-class supplement to the hands-on Montessori science curriculum. The Montessori hands-on science curriculum consists of an abundance of charts, experiments, demonstrations and scientific models that facilitate independent research projects and group discussions. The Sunshine State Standards are used as a guide as well as the teacher’s guide to the text book.
The sixth grade class uses the sixth grade level text covering either biology or the human body or physical science, earth science, and health depending on which unit-topics they had in their fifth grade year. The two classes cover the same unit-topics on the same year ensuring that a student doesn’t get two consecutive years of the same unit-topics. The students are required to read from the text as homework and hand in answers to the questions at the end of each section. Videos, experiments, scientific models, microscopes, charts, books, on-line resources, field trips, and guest speakers supplement and extend the fourth through sixth grade science curriculum. The Sunshine State Standards are used as a guide as well as the teacher’s guide to the text book.
Every year the third through eighth grade students participate in a Science Fair or an Invention Fair. The students are given outlines and instruction on following scientific procedure. They pursue the project as a month-long homework assignment, turning in an outline to the teacher for pre approval. The projects are displayed on the day they are due and each student presents and defends his or her project to his or her class. The projects are graded according to a rubric. There is no competition. We hold our Science Fair in the spring and do not participate or compete in the county-wide Science Fair.
The first and second grade class completes a Science Fair project as a class. The teacher directs and models the scientific procedure. The Junior and Intermediate elementary classes have science buddies once a week with a kindergarten class.
MMS’ fourth grade through middle school program uses a text book curriculum to supplement the Montessori science curriculum. We found the text book series to provide comprehensive assessments, experiments, and a scope and sequence that follows the Sunshine State Standards. We selected Scott Foresman Science because it has a hands-on component of scientific experiments that is consistent with the Montessori approach and requires students to use higher level thinking skills. We span a two year period in pursuing the different unit-strands to allow for the integration of the Montessori curriculum and the text curriculum.
The Middle school class uses a different text curriculum that complements the Montessori curriculum goals for adolescents. The details of the middle school science curriculum are addressed following the elementary section.
Social studies consist of history and geography. In the first and second grade class the students are introduced to the concepts of history through the Montessori Great Lessons. These lessons are developmentally appropriate for children of this age and are designed to instill a sense of wonder and to ignite their imagination. The Great Lessons are told as if around a campfire and there is much preparation and fanfare. The Great Lessons include the story of the beginning of the universe, the timeline of life, the history of writing, and the history of mathematics. Following these lessons, the students explore the fundamental needs of people. This gives them a framework for studying any civilization or any fundamental need (clothing, for example) through history.
This work with the Montessori great lessons continues through third grade. The third grade students study local history with a focus on North Florida and Alachua County. Local history instruction makes use of the text book: HBJ Social Studies Communities, Landmark Edition for the first half of the year. The students also work on mapping skills, identifying resources, different communities and the structure of a community.
Fourth grade students begin to study state history (Florida). We issue each student the text book: Florida: Social Studies for a Changing World by Macmillan/McGraw Hill. The Florida Heritage series is also used along with other resources and media.
Fifth grade students study United States History and are issued the text: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill; The United States and its Neighbors. Along with the text, the students put on skits and engage in research reports. All of our fifth grade students participate in Safety Patrol duties and go to Washington D.C. each year with the other schools in the county.
Sixth grade students study World History and are issued the text Macmillan/McGraw-Hill; World Adventures in Time and Place. Along with the text, the students put on skits and engage in research reports.
Geography is abundant in the Montessori curriculum beginning in preschool. The approach progresses from whole to part in that the young child learns the parts of the world (continents and oceans). As the child gets older, he or she will study the Montessori map puzzles of various countries around the world. This is done in units that integrate music, foods, dances, customs, etc. and continues through first and second grade. By the time the students are in third and fourth grade, they focus down to their individual state. The study of one’s state is a standard requirement for all fourth graders in the U.S. We have not found any conflict in implementing the standard state requirements in social studies with the Montessori scope and sequence because they converge naturally in the fourth grade.
Montessori elementary teachers are trained and qualified to teach social studies as classroom teachers. A significant amount of time is given on scope and sequence and making beautiful timelines and materials. The focus is predominantly great civilizations and the fundamental needs of people. MMS’ fourth grade through middle school program uses a text book to supplement the Montessori social studies curriculum with a scope and sequence that follows the Sunshine State Standards.
Foreign Language (Spanish)
First through fifth grade students participate in a non-graded Spanish curriculum. Grading and course credit awards begin in the sixth grade. First through third grade students have Spanish instruction for an hour per week and fourth and fifth grade students have an hour and a half to two hours per week.
The emphasis is on conversational Spanish in the lower elementary classes through the use of games, songs and stories. The upper grades continue reviewing what was learned in the lower grades as well as learning reading, grammar and composition skills. All levels also study the diverse cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. The students receive an “s” or a “u” (satisfactory or unsatisfactory) grade on their report card for Spanish until the seventh grade (see middle school Spanish).
Montessori elementary teacher training includes instruction for classroom teachers to provide a complete music curriculum for their students. This includes music appreciation, learning about composers and various styles of music, instruments of the orchestra, rhythm activities, learning to sing a repertoire of songs, and performing in front of an audience.
At Millhopper Montessori School we have a separate music teacher that rotates to each class once a week. Our music teacher plays a variety of instruments as well as teaches the children to sing by modeling perfect pitch. She leads the classes in our winter program and in our end of the year musical performance.
