Category Archives: Kindergarten

What Are the Benefits of a Montessori Preschool?

“There are many who hold, as I do, that the most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.
– Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Montessori Preschool Absorbent Mind The Absorbent Mind: The Toddler and Preschool Years

Dr. Maria Montessori coined the phrase “Absorbent Mind” to describe the child’s most crucial developmental stage: the first six years. During decades of scientific observation, she noted the remarkable sponge-like ability of the child to take in new information.

During two stages of the Absorbent Mind period—from birth to age 3, and from age 3–6 —children soak up information from their environment, learning at a rapid rate. Because the unique capacity to learn in this way—and at this rate—lasts for the first six years of life, Dr. Montessori urged educators to take advantage of this critical stage. During this time, she argued, the impressions made on a child’s mind through lessons and the classroom environment are highly formative and can have a lasting impact on their future development.

Many of Dr. Montessori’s scientific theories are now supported by brain research being done today, more than 100 years later.  Based on our own experience over the past 40 years as an innovative Montessori school, we see many of the same benefits every day as children discover the joy and wonder of learning all around them.

5 Benefits of a Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten Program

1. Developmental Approach

The Montessori philosophy behind the Children’s House (preschool and kindergarten) program is based on scientific research into the stages of early childhood development. Designed to meet the developing needs of the three- to six-year-old, the Montessori program makes the most of this period of intense mental activity.

2. Comprehensive Curriculum

The Montessori preschool and kindergarten curriculum is remarkably broad and deep. The curriculum includes Language, Math, Science, Spanish Language, Cultural Studies (history, geography, physical sciences, botany, and zoology), Practical Life, Visual Arts, Music and Movement.  It is designed to help the child build skills and absorb knowledge at an individual pace and provides a solid foundation for elementary school and lifelong learning.

3. Focus and Independence

Making choices and using coordinated movements to accomplish tasks leads the preschool and kindergarten child toward self-regulation and self-control. The Montessori classroom environment and the Montessori method encourage focus, concentration and internal self-discipline.

4. Observation and Problem-Solving Skills

Through their Montessori work, children develop strong observation and problem-solving skills. Encouraged to make decisions from an early age, children in Montessori programs are nurtured to become creative problem-solvers who can make appropriate choices and manage their time well.

5. First Grade Readiness

Students who master the Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten curriculum are extremely well prepared for the academic, physical, and social work of first grade in Montessori Lower Elementary or traditional elementary schools.

More on the Benefits of Montessori Early Education

Exploring the Benefits of Montessori Early Education (Inly Insights)

Montessori Education and Brain Development: New research validates 100-year-old method (Inly Insights)

The Benefits of Montessori at Inly School

The Benefits of a Montessori Education at Inly School

Montessori Philosophy and Mission at Inly School

Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten at Inly School

To learn more about the Children’s House program at Inly, visit the Preschool and Kindergarten portal on the Inly website:

Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten at Inly

Exploring The Benefits of Montessori Early Education

 

 

“Knowledge can best be given where there is eagerness to learn, so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field, ready to receive what will germinate into knowledge.”
Maria Montessori

I am often asked the question, “Why Montessori?” by prospective families curious about early education. Parents want to understand the difference between the Montessori experience and other early education programs like daycare and nurseries. The answer to this lies at the intersection of responsibility and independence.

Early Education, Child Development and the Montessori Method

At Inly, the Montessori experience begins in Toddler House. At the core of Montessori philosophy is a deep respect for the child and a regard for him or her as a fully capable person. To support this, Inly’s Toddler House consists of a dedicated team of warm and nurturing teachers trained in early childhood development of toddlers and Montessori education. The classroom contains spacious, well designed areas where toddlers are free to explore with all their senses. In addition, everything is toddler-sized. Enticing work materials are displayed on low shelves within easy reach of curious hands. It always makes me smile to witness a toddler walk over to a shelf, select a work and bring it to a work space all on their own.

The Montessori Classroom: A Prepared Environment

In a Montessori classroom environment, activities are set up for children that nurture their intrinsic motivation. The “works” we provide for the children are accomplishable. A student can engage with each work until they have reached a place of mastery and then move on to the next work, which builds on the previous skill and is challenging and educational in a different way. The opportunity for mastery is different in a Montessori classroom. So often, in an ordinary classroom or daycare center, a child will be asked to abandon their work before they have finished. But rushing children and interrupting their work cycle results in an incomplete learning experience. In a Montessori classroom, a child is given more time and opportunity to master a work. Consequently, the student develops their ability to focus, hone fine and gross motor control, and problem-solve independently. Work is approached in a gentle and nurturing way that allows children to advance at their own pace.

