Essay on Montessori Language
Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call ‘civilization’ - Essay on Montessori Language introduction. The child’s language developments during his or her early years are freely remarkable. Describe how does the Montessori environment aid the child’s language development?
What is civilization? “Civilization is a term used to describe a certain kind of development of a human society”(2). In ancient Egypt, writing was first discovered in the form of paintings on the walls of caves, structures and many artifacts. These ancient forms of writings are a form of communication within the ancient Egyptian society. The paintings on the walls were later transformed into writing on papyrus. Paper was first discovered in China and later papermaking spread throughout Asia. Many languages were developed. As the result of advancement in reading and writing, economic, political and social developments were possible. Through the development of languages it leads to the transformation of the environment we call ‘civilization’.
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An infant is first exposed to language through sounds generated by the environment and languages spoken by the adults surrounding him. He babbles words such as ‘da da, ma ma’ and utters intentional word like ‘milk, mum mum ‘when he gets hungry. At the age of 1.5, he realizes that everything has a name. This is a crucial period whereby Montessori understands that any form of education imparted at this age has to be indirect as “Montessori’s enormous respect for the mysterious powers that form the child from the moment of conception led her to fear any direct interference with their unfolding”(1, page 121).
Before a child begins to learn how to read and write, there are four fundamental preparatory activities that will indirectly enhance their learning. Story telling is a great way to impart new words to a child. It is important for the story to be short and interesting as children have very short attention span. It spurs imagination in a child to create emotional attachment to goodness as “when a moral principle has the power to move us into action, it is often because it is backed by a picture or image.”(3, page 7). Secondly, music and movement is important to help children to express their emotions. This will help them to gain confidence in their own abilities to express themselves in language. Also, they are developing gross motor skills and good body posture when they are dancing with the music. Thirdly, speech and drama exposes the child to learn a wide range of appropriate and inappropriate ways of communicating. They learn to project their voices and to speak words clearly. Indirectly, the child is learning new vocabulary and is enhancing the concept of social grace and courtesy. Lastly, picture talk can be introduced to children to allow them to express words through what they see and imagine.
Practical life exercises help the child to develop control of movement and hand-eye coordination which prepares him for future writing. Activities such as pouring beans or water from one jar to another, lacing on the dressing frames and polishing build fine and gross motor skills. The child learns to develop inner discipline to see through the activities to completion. He also develops the sense of writing from left to right. During the activities the teacher introduces the names of the activities and the verbs involved such as “buttons, zip, unzip” which indirectly builds the child’s vocabulary. In social grace and courtesy activities the child learns to ask questions among themselves using words like “May I” and “Can I” which further develops their self-image and communication skills.
In sensorial activities, the child is developing the sensitivity to order. For example, the child is expected to carry all the blocks to the table one-by-one for the pink tower exercise. The teacher conducts three-period lessons to expose children with certain words like “cylinder, thick, thin, light, heavy” that further builds vocabularies. When a child practices on the knobbed cylinders, besides learning on different sizes and shapes, he is also developing his pincer muscles of his thumb and index fingers. This prepares him for a stronger pincer grip for writing in future.
Once the child has shown readiness and interest, he is able to move on to direct preparation of reading and writing. In Montessori environment, the child learns to write before he learns to read. By the age of 4, teacher may start making phonetic letter sound for the child such as ‘mmmmm’ then pronounce words with that sound – mother, someday, drum. The child traces the shape of the letter using sandpaper letters. “By tracing the letter with the index finger of his dominant hand, the child builds a muscular memory of the shape of the letter he will one day write.”(1, page 129). He also learns to build words using large moveable alphabets (LMA). If the child faces some difficulties, the teacher is there to help him to decode the word. When he is competent with this activity, he is given small phonetic objects and pictures which represent the words he needs to build. At this stage the child can move on to reading words by reading with object or picture boxes. To further build the phonetic words bank of the child, he can practice reading with sheets of pictures and cards, the 5-vowel wordlists and 5-vowel booklets.
The child by now is exposed to reading and teacher should help him to build sentences using pictures and object boxes. Teacher asks open-ended questions to allow the child to express what he sees from the picture. The child learns about articles, big capital and full stop as part of the component s of a sentence. In another words, when reading came to him, “it came in a full form”(1, page 136). Not only the child knows the meaning, he has a good grasp of grammar, position in the phrase and sentence. Teacher can further cultivate his reading habit by introducing to him interesting reading materials from the book corner or a visit to a local library.
The teacher plays a very important role in a child’s language development. She should see herself as a friendly and encouraging facilitator than an “authoritarian knowledge giver”. (3, page 48). She can start by encouraging a freedom of expression and to bring the children’s ideas and background into the class learning activities. She much be prepared to listen responsively and not past judgment to quick that could potentially dampen the child’s enthusiasm to learn. Most importantly, the teacher has to have a great passion and love for children.