Cotswold Montessori School
What is on our shelves?
We have lots of really fun things on our shelves and every week we have different and new activities to choose from. Here are just a few to give you an idea of what we do all day:
Classroom: A typical Montessori classroom is plain and uncluttered to help create a calm and relaxing work space - this one was our home school when the children were little. Activities are set out as complete units on open shelves and broken down into areas of learning. Tools, implements & cleaning utensils are child-sized and children are helped & encouraged to keep their classroom neat & tidy.
Practical Life Skills:
Probably the most important activities in a Montessori nursery classroom. Children love copying everyday activities they witness in their homes and communities like opening & closing different containers, pouring water, washing up, or preparing a snack. For adults these might all be routine, mundane tasks to be completed as quickly as possible. Children, however, want to do this type of work to learn how to do things for themselves. By practicing these everyday skills children learn to concentrate, develop their fine motor skills, move and act with care and to follow a logical pattern of steps – skills that they will need throughout life & in all future areas of learning.
Fine Motor Skills: Another big focus in our classroom are activities specifically designed to develop fine motor skills. Strong fine motor skills are essential to complete tasks such as writing, cutting, using a fork or spoon, zipping, buttoning and tying shoe laces. All of these are critical tasks for becoming independent & productive members of society and essential preparation for primary school.
Exploring our Senses:
Children learn by exploring the environment using all of their senses. Lots of modern toys are geared to this, but we think that many overload our children with too much information - there are shapes, sounds, colours, textures & smells all mixed up together. Of course all of these qualities are important to explore, but we like to do this by giving our children learning activities that focus on one particular aspect or quality at a time. This focus really helps give children a stable base from which to start classifying their world.
Problem Solving, Numeracy & Reasoning:
Many adults shy away from maths. We think this is partly because they did not get enough chances as young children to explore mathematical ideas and concepts with hands-on materials. We have an extensive maths-based toolkit of fun learning activities to practice sorting, sequencing, matching, shapes, amounts & patterns. In tandem with this, our more formal maths curriculum gives our children many different opportunities to work out and really make sense of numbers & operations.
Language Skills, Reading & Writing:
We want to create a rich language environment for our children. Group & individual discussions using open-ended questions give children the chance to express opinions, formulate ideas and practice different speech patterns as well as new vocabulary. Fine motor activities prepare for writing. Rhyming songs & ‘I spy’ games develop phonemic awareness. We watch our children carefully for signs of readiness before we formally introduce reading & writing. When we do so, we are firm believers in using phonics. Children start by matching little objects to beginning sounds before sounding out and writing easily de-codeable words using our moveable alphabet. It seems that children find it easier to write with pre-made letters because sometimes writing by hand is still quite tricky.
Knowledge & Understanding of the World:All the above areas of learning focus on helping our children to acquire skills. This area of learning, we usually call it 'Cultural', uses all of these skills to let our children acquire knowledge. Here we focus specifically on what is most important in our own environment, society & culture. Every year have at least one dinosaur enthusiast, a bug expert and a transport specialist.
Creative Area: Of course it's nice to take things home that look good on walls and that are instantly recognizable for what they are supposed to be. We like making these sorts of arts & crafts in our group sessions but this is not what our creative area is all about. Here children have free access to a great variety of materials & media and can explore them free from the preconceptions or ideas of others.
Quiet Area:'Working' is hard work. When it all gets a little bit too much we have a lovely little corner with some cushions and a little sofa. Rules here are slightly different - the code is mostly for peace & quiet. There are books, blankets and we also have a CD player with music and short stories.
Blocks & Imaginative Play:
We have taken inspiration from the Steiner/Waldorf philosophy of education for our block & imaginative play area. Here we have beautiful large wooden blocks, natural materials like pine cones & shells and large colourful silk scarves & a wooden clothes horse for den building. A little bit less Steiner but nevertheless lots of fun we also like to throw in some realistic animal figures or toy cars from time to time.
Large Motor Skills & Physical Play: Kicking, climbing, running, throwing and any other forms of physical expression are just as important for our children as learning to count or write. As well as our garden & outdoor area, we have a large designated indoor space for active play that is available to our children every day whenever they feel like only a good 'run-around' will do.
Outdoor Learning: Our beautiful sunny garden has lots of open ended play resources that do not prescribe any particular way of playing.
We have crates to climb on or turn into pirate ships, ropes to practice tying knots or jumping over, small traffic cones to run around or pretend to serve ice-cream in, a lovely little sandpit that is always very popular, hurdles, chalks, hoops, balls, tarpaulins, bean bags, speed cars, space hoppers & plenty more.
One thing is for sure - wherever possible, we try to stay away from colourful plastic play equipment and bring creativity & simplicity to our outdoor learning.
Peace Table: Wherever there is a group of people living & working together there is bound to be conflict at some stage. Learning to live in harmony with your fellow human beings without feeling that you are loosing out is a difficult skill to master, even for adults. We try to give our children the tools to be able to sort out their own squabbles.
All areas of learning are available to our children every day so that they can choose to work with the activities that interest them most. It is our job as teachers to make sure that our children become interested in all areas of learning, even if this means that we have to make a special activity just for one child.
Please come & see what we do for yourself - we would love to show you everything we do.