Friday, August 23, 2013

Organizing Montessori Curriculum at the Beginning of the Year

NAMC Montessori curriculum organizing at the beginning of the year girl reading

A new school year is upon us and it seems that the closer we get to the first week of school, the more questions arise about planning and organization. This week, one of our NAMC students asked about where to start her curriculum this year. She wondered if she should start over completely from the beginning every year or if she could start where she left off last June. The answer depends on the content area being presented, the way the curriculum is structured, and the age and level of the students.

Challenges with Organizing at the Beginning of the Year: Planning Out Montessori Curriculum

The most important thing to remember is that the students are on a 3-year continuum. For incoming first year students, that means that over the course of the 3 years they should receive all lessons. However, students who begin the program in, for example, the third year will not be able to receive the entire 3-year curriculum in one year. Here’s my advice:

  • Math and Language: Begin with an initial assessment using the Montessori materials to determine the level of each student. Returning students will have naturally forgotten some concepts over the summer, so be prepared to review some concepts and lessons with them too.
  • Cultural Curriculum: How you choose to present your cultural lessons (zoology, botany, geography, history, astronomy, etc.) will determine where you pick up this year. Are you following the NAMC suggested schedule with each age level, presenting activities in all subjects for all levels? Or are you dividing the curriculum into a 3-year cycle, presenting zoology one year, botany the next, etc? (See the NAMC blog Montessori Elementary Teachers – Tips for Curriculum Scheduling.) If you are following the first approach, then you start again at each age/grade level. If you are dividing and rotating subjects on a 3-year continuum, you do not go back and pick up what those children have missed; they will receive these lessons when the subject cycles back around.

NAMC Montessori curriculum organizing at the beginning of the year mat chalkboard numbers letters

The question then is about the new third year students. Will they miss out on important cultural content? First, we need to recognize that while they were not in your Montessori classroom, the students did receive an education from somewhere else, whether it was from another Montessori school or a school using conventional methods. Either way, they have been building cultural knowledge in the years prior to coming to your classroom. Second, these students will not miss the entire Montessori curriculum because the lessons are integrated and there is often crossover between subject areas. Let’s say that this year you are studying botany, while last year you studied zoology. You will naturally refer to the differences between animals and plants throughout your studies. And the lessons and works from the previous year can remain on the shelves. So even if you are not specifically studying zoology this year, students who are interested can use the zoology materials as they wish.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, August 23, 2013.


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