Toddler House: Preparation for Preschool and Kindergarten

The Toddler House program prepares children for preschool work by exposing them to each area of Inly’s preschool and kindergarten curriculum in Children’s House. It also supports the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of each child. The toddlers learn concentration, coordination, language skills, responsibility, and respect—all of which prepare them well for a successful transition into preschool in Children’s House.

Children’s House is the formal name for the Montessori preschool and kindergarten program for children age three years through six years old. It is carefully designed to respond to the evolving developmental needs and interests (See Preschool Child Development: The Preschool and Kindergarten Age Child ).

Those who are part of the Montessori tradition have long valued a child’s natural affinity for exploration and understand how that sparks their desire to learn. Very often, daycare centers are teacher-driven and teacher-focused. In a teacher-centric program, the education is geared toward what the teacher is most interested in versus what the students are interested in. A teacher will say, “Ok kids, we’re all going to do this now.” While there’s definitely value in doing things together, not every moment needs to be orchestrated this way.

Dr. Montessori revolutionized the practice of education by shifting the paradigm of a teacher-centered system to a learner-centered one. Her belief was that the goal of a school should be to cultivate a child’s natural desire to learn, not to simply fill the child with facts. She felt that the discipline in a classroom should be self-discipline, and that children need the opportunity to develop it.

Misconceptions About Montessori Education

One of the most common misconceptions about Montessori is that the student is allowed too much freedom and that they may take advantage of that freedom. The beauty of a Montessori classroom, however, is that the student has choices within a discreetly controlled environment. Just as a parent would most likely not allow their child to eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day, in a Montessori environment, a child is encouraged to try different things and is encouraged to do different works, all under the careful guidance of a trained teacher. In addition, the multi-age classrooms allow for children to take on the roles of mentor and mentee at various times, which further enhances their learning experiences.

Inly’s Montessori curriculum is designed at every developmental level to further independence and responsibility. “What am I responsible for?” and “How do I apply what I’ve learned?” are questions that our students ask themselves each and every day. In doing so, our students develop a strong sense of purpose that helps them look beyond themselves and to the greater community. At the same time, they also cultivate a strong sense of self and self-reliance. When we hear a child say, “I can do that myself,” we are delighted because that is our goal. We want our children to learn from the very beginning who they are and how they fit into the world.

At Inly, we have a vision for our students. Starting in Toddler and Children’s House Preschool and building all the way through Middle School, our students play an important role in their own education. They learn to initiate and complete work independent of constant teacher direction, accept responsibility for their actions within a community, take responsibility for themselves and for each other, and develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment as they learn. The Montessori model at Inly provides children with a strong foundation for learning that they take with them for the rest of their lives. It also helps empower them as individuals and prepare them for their roles as global citizens. In conclusion, perhaps the question is not “Why Montessori?” but rather, “Why not?”

Further Reading on the Benefits of Montessori Early Education:

Why Montessori for Toddlers?

The Montessori Philosophy Behind Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten

The Benefits of a Montessori Education at Inly School

Montessori Philosophy and Inly School Mission

Toddlers, Kindergarteners, Third and Sixth Graders Find Their Wings

Toddlers get ready for Montessori preschool at Inly.

Toddlers "fly up" to their new classes at Inly School

The “Flying Up” Ceremony: Celebrating transitions and soaring to new levels at Inly

On the last day of school each year, Inly honors children who are moving up to a new level: from Toddler to Preschool, from Kindergarten to Lower Elementary, from Lower to Upper Elementary and on up to Middle School. The entire preK-8 school community, including teachers, staff, family and friends, gathers in the Inly Artsbarn for the annual event.

“The ceremony is a tangible representation of their growth as they move on to the next step in their education,” explains Liz Knox, director of admission. “It’s a way for older children to practice leadership and welcome these new members into their community.”

It’s also a bit of a tear-jerker. Note for next year: Bring your hankies.

Marking growth, development… and transformation

In Toddler House, teachers “raise” butterflies in the classrooms each spring so that toddlers can observe their transformation up close. The children are fascinated as each chrysalis slowly changes and finally breaks out into the world as a magnificent butterfly. During the Flying Up ceremony, in an especially poignant moment, the butterflies are released and flutter out into the world.

