Observation is the cornerstone for connecting the children to our carefully prepared Montessori classrooms. We invite our families to observe their children prior to conferences and in preparation for transitions from one program level to the next. In addition, our parents stay connected to the classroom happenings through weekly blog entries, often viewing them with their children to encourage sharing about their days. Here’s a sample of a couple typical blogs.
In our classroom, we have been talking about friendship and what it means to be a good friend. It is not uncommon to overhear a child this age say “I am not your friend,” when someone offends them. As teachers, we use these moments as learning opportunities. We talk with the children about how they are feeling and guide them through respectful conflict resolution.
In the Children’s House we often see a pattern in children’s social development as they grow and mature. At three years old, most children are focused on their own activities and interests. While they are aware of their classmates and sometimes enjoy engaging in parallel play, their focus is often on themselves. During this time an inward focus is expected as the children are refining their fine-motor skills, developing a sense of order, and learning to become more independent. Most three year olds need a lot of adult support to give words to their feelings when conflicts arise. We help them talk with their classmates and model appropriate language for them.
Around age 4 or 4 ½ children’s focus begins to change from inward to outward, and they often develop a strong desire to connect with others. Children who used to be content to work quietly alone on a puzzle, now make their way to the big, four person table in the classroom so they can work and talk with their friends. This developmental need for companionship is so strong, that sometimes work takes a backseat for awhile. We joke that four year olds try out friends like adults try on clothes, and they are quick to toss something away that is uncomfortable. Friends one day, not friends the next; there are a lot of emotional highs and lows at this age. By age four, most children are more comfortable with conflict resolution, but still need adult support to both share and listen respectfully.
By the time children are third years, around age 5 or 6, they have developed a deeper understanding of relationships and are more tolerant and forgiving of others. They have developed a good balance between working and socializing, and when it is time to do a big, challenging work they often seek out a friend to join them. Children this age can manage most conflicts independently and approach things with more maturity. They also act as peacemakers for their classmates.
To some extent we all need routines in our lives; they make us feel safe and confident of what the future holds. They help us to schedule our days, weeks, and months. Our children not only need routines, they thrive on them.
In our classroom, the children walk in and shake their teacher’s hand. Some children have established a drop off routine that includes a smooth transition and some have a harder time saying good-bye. Once in the classroom the children know the sound of the rain stick means it is line time. Each time they hear the rain stick and remember what to do they celebrate an emotional and mental victory. They walk away from the experience more confident in their knowledge of their classroom, thus their world. Once on line, we have a deliberate order in which we sing our songs. We talk about what will happen on that particular day, i.e., music on Tuesday, Spanish on Monday and Friday. We establish a routine to our line, to our days, and to our weeks.
Routines give the child the power to predict what will happen next. The ability to predict what will happen next is monumental to the young child’s development. When she knows what will happen next she feels secure and safe. When she knows what will happen next, she feels comfortable and willing to explore and learn.