Montessori elementary teacher training includes instruction for classroom teachers to provide a complete art curriculum for their students. This includes art appreciation, learning about artists and various styles of art, exposure to various mediums, daily and weekly activities, and incorporating art into other subject areas. At Millhopper Montessori we have a separate art teacher for the elementary and middle school students.
Our art teacher works with each class for an hour per week. She uses the Sunshine State Standards as a scope and sequence for skills and techniques, creation and communication, cultural and historical connections, aesthetic and critical analysis, and applications to life.
The art teacher takes her equipment cart from class to class. We do have covered outside areas but do not have a separate art room. The teachers are constantly concerned with the effect that art activities place on the classroom. The rugs are helpful for acoustics and for “working” on the floor but are hard to maintain when weather requires the class to eat lunch inside or when art class takes place in the classroom.
Physical Education Program
MMS is fortunate to have a partnership with the University of Florida Physical Education department where we are given a student who is working on a master’s level. These students are trained in the latest and most state-of-the-art techniques and are experienced in the use of the Sunshine State Standards. The PE curriculum includes a variety of team sports, fitness through the National and President’s Council of Physical Fitness. The students become competent in physical education literacy and develop a level of personal physical fitness promoting a physically active lifestyle.
1st – 2nd Grade
Students are introduced to the fitness concepts of flexibility, muscular strength, and cardiovascular endurance. Presidential fitness tests are completed and students receive some indirect training to areas stressed on the test. Students have daily involvement with stretching, jumping and leaping activities as well as additional locomotor movements of skipping, hopping, and galloping. The skills of throwing and catching are reintroduced. Proper form by following the stressed skill cues is taught as well as the involvement of performing the skill at various levels (low, medium, high) and to both stationary and moving targets. Kicking is performed at various speeds as well as at different targets with trapping being involved in the same sequence rather than separate. Students will play modified games involving the before mentioned skills, however, multiple balls will be used to switch the focus from the goal to the process of getting it there. Cooperation activities are introduced at this level. Dribbling and ball handling skills will be introduced as well as movement through space during dribbling activities. Understanding cardiovascular benefits will be taught through participation in the jump rope for heart program.
Cooperation is stressed through many team-building and problem-solving activities. Games are focused to involve personal and social behavior improvement. The fitness concepts of flexibility are included through daily stretching. Cardiovascular endurance is improved through daily participation in running and conditioning activities. Muscular strength is improved throughout the year with various upper and lower body activities. The presidential fitness tests are completed during the year and the students will train specifically for the tests throughout the school year. Warm-up activities are done daily with students demonstrating proficiency in personal space, leaping, hopping, and sliding. Students are re-introduced to throwing, catching, kicking, and trapping. Small, modified games are played or larger games with the inclusion of more balls. Basic rules and strategy are included with stress being placed on moving to open space. Students are also introduced to short-handed implements where basic ground strokes and coordination are taught. Students participate in basketball activities of dribbling, passing, and shooting. Basic rules are incorporated but a higher emphasis will be on teamwork. Students will participate in various jumping activities through involvement in the jump rope for heart program and become aware of the cardiovascular benefits of participation in jump roping activities. Students will also learn how to become advocates for cardiovascular improvement.
4th-5th – 6th Grade
Students receive daily involvement in training for the presidential fitness in the areas of flexibility through daily stretching of the upper and lower body. Students participate in a variety of cardiovascular activities including daily running and cardiovascular activities, jump rope for heart and modified game play. Muscular strength is included in through various upper body and lower body activities during warm up and game play. Students work on locomotor movements such as leaping, jumping, and sliding every day. Students become aware of benefits of the fitness concepts and learn how to be advocates of cardiovascular endurance through involvement in the jump rope for heart program. A proficiency of dodging and various pathways is stressed. Extension tasks and modified games are played to continue the development of throwing, catching, dribbling, kicking, trapping, shooting, passing, and skill with short-handed implements. Rules or modified rules are taught and strategy is included, specifically movement to open space and making quick tactical decisions. Balance and weight transfer will also be stressed through various activities. Cooperation activities and an appreciation for safety are included to improve personal and social behavior.
7th – 8th Grade
Students participate in a variety of modified game play to improve and apply technique and skills in the areas of throwing/catching, using short-handed implements, kicking/trapping, dribbling, shooting, and passing. Locomotor movements are demonstrated within these activities. An emphasis on moving to open space, finding the open person, making quick and accurate decisions in an “open” environment and tactical understanding is stressed. Students demonstrate an understanding of the rules or modified rules and team strategy through cooperation is incorporated. Students work on assessing each other to understand skills and skill cues from both a cognitive and psychomotor context. Through the use of correctives and enrichments, due to the variety of skill levels, individual improvement is stressed through working with others using peer-coaching strategies. Students indirectly train for participation in the presidential fitness tests and will complete them throughout the year. Cardiovascular benefits will be stressed during participation in jump rope for heart. Students will also learn to demonstrate advocacy for cardiovascular health as a result of participation. Balance and weight transfer will be stressed through combative and tumbling activities. Students are taught various social dances, e.g. swing to demonstrate various competencies by designing personal routines. Cooperation activities are done periodically specifically to improve personal and social behavior. These skills are also reinforced during game play and modified game play.
Towards the close of the school year the 5-8 grade students will be taught health over a four-week period. The content matter over this period will be on prevention of injury and disease, knowledge on tobacco and alcohol as well as refusal skills. Goal setting, decision-making, advocating for health, assessing health information, self-management skills, and interpersonal communication skills will also be incorporated into the program.