Transitions ceremony for toddlers going to preschool at Inly School

Montessori student "flying up" from Toddler House to Children's House preschool at Inly School

Toddlers and Bridging students proudly don butterfly wings as they cross from one side of the room to the other, holding hands with older preschool students who welcome them to Children’s House with big hugs and handshakes.

First graders escort kindergartners next, welcoming them to their mixed-age classrooms (comprising grades 1, 2 and 3) in Lower Elementary. On the following day, kindergarten students also take part in the Inly graduation ceremony.

At Inly, Montessori students “fly up” to the following levels:

Montessori kindergarten student moves to first grade

Kindergarten student escorted by her brother and another Lower Elementary classmate

“The most amazing thing to me is the Middle School students flapping their wings,” remarked Lisa Crist, head of parent and alumni relations. “I expect it from the preschool kids, but to see 7th and 8th grade students — teenagers — flapping their wings as they bring the 6th graders up into their world… that just gets me every time.”

See Life and Events for more about Inly School traditions.

Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten Spanish Classes Celebrate Spring

Toddlers take Spanish classes at Inly School

Toddlers in the Bridging class look at a book with Marisol, Spanish teacher at Inly School

Over the past few months, toddlers and younger preschoolers in our Montessori-based Toddler and Bridging classes have been immersed in language about the season. They have learned about la primavera (spring), las flores (flowers), las mariposas (butterflies), la mariquita (the ladybug) and la araña (the spider). Integrating music whenever they can, the children have also been learning a new song, la araña pequeñita (the little spider). It’s been fun watching them perform!

Learning Spanish in Preschool and Kindergarten

Three-, four- and five-year-old students in Inly’s preschool and kindergarten program have also been building their Spanish vocabularies this spring. Along with covering primavera (spring) and las flores (flowers), students have been reviewing colores, numeros and frutas.

Montessori Preschool Spanish class at Inly School in Scituate MA

Dr. Steve Hughes: Montessori and the Future of Education

Preschool Spanish class at Inly School:
Learning with the Hungry Caterpillar!

Watch this video of the “Hungry Caterpillar” sampling frutas in a Children’s House classroom at Inly to get a sense of how hands-on activities make learning languages fun.

Inly Spanish Curriculum in Toddler House, Children’s House Preschool and Kindergarten

Spanish language for toddlers and preschool at Inly School in Scituate MA

Spanish classes integrate music and movement

At Inly, the Spanish program is designed to enable students to speak and write their basic thoughts and questions in a second language. The curriculum utilizes a combination of speaking, writing, and activities that are often based on music, art or Total Physical Response. Students learn to express themselves in a second language environment that promotes confidence and creativity.

What is Total Physical Response (TPR)?

Developed by Dr. James Asher, TPR is based on the premise that the human brain has a biological program for acquiring any natural language on earth. Designed for use with languages as well as math and science, the teaching method uses hands-on, kinesthetic activities to make learning stick.

Dr. Asher based the TPR program on 30 years of laboratory research. He observed that many months before even speaking, the child develops a “language-body conversation” with the parent, internalizing the patterns and sounds of the target language—and imprinting a linguistic map of how the language works. Read more at What is Total Physical Response?

Spanish Curriculum for Toddlers through Kindergarten

Toddler and Bridging Classes: Spanish Curriculum

  • Numbers
  • Body parts
  • Songs
  • Animals

Preschool and Kindergarten Classes: Spanish Curriculum

  • Vocabulary
  • Numbers
  • Games and songs
  • Questions and answers

More Recommended Reading

Inside Inly: World Languages for Toddlers, Preschool and Beyond…

Mandarin Chinese at Inly: Global Citizenship from the Ground Up

Inside Inly: Epiphanies in Elementary Spanish Classes for First, Second and Third Grades

Inside Inly: Upper Elementary Students in Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grades Present in Spanish About Their Pets

World Languages for Toddlers, Preschool and Beyond…

Foreign languages for babies, toddlers and children

"Hearing Bilingual," The New York Times (illustration by Joyce Hesselberth)

When is the best time to learn a second or third language?

The earlier the better, according to research. During the sensitive period for language—from birth to about age six—children learn the primary language spoken at home and school at a rapid pace. They also have a remarkable ability to learn and even fluently speak other languages.

Over the past year, articles like Why Bilinguals Are Smarter and  Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language in the New York Times have examined new research on the cognitive benefits of learning foreign languages early. It turns out, they say, that learning other languages improves not only linguistic skills but also cognitive abilities like executive functioning. [See more links to resources below.]

