Big class (3 to 6 years old)
" The secret of success in education is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown.”
In the big class, the children, aged 3 to 6 years old, work together.
The ‘class of three levels’ is one of the fundamental aspects of the Montessori method.
The eldest children are the leaders in the group, giving the younger children a role to strive towards, whilst the younger children allow the older children to take on a responsibility towards them. The younger children learn from their elders and the older children consolidate their knowledge.
In this way every child follows on automatically: helping each other, being attentive, inspiring each other and tolerating each other. Qualities, which today, are close to disappearing in the world. In the long run, it is a child's self-confidence that is established permanently for his future.
A French teacher, an English teacher and an assistant, welcome the children individually, communicating in the language of each adult.
The classroom is laid out in such a way to attract the natural curiosity of the child. It is also neat & tidy to optimize his mental & spatial abilities.
The opportunity to work alone, with a friend or in a group allows a child to take part in activities, which develop their skills for further education. The child works at his own pace with a growing concentration.
Activities are presented individually or to a group of children. The teacher is led by the curiosity of the child, his abilities and his maturity.
Throughout the morning, depending on their age & their needs, each child can chose from a wide choice of activities.
He can work with Practical Life material like grating an apple or using a funnel to pour flour into a jar. These activities allow a child to refine his movements in order to obtain a good result, giving him satisfaction and enabling a thought process in his work.
The teacher may also present the child with Sensorial Material, which, by developing the senses, will enable a fuller understanding of the world around him. The child explores the material, manipulating it, and absorbing its principles. He then learns the language related to it.
By way of repetitive handling the child firmly incorporates some of the abstract concepts which prepare him for mathematics, writing, geometry and geography.
He prepares his hand for writing by using geometric shapes and pronounces the sounds of his letters whilst following the big letters on emery paper with his finger. He writes his first words using mobile letters before mastering writing with a pencil.
The child must be able to overcome one problem at a time without ever being prevented from advancing at his own rhythm just like in all aspects of the Montessori method.
Also, the child is never obliged to do a particular piece of work; he can watch the others, sit cozily in the fireplace and dream. He recharges his batteries, constructing himself.
He is physically comfortable, working on a chair or on the floor, his work material is on a mat providing his work space.
The morning ends with the class coming together in the Music room. The directress exchanges news with the children, about the school, the weather, forthcoming projects and past events.
The children also share their news, learning to listen, following ideas and communicating with the group. It is a time of laughter & relaxation after a long period of concentration
After sharing a snack (fruit), which has been prepared and served by a child, the morning ends with some singing. The children choose songs in French, in English or their own mother tongue
Bilinguism in the class
In each class, the Montessori directresses (AMI), as well as the assistants, speak to the children in their mother tongue. The children work and spend the whole day hearing the two languages: English and French used by the teaching team. The children speak and listen to as many as four languages among themselves, depending on the population of the class.
The Pre-reading and writing program is presented to the child by the directress who masters the language chosen by the parents for their child's future academics.
During circle time, the older children, in several languages, translate important news. Each child has a right to speak, in his own language, or in a new language, even when it is not perfectly mastered. The multiplicity of languages is used in one form or another by sharing and asking questions.
Parents who wish to develop or maintain a second or third language for their child may be advised by the teaching staff.
Bilingualism is a principal of the International Montessori School. Its aim is to enrich the linguistic environment of the child during a period which is sensitive to language development. It allows a gentle integration of the expat children. Finally, it develops in everyone, adult and child, a respect towards different cultures.