Upper Elementary which encompasses the 4th, 5th and 6th grades provides the opportunity for all students to grow to their fullest potential cognitively, socially, emotionally, physically, morally, aesthetically, and spiritually. First, the cognitive potential of each child is developed in a number of ways. Every child is taught and assessed on their competence in language arts, mathematics, history, geography, zoology, geometry, music, art, and various research skills. This is done individually, in small interchangeable groups, or in a large group setting. The various learning styles of each individual are met by presenting lessons both visually and orally. Also, the Montessori materials provide a tactile experience. All students are expected and encouraged to continue working with materials until they have mastered and are confident with the concept. For those students needing extra challenge acceleration will be provided. Students are required to record in writing what they are practicing in all disciplines.
Students are expected to complete a weekly work plan that is individually constructed with the approval of the teacher. Throughout the course of the day, students are expected to work to their potential and be self-motivated. They begin to work with due dates and are required to meet deadlines. Students are encouraged to work with other groups of students on cooperative projects such as cooking activities, artwork, time lines, book reports, research, and skits that are integrated with the curriculum in each discipline. Also, students should be able to choose appropriate topics of individual interest and show an innate desire to discover more by producing research materials that exceed what is required.
The social development of each child is extremely important at this level. Social activities start at the beginning of the day with group time and continue throughout the day as students work on projects which are done in ever changing groups. During group time the scheduling of the day is arranged and any news of interest to our class is shared. The conflict resolution process, an essential social skill, involves taking turns stating feelings and concerns and reiterating what the other person communicated to ensure that each child is listening and understands. Conflicts or concerns are also discussed in a weekly class meeting run by the older students. All the meetings end on a positive note with a round of acknowledgments to recognize the good deeds of other students. Social events include two annual parties that the students plan and organize. Community service is also a big part of the Montessori experience, and the students participate in various projects each year. The goal is to develop compassion and understanding for others within our community through service.
Our classrooms provide a safe domain for emotional development. The most prominent aspect of a Montessori classroom is that the students are with the same teacher for a three-year cycle. This enables the child to be comfortable and confident with their teacher. The students develop responsibility and ownership by establishing the classroom rules and the consequences. By establishing the rules the students are aware of what is expected of them and the consequences that follow if a rule is broken. As stated above, students have opportunities to share their experiences on the classroom line in the morning, voice concerns in weekly class meetings, and develop the ability to resolve conflicts themselves.
In order to facilitate physical development and growth, the children must attend physical education classes daily. A student is only excused from physical education classes with a physician’s note. This enables the children to participate in group sports activities and to learn the importance of teamwork and exercise in their daily lives. The physical needs of the child are considered in the Montessori classroom by the freedom to move about the room and choose their work materials. This provides the child a physical release to enable him to better focus on his academic work.
An aesthetically pleasing environment is carefully arranged with special consideration given to a child’s needs. All shelves in the classroom are sequenced left to right and top to bottom. The Montessori materials are color coded to ease the memorization of concepts. The room should be enticing and visually pleasing. Through participation in weekly art and music classes, students learn to express themselves through the arts and also to appreciate the creative works of others.
Moral development is reinforced in a Montessori setting by consciously striving to promote kind and peaceful behavior. Compassion, tolerance and acceptance of all cultures are promoted daily by individual actions and observation of various cultural practices in classroom lessons. Diversity is developed by the purposeful recruitment of a student body that encompasses many different ethnic groups. Developing honesty with oneself and others and accepting responsibility for one’s actions is another key factor in character growth. Students at this level are encouraged to recognize times when they have failed to accept responsibility for a wrong action towards others in the school community or have neglected to complete academic work on time.
Many different spiritual activities are incorporated into a Montessori curriculum. The children have the opportunity for self- reflection each day by reading or relaxing during quiet times. A reflection sheet is filled out by the student and signed by the teacher, then reviewed and signed by the parents. Developing a sense of inner peace is an important goal to strive for and is facilitated by this process of reflection. The study and appreciation of nature is also a component of the process of spiritual education. Montessori emphasized the interdependence of all living things through cosmic education. Cosmic education states that all of the elements of nature are related and should be respected, conserved, and cultivated. By group activities such as recycling, gardening, food and toy drives, and community endeavors, a charitable and giving spirit is encouraged.
The school must have the full support of parents or guardians so that students can develop to the fullest of his or her potential in all areas. The program at Joseph S. Bruno Montessori Academy stresses holistic development because true success in life depends on growth in all areas of development.