A LePort Montessori elementary classroom looks quite different from a traditional school. Instead of desks and whiteboard, you'll find shelves with enticing materials, tables and chairs and lots of space for spreading out individually and in small groups to work.
Montessori elementary teachers inspire students to learn. Here, teachers in one of our bilingual classroom deliver the "Great Lesson" on the coming of writing in both English and Chinese. Notice all the interesting objects that make history come to life!
Each of our Montessori elementary classrooms has a solid classroom library. Children have much time throughout the day to read, because we understand that reading should be joyful, and requires practice!
The Montessori math program alone is worth considering Montessori for! Here, students practice multiplication into the thousands with the Stamp Game. This is a rather concrete materials--the second step in a multi-step process during which children progress from manipulating actual quantities, to solving problems abstractly, with pencil and paper.
How much is 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? With the Hierarchy of Numbers materials, Montessori elementary students get a direct, perceptual impression of quantities: notice the unit cube on the right, and compare it to the 100,000 square on the left.
1,000,000 is a huge quantity! Here, the teacher shows how a 100,000 square fits into a million cube ten times. This is an accessible demonstration for our elementary students, as they have worked with unit beads and thousand cubes ever since preschool!
These Division Skittles bring to life how long division works. Our 3rd grader understand math better, more thoroughly than many adults do! Notice the integration between materials: units are always green, tens are blue and hundreds are red.
These students are working on multiples: the green two bars progress from 2 to 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and so on. Students count out the beads, and recreate them with the appropriate same-side beads--e.g., one ten-bar and one four-bar to make 14.
This 1st year student is working on multiples of five. We offer many different materials, both to explore operations (multiplication is adding the same number, several times) and to memorize math facts.
When children enter elementary, they become curious not just in the immediate what of the world around them, but also in the why, the deeper reasons. The Montessori "Great Stories" stoke that curiosity, and provide children a scaffold, a file folder on which they can "hang" many of the exciting lessons offered in our classrooms. Here, children are getting a lesson on the coming of the universe, illustrated with many interesting materials.
Look at this: does this beautiful display make you curious? What is the content of this lesson? What time span, what cultures does it cover? Would you like to touch anything you see here?
Making learning enticing, enjoyable is one of the key things good Montessori teachers excel at!
In Montessori elementary, our goal is to help children understand the world. Whenver possible we bring the actual world into the classroom. Here, children are learning about the anatomy of a fish, by looking at a real red snapper.
After the lesson with the real fish, children work with materials to test and solidify what they learned. They match a picture with a label of a fish part and a description of the purpose of that part. This is a great activity not just for science, but also for literacy. Integrating multiple learning goals in one activity is very common in our Montessori elementary classrooms.
Children are free to choose where to work, and also have a lot of say in what they work on. Here, a 2nd year student chose to make a map of Africa. She first traces around the individual puzzle pieces to make an outline, then colors in the countries and labels them.
Here's the finished end product. Notice the water color for the ocean, the careful coloring in of the lines, and the cursive handwriting for the country names. Montessori elementary students often know more countries of the world than adults do!
He then shows how pieces are missing when the paper lays flat on the ground. He explains that these missing pieces are filled in in the maps we see. This introduces the students to map projection in a way they can readily understand.
Learning to write and read in English is hard! After mastering basic letter-sound correspondence in primary (by kindergarten), elementary students need to systematically learn the correspondence between sounds (phonemes) and letter combinations (graphemes). In our elementary program, children systematically study English spelling patterns with a wide range of materials, such as this phonogram material.
To write well, you must write often. In our elementary programs, children spend much time writing--about real-life, personal experiences, about content they have learned in class, about stories they have read.
To write well, children need detailed coaching and editing. No piece of writing is ever done in one draft at LePort! With our low ratios and individualized instruction, children draft, edit, rewrite work several times, so they learn the craft of writing.
Detailed feedback is what helps children become better writers. Here, students at one of our campuses were writing letters to the city, asking the city to fix broken equipment at a public playground. Notice the detailed, constructive feedback this teacher gave his student. And consider how writing a letter about a topic that is personally meaningful to children can be great motivation to write better! Once these letters were written, the students walked to the post office to buy stamps and mail them. That's "Knowledge for Life"--thought that leads to action!
Spelling can be learned in many ways in Montessori. Here, a 2nd year student has gone through a first draft of a story, and has circled words she wasn't sure he had spelled right. She's copying them into a "Have-a-go" dictionary. Her teacher will then provide the correct spelling, and she will re-write her draft, using the correct spelling of these words.
Visit any of our Montessori programs, and you'll see lots of reading and writing happen across the curriculum. Dictionaries are in use, research materials are out, children are asking each other for help and guidance. That's what a culture of Knowledge looks like!
Reading aloud to students is important even after they learn to read by themselves. In our elementary program, children experience literature above their own reading level during regular read-aloud sessions. Note that many of the students here are knitting or crocheting while listening: they are practicing fine motor skills while enjoying the story!
In addition to read-alouds, our students also have time at school for child-chosen silent reading. In addition, we offer literature circles, where strong readers (starting as young as 1st years) come together to read and analyze novels.
Grammar is a big subject in Montessori elementary! Students learn about nouns, articles, adjectives, verbs, prepositions and other parts of speech with concrete symbols. Here, children label things around the classroom as nouns (represented by a black, large pyramid or triangle), and choose the appropriate definite or indefinite article (represented by a small, light-blue pyramid or triangle).
One of the strength of our Montessori elementary program is in the teaching of executive function skills, such as time management and organization. Here, students are putting together weekly work plans. They receive lists of lessons from teachers, carry over unfinished work from the prior week, and make plans for activities they want to do this upcoming weeks. These work plans then serve as guidance for them on what activities to tackle each day.
Children in Montessori elementary work largely independently. When they need help, they can often find it from a slightly older student. If that doesn't work, and a teacher is busy, they can put their name on a "help wanted" list--to ask a quick question, have work checked, or get help with work.
Montessori elementary offers a strong academic program, but goes much beyond that. Here, students learn how to properly use sharp knives to cut up fruit and vegetables for their daily snack. Practical life skills are integrated into the curriculum!
At the Emeryville campus, children sit down for a restaurant style lunch. Setting up the table with placemats, napkins, plates and silverware is the children's job. Having a nice setting like this encourages a civilized, well-mannered lunch experience.
Several of our elementary programs have access to kitchens, where the children can cook and bake. Cooking and baking are great practical skills to learn, and also contribute to academics: converting a recipe to larger or smaller quantities is great applied math, for example.
Keeping the classroom environment beautiful is part of the children's daily chores. It's a welcome break from more academic work, and it's also great skill development for responsible, independent living.
Handwork, such as knitting and crocheting, are great applied practical skills for elementary-age children. They strengthen fine motor control, help with patterning and counting, and are just plain fun!
Often, one student teaches a new skill to another one! In this classroom, neither of the teachers knew how to crochet. One girl learned the skill at home, and brought it to school, where she's been teaching her peers and teachers. Peer learning and personal interests are very motivating to elementary students!
During this field trip to the Art Farm, students had the opportunity to draw animals from live models, out in nature. Regular field trips that connect classroom learning to the world and expose children to new things are a core part of our Montessori elementary program.
Field trips in a Montessori setting are not just for fun. They are closely integrated with the curriculum. On this trip to Muir Woods, children explored different plant and animal habitats. They brought their sketch books and drew and labeled pictures of what they saw.
Mixed-age community in action! For this field trip, the teachers had prepared group games--but none were needed. As soon as the children