Montessori Elementary- The Second Plane
Ages 6-12 years old are in what Maria Montessori calls the “Second Plane of Development”. As parents, we can see the shift in behaviors and thinking of our children from preschool to elementary. Our children begin to acquire and refine new skills, and they go from asking “why” to asking “how”. Montessori elementary is when the spark of curiosity bursts into flame.
How does Montessori support Elementary Students?
At this plane of development, children are developing their Executive Functioning Skills. What are Executive Functioning Skills?
- Self Control
- Emotional Control
- Task Initiation
- Working Memory
- Planning and Time Management
A Montessori education supports this naturally through materials and lessons that are open-ended. Students must think about what they will need for a job. They are allowed to work out social problems and find solutions while having the proper behavior modeled by compassionate adults. Elementary students are given wider boundaries and come out of this plane with a feeling of competence.
What is the Curriculum?
Children learn best when we focus on the child and not our lesson plan. We need to remember how the curriculum came to be. It was based on the idea that adults know better than the children do. The modern school system was designed to produce factory workers and managers who could read, write and follow directions. Knowledge was thought of as pre-fixed, but we now know that knowledge is evolving. The world is changing and we don’t know what jobs will look like in the future. (The smartphone didn’t exist until 2007!)
We must teach children to learn how to learn and how to be flexible. They will need to learn how to communicate, think for themselves, how to lead and work as a team. In Montessori, there are three streams of curriculum:
- Things children need to learn to be culturally literate (the basics-reading, writing, math)
- Things we plan to awaken a sense of wonder
- Areas of exploration the child wants to learn about
The basics (reading, writing and arithmetic) are the skills that are tracked and tested in traditional schools. Montessori takes learning to another level by introducing children to great ideas. There is no limit to what we introduce them to: the ballet, the opera, metal work, marine biology, etc. And we don’t just show them videos or pictures in books! Elementary students learn through real world experiences. Lastly, we let the student choose what they would like to learn more about, and they research it to later make a presentation, develop a play, give a speech or lesson about what they learned.
What about grades?
Extrinsic rewards only work if the child thinks they have a chance of succeeding or if they care. Grading and ranking students only serves to intimidate and humiliate students who are behind and students get caught up in just doing enough to get by. Self-motivation is our ideal. We teach children to learn voluntarily by removing petty rewards and children take pride in their own work. We believe that children should be partners in their education.
How do we know when a child has learned a lesson? We have them teach it back to us! It is more than memorization. Every child is capable of amazing things, but no two are the same. We should not shame children into doing better, but coach them into believing in themselves. Not to beat someone else out, but to be the best person they can become. Learning is a gift- not a school burden.
Children at the elementary age are excited about the world. We create a foundation of concrete impressions of abstract concepts. Concrete materials are like the runway for a plane to take off. The child won’t use them forever. They use the materials until they are in the air and ready to fly on their own.