Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Montessori Upper Elementary

I got to sub in a Montessori school today - only a half day, but I had wanted to sub in that school for a while.  When I lived in Alaska, I subbed several times in a Montessori school and was impressed with it.  And I have wondered since then how general the Montessori model was for upper elementary age children.  It was interesting to me that several of the things were the same and others different.

Physical characteristics of the room
True to the Montessori model of schooling, there were a lot of wooden materials in both classrooms.   But, also in both classrooms, the wooden materials don't seem to be being used much.  For instance, today I saw a couple of interesting models of the sun and the planets, including the Earth and its moons, but they were high up on a shelf and not in use, while the students worked on a worksheet packet about phases of the moon.  There were a lot of reference books available, but the students seemed to use the information in the packets the most.  The room in Alaska had wooden tables of various sizes throughout; this room had standard desks for each student, with small tables at various places around the room.  The room in Alaska seemed spacious; this one seemed very crowded.  But, in this case, some of the crowding was due to a plethora of large tanks for turtles, lizards, fish, and other creatures.  Personally, I would like to have seen some more large tables for their work.

In both classes, the students had a work schedule that they filled out.  Long term projects were listed in one section, daily work in sections devoted to each day.  In both classes, the assignments seemed to be specific to grade levels and not to current achievement levels.  The 4th graders had one social studies assignment; the 5th graders had a different assignment.  There were two different math books, one for 4th grade, one for 5th grade.  In a way, I am a little disappointed that there didn't seem to be much individualization of achievement levels.  It may be that the classes are differentiated, since there are multiple 4/5 grades in this school.  I really couldn't tell that.

This classroom seemed to use worksheets more than the school in Alaska.  In Alaska, they had a lot of laminated assignment materials that the students rotated in using.  Since the assignments usually came in 2 or 3 week chunks, there was plenty of time for the students to rotate through the assignment materials.  Neither school used textbooks for much of their work, except for math.  

Other interesting things
The class had an aide; the one in Alaska did, too.  What a difference this makes!  Supervision is easier, grading is easier, talking to individual students and small groups is easier.  It was a moderately large class, 25 students, but you can get to know the kids better, even in just a half day, with another adult in the room.  Your focus doesn't need to be quite as widely scattered.

The academic level of the students in this class seemed average.  So perhaps the same work for all of them in each grade was appropriate.  It was hard for me to tell.

Final thing
Both Montessori schools address teachers, administrators, and staff by their first names.  It must be a characteristic of the Montessori philosophy.  I am not sure I am comfortable with that.  I think I would prefer some mild honorific, such as Teacher Laura or Ms. Laura.  I guess I am not as egalitarian as the Montessori philosophy would have me be.  Still, I had a interesting morning.  I would go back.

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