Prime times for language acquisition

From birth to age 6, the “absorbent mind” soaks up information like a sponge. The child uses all five senses to absorb and understand information about the surrounding environment at home and in school.

Within this stage, the period from age 1.5 to 3 or 4 is marked by a “language explosion” as the child rapidly expands vocabulary and develops more sophisticated use of language. It is also a prime time to learn another language.

Spanish for toddlers, preschool and kindergarten

At Inly School, world language instruction begins in Toddler House. Spanish classes are integrated into the curriculum in the Toddler, Bridging, Preschool and Kindergarten classes, and in Lower Elementary (grades 1 – 3), Upper Elementary (grades 4 – 6) and Middle School (grades 7 – 8). Mandarin Chinese is taught in Full-Day Kindergarten and in the After-School Program.

Developing an ear and getting a head start

“Starting to learn a second language early on gives children a huge head start,” says Lynda Jackson, Director of World Languages at Inly. “Children are able to pick it up quickly and with enthusiasm. They are not inhibited and are willing to speak it without fear. It provides them with a better ear for the language. They pick up the sounds and can duplicate them naturally, and the younger they start the more likely they will develop a native-like accent.

“Also, all the basic vocabulary they learn early on gives them a leg up as they enter the upper grades. They will be better prepared to take advanced classes in middle school and high school.”

Montessori philosophy and the Inly language program

“World languages have always been part of our curriculum, at all levels,” explains Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Inly Curriculum Director. “It’s part of our Montessori philosophy to teach children when they’re developmentally ready and to take full advantage of these ‘sensitive periods’ of intellectual development. We teach material when children are most receptive to learning it.”

Research supporting PreK-12 foreign language instruction

The ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) has a whole section of its website arguing for an earlier start to language instruction—and it has the research to back it up. Here are some excerpts from its Q & A section:

[Link]: What does research show about the cognitive and academic benefits of early language learning?

“Every piece of research in the field points to the benefits of starting a second language as early as three years of age. The other key to becoming proficient in another language is a long, continuous contact with the language.”

“It is critical that foreign language instruction be available to all students throughout their PK-12 academic experience. Knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society….”

“Additionally, foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity, overall. Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children….This relationship between foreign language study and increased mathematical skill development, particularly in the area of problem solving, points once again to the fact that second language learning is more of a cognitive than linguistic activity.”

Student Leadership Summit 2011

While many schools may not look at kindergarten students as leaders, Inly provides five-year-olds with a unique opportunity to be leaders and explore what that it means to them. On the day before school begins, Inly invites incoming kindergarten students to join the incoming third, sixth, and eighth graders for a Student Leadership Summit. This year, approximately 50 students attended the September 6 event, where the oldest students in each level come together to learn and discuss what it means to be a good leader, both inside and outside the classroom.

The mix of students is a critical piece of the Summit’s success. Younger students not only get the chance to spend time with older counterparts, but they gain confidence from being in a peer group together. Older students have a chance to flex their leadership muscles and mentor the younger ones. This type of multi-age learning is a foundation of the Montessori philosophy and an important aspect of Inly’s community.

The Summit began with a pizza lunch in the Meehan Family Artsbarn. Head of School Donna Milani Luther welcomed the group and explained, “Many of you have been in your classrooms for quite a while. We are expecting you to be leaders and to help the other children in your classroom. We are expecting that you are going to help them in a respectful way.”

Students worked in multi-age groups to discuss what makes a good leader. Each group outlined one of its members on a large piece of paper, and then wrote or drew their interpretation of the qualities of a good leader on the inside of the body outline. Common qualities were responsibility, caring, and listening. Other traits included: reliability, honor, empathy, compassion, and creativity.

Later, students worked in groups split by age level with a focus on more practical, day-to-day scenarios. The kindergarteners talked about how they would work together in different situations, like when other students are disruptive in class, and then they acted out how they would deal with the situations. Third graders used role plays and discussion to explore the “right” and “wrong” situations and how to manage different personalities. The sixth and eighth graders worked in teams to determine, by consensus, the most important items they would need if they were stranded in a desert. At the end of the day, everyone came back together and shared insight on their small group work.

Valery Billings, a Children’s House teacher who helped lead the Summit, was impressed with the student interaction. One participant told her that being a good leader needs “to listen, to listen to what the other person has said to you, and not to respond right away…but to listen to their ideas, and to take those ideas into consideration and build on them.”

Defining and practicing leadership skills now is an important step Inly students take in their educational journeys toward becoming “global citizens” who are responsible, caring, and creative.