Lower Elementary (First - Third Grade)
In the lower elementary classroom (first through third grade, or ages six to nine), the initial expectations are that the child will be able to accept direction, will listen attentively in small and large group presentations and will be able to work in a cooperative learning atmosphere. In most cases, the children who make the smoothest transition have been in a Montessori preschool (primary) learning environment; however, many children who have not had the benefit of a preschool (primary) Montessori education are able to make a smooth transition when guided effectively by the teacher.
The children run the classroom. From the first day of school, the children meet and discuss guidelines for class rules. Children who were in the class the previous year often remember situations that upset them, and these experiences may help drive the rules the children create together. Children in the classroom have work responsibilities, help each other and allow the class to run efficiently. The teacher acts as a role model, mentor and guide. She interferes with the children’s work as little as possible while providing lessons that capture the children’s imagination and interest. She also helps the children when conflicts arise, calls meetings to discuss problems with the class in an open forum and communicates the children’s progress to their families.
The teacher gives the children freedom and choice as they exhibit that they are ready for them. Privileges are earned independently, although all children start out with the same rights. If a particular child is unable to handle certain freedoms or responsibilities, the teacher maintains the right to help the child to be successful and safe by taking those away until the child is able to handle himself.
Each child keeps his work in his own record books, which usually are notebooks in which each subject’s work is recorded. The child’s record books and papers are stored neatly in a storage space or cubby. Although children do not have their own assigned work spots, they do have assigned areas in which to keep their things. Materials in the class (such as supplies) are for everyone to use and share. This allows the children the opportunity to learn how to be patient and cooperate with others.
As in preschool, the lower elementary teacher presents the work through concrete, hands-on materials that engage the child. It is also the teacher’s role to help children develop their academic potential to the highest level possible. The prepared environment fosters peace, tolerance for others and independence in a highly motivating atmosphere. This is an extremely successful combination that prepares the child for the upper elementary classroom or any other learning situation.