Parents of a first year primary student often wonder what has happened to their child, as they seem to suddenly respond in new and unfamiliar ways both at home and school. In fact, many changes occur at this time, and all are part of a child’s natural growth and development. Maria Montessori called the stages of a child’s growth “planes of development”. When a child moves from the preschool to primary classroom, they are not only changing rooms, but crossing over from what is called the first to second plane of development.
Children go from asking “What is this?” to “Why is this?” They respond to information and ideas that appeal to their sense of imagination. The primary environment is geared towards this emerging second plane child. Children at this stage are working on the formation of their personality and understanding where they fit within their social group. Group lessons and work are encouraged, because socialising is the way they gather and analyse information so as to better understand it. Social activities also foster social and emotional development. Movement is encouraged at all levels, but becomes integral to a way of accessing information and ideas, and consolidating new concepts. It is not uncommon to enter into a primary classroom abuzz with many activities and movement.
Students in Cempaka class exploring a timeline of life in the classroom.
Most learning in the primary level branches off from the classic Montessori great lessons and stories, beginning with “The Story of the Universe”, which explains the formation of the universe, more commonly known as “The Big Bang”. Guides tell stories about how life appeared on earth, the progression of humans and communication through the alphabet and numbers. Out of these stories, the child gets an image of the whole universe that both appeals to their imagination and sense of reason.
In addition, being able to work within a group, delegate responsibilities, manage time and deal with conflicts are some of the soft skills children develop in a primary classroom that will serve them well as they enter adulthood. A Montessori education appeals to the developmental stage of the child and fosters skills that are needed in the modern world, leaving a lasting impression, while promoting life-long learning.
By Natalie Colosimo