Each activity in the Primary learning environment has a purpose. The materials are tailored to match the intrinsic rhythm of each child’s developmental path.
“Help me to do it by myself” is the Montessori child’s goal.
Stocking the Library of the Senses
Young children learn through their senses. A Primary classroom contains carefully designed material to let children explore and put names to a variety of sensations: size, color, shape, texture, scent, sound, and more. Children take pleasure in games of organization: sorting or ordering objects, counting beads, etc. Other activities provide physical, tangible introductions to the mechanics of language (parts of speech, etc.) or to concepts of number (the decimal system and basic mathematical operations).
An Explosion into Reading
Primary children are eagerly acquiring language, both in size of vocabulary and complexity of expression. The Sandpaper Letters allow the child to learn the sounds and shapes of the letters of the alphabet, tracing the shapes using the same hand movements they will later use to write. Older children choose letters from the Moveable Alphabet to “write” their own stories, even before their hands are able to easily direct a pencil. Children are eager to express themselves, and often find through writing their own sentences that they are suddenly and spontaneously able to read their own compositions—and others’. Montessori-educated children routinely enter first grade as fully competent readers and writers.
The “explosion” into literacy occurs naturally in Primary as children are presented with the appropriate tools and experiences.
Learning about the World
An entire area of the classroom is devoted to "practical life" activities: preparing food; opening and closing fasteners from buttons to bows to buckles to velcro; washing tables; polishing silver. Children learn how to take care of themselves, and gain a sense of self-confidence and mastery in doing so.
Several materials provide a physical introduction to the wider world. Puzzle maps allow the children to become familiar with the name and location of each country in the world. Collections of pictures and artifacts give a basic orientation to kinds of plants and animals, the cultures of the world, famous landmarks, cities, or artworks, and more. Children have the freedom to become deeply familiar with appealing, self-contained sets of knowledge that will aid future learning and make them aware citizens of the world.
The multi-age nature of each environment promotes confidence and a sense of self. Only limited quantities of each material are on the shelves, so children must learn to share, wait for a turn, or choose a different activity. Older children help younger children solve problems, both assisting the younger children's education and confirming their own learning.
A strong sense of community knits each classroom together. Children may seek help from each other. As children continue their three-year cycle, each year offers them a new role in this community. A child may enter the class as a mentee and depart as a mentor.
The Next Step
Children who have developed academic skills, an inquisitive mind, a confident manner, and a strong work ethic in Primary are ready to move on to Post Oak's Elementary program (ages 6 to 12).