The main areas of the Montessori classroom
The Practical Life Area
Practical life activities resemble the most basic everyday tasks found all over the world, such as pouring water from a jug to a glass, sweeping up a spill, caring for plants and sewing on a button. The activities of this area are child size and are made up of a variety of materials including glass, ceramics, wood and metal.
The Practical Life Area assists in the development of gross and fine motor movement and the overall control and coordination of self. Practical Life activities foster concentration and awareness by providing real and accurate feedback based on the child's own actions. For example, if they pour water from a jug too fast they will over flow the receiving glass and spill the water.
Practical life also affords children the opportunity to become stewards of their classroom and functioning members of a community. They develop the skills needed to manage their work space, tidy up, serve a friend something to eat, welcome a guest into the classroom, wash a table that is dirty or embellish the environment by painting a picture or making a floral arrangement.
Exercises in Practical Life promote logical thinking by having very clear and successive steps to a process. They help to prepare the child both physically and mentally for later academic works where concentration, logic, and fine motor control are needed.
The Sensorial Area
Montessori understands that children experience the world through their senses. This is why we advocate independent learning; the child must do the work of exploration themselves to truly understand the world around them.
The Sensorial Area provides precise materials that isolate for a single quality present in nature and used in everyday life. For example; length, weight, temperature, colour, diatomic scale, pressure etc. The children are free to explore these materials in their own way and to take ownership over the discoveries they make.
Each activity has an inherent control of error that allows the child to use their own reason, critical faculty and capacity for drawing distinctions. This prepares the individual to trust their own powers of reasoning and to find answers and solutions by and for themselves. Additionally, the child is given ample opportunities to apply their newly acquired knowledge to the environment. For example, use of the tasting bottles brings the child to the identification of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. The child can later explore these qualities during meal times and cooking class thus expanding and deepening their connection to the world.
The Mathematics Area
Montessori believes that numeracy is just as important as literacy. The building blocks for understanding the numerical techniques of mathematics should be as foundational as the building blocks for learning how to speak, write and read.
The mathematic materials have many properties that are presented to the child in order of increasing complexity. They are accurate, hold foundational concepts, encourage exploration and possess their own control of error.
The children learn first to recognise the quantities 0 - 9999 and then the corresponding numerical representations (i.e. numbers). In this way numbers possess meaning and weight. The children then learn how to manipulate these numbers with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. At first these manipulations occur with the use of very concrete sensorial materials, but slowly the manipulations become more abstract.
The Language Area
Within the Montessori environment language is viewed as the child's creation. In the same way the child taught himself to speak he will teach himself to write and to read. The child creates his own facility for language based upon what he absorbs from his environment and his level of participation and engagement within that environment.
We begin, and continue, with language enrichment activities through the use of a variety of means. Through story telling, poems, songs, rhymes and vocabulary enrichment activities the sounds of our language are isolated and quickly associated to their corresponding letters. With this knowledge the child teaches himself to build phonetic words, how to write and then how to read. Increasingly more difficult keys to the English language are presented to the child to facilitate fluency. When the child is a fluent reader the concepts of grammar and sentence structure are presented to him. Sai Kung Montessori offers a bilingual program (Putonghua and English). The Putonghua lessons and materials mirror those of the English language section described above.