Primary (3-6) Program
The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one's self. Adults work to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be. Such experience is not just play... it is work he must do in order to grow up.
– Maria Montessori
At Wilmington Montessori School, the Primary Program is designed to meet the developmental needs of children between the ages of 3 and 6.
These preschool and kindergarten-age children are in what Maria Montessori called the first plane of development—the stage in a young child’s life characterized by a need for order, concrete thinking, sensitive periods for learning, and great strides in emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, children learn at their own rate, and it’s common for knowledge to be acquired in bursts with plateaus in between.
As in the Toddler Program, Primary students are learning through their senses, but they are no longer simply absorbing the environment as they did as toddlers. Each child follows a different learning trajectory, and moves along the developmental continuum through individualized lessons. Our teachers adapt and modify the curriculum to ensure access for all students, regardless of their skill or ability level.
Independence is crucial for children in the Primary Program. When students are able to button their coats for the first time, write their names without help, sequence numbers to 100 or read a book all by themselves, their confidence grows. They develop an enthusiasm for learning. Once they are able to do for themselves, they are capable of doing for others.
- Practical Life
- Language Arts: Reading and Writing
- Cultural Studies: Social Studies and Science
- Assessment of Learning
The Practical Life curriculum offers students hands-on lessons for tasks they will encounter in everyday life. Many lessons expand a child's knowledge and skill in basic, useful and purposeful tasks, while others focus on controlled body movements, allowing children to develop coordination. Not only do children learn to take care of themselves and their environment, they are also developing the abilities to concentrate and attend to multi-step tasks.
Practical Life exercises for Primary students include:
- Pouring water with careful and purposeful movements
- Walking around work mats to avoid distracting classmates
- Closing and opening doors quietly
- Transferring small objects between containers with spoons, tweezers and other utensils
- Polishing silver
- Using a screwdriver
- Carrying a chair with control
- Washing dishes
- Preparing snacks
In the Primary Program, children move from working and playing alongside their peers toward interactive play and collaborative work.
As these social interactions increase, the need for cooperation, respect and contribution arises. Grace and courtesy lessons, a key component of the Practical Life curriculum, set the expectation for positive social interactions. Through these lessons, students learn to take care of themselves, others and their environment. The principles and activities of Responsive Classroom, a social curriculum used at all levels at WMS, support these grace and courtesy lessons and allow the group to form a sense of community.
Primary students progress through developmental stages of conflict resolution, a process that is facilitated by adult role modeling and coaching. Children learn that their actions impact others, and they are responsible for righting their wrongs. The Peace Table, a place where students can participate in peer-to-peer conflict resolution strategies, is an important component of the social curriculum. Children as young as 3 learn to use "I" statements to describe their feelings and what is needed to resolve the conflict. Together with grace and courtesy lessons and teachers modeling behavioral expectations, students become better able to make constructive decisions on their own.
Unique to the Montessori Method, Sensorial materials allow children to use their senses to learn more about their environment. These materials help students refine their ability to observe, compare, discriminate, differentiate, reason, make decisions and problem-solve.
Not only do Sensorial materials teach students to organize their observations based on the five traditionally recognized senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch), they also employ more subtle senses that allow the brain to discriminate differences in temperature and weight and identify objects through touch alone.
Sensorial lessons for Primary students include:
- Comparing length, width and height
- Grading objects by attribute (e.g., large to small, dark to light, broad to narrow)
- Identifying primary, secondary and tertiary colors
- Learning the formation of shapes and their names (including polygons, quadrilaterals and curvilinear shapes)
- Identifying three-dimensional shapes
- Discriminating objects using one sense at a time (e.g., smell, taste and touch)
Students in the Primary Program develop their mathematical mind through sorting, counting and recognizing patterns. They begin to reason and solve problems based on these early experiences. As they become ready, students are introduced to numbers and number relationships through hands-on interactions with precisely designed materials.
Repetition and practice help students commit math facts to memory and gain a greater understanding of number sense, allowing for an easy and fluid transition to more abstract math in the Lower Elementary years.
Math lessons for Primary students include:
- Sorting objects by attribute
- Extending patterns
- Associating quantity and numeral
- Identifying sets of greater, less than and equal value
- Combining sets that equal 10
- Writing numerals legibly
- Sequencing to 100
- Linear counting through 1,000
- Skip counting by 10s, 5s, 2s and beyond
- Learning to read two-, three- and four-digit numbers in expanded and standard notation
- Learning about place value through 1,000
- Solving simple math equations including addition, multiplication, subtraction and division
- Learning the process for static and dynamic mathematical operations
- Identifying coins and learning their value
- Telling time to the hour and half-hour
- Reading graphs and collecting data
- Communicating mathematical processes
Primary students’ developing interest in reading and writing leads to more focused instruction in literacy skills, such as letter recognition, consonant and vowel sounds, association of sounds and letters, sound blending and segmenting, and handwriting practice. Children learn new words through classifying and sorting objects and pictures that are related and relevant to real life. By the kindergarten year, children are well-equipped to use their reading skills to complete tasks in all areas of the classroom.
Students begin important pre-writing activities that include handwriting, developing hand strength, and writing letters that correspond with word sounds. As a precursor to writing, students trace sandpaper letters to gain muscle memory of the shape of letters as they are learning the sounds the letters make. Children trace metal insets and write on chalkboards to learn how much pressure to apply to write effectively. They also learn to form letters, identify punctuation, write narratives and understand story structure.
Primary students also develop their oral communication skills, which includes learning to describe and explain, sharing ideas in a logical order, and speaking clearly and audibly. Many children are able to tell stories long before they write.
Primary students build upon early impressions to discover the interconnectedness of all things. The Cultural Studies curriculum integrates social studies and science to provide students with a comprehensive approach to learning about the world. Students develop the ability to imagine other places and times and learn to approach lessons using the steps of scientific inquiry. Through discussion, investigation, observation and analysis, they reach new levels of understanding, which prepares them for the Great Lessons in the Lower Elementary (6-9) Program.
Cultural Studies lessons for Primary students include:
Social Studies - Geography and History
- Distinguishing between water and land on maps/globes
- Identifying the continents and learning the names of countries on each continent
- Comparing land and water forms
- Studying basic human needs
- Researching world cultures
- Creating personal timelines
- Reading clocks and communicating time in terms of years, season, months, days, hours and minutes
- Attending field trips that align with classroom studies
Science - Botany, Zoology, Physics and Chemistry
- Differentiating between living and nonliving
- Exploring the life cycles of plants and animals
- Identifying and comparing the five classes of vertebrates
- Caring for plants and animals
- Categorizing plant and animal needs based on environment
- Forming hypotheses and performing scientific experiments demonstrating basic concepts in physics and chemistry
Teachers in the Primary Program constantly observe children as they work, paying special attention to the child's developmental abilities and special interests in the various areas of the classroom. Teachers use their observations to create an academically appropriate environment that meets the needs of our diverse learners.
Literacy continua support teachers in monitoring emergent skills in both reading and writing development. In addition, we use more formalized assessments to determine oral language abilities, phonological awareness abilities, and reading and writing abilities. Formative assessments in math support learning while learning is taking place and allow teachers to pay careful attention to the ways children move through the sequence of the math curriculum.
All of these techniques give our teachers a clear vision for guiding learners through the Montessori environment. Coupled with parent input, we set goals that address the needs of our students. Families receive detailed progress reports that describe student’s abilities two times per year. In addition, two parent-teacher conferences are held each year so that goals can be reevaluated and adapted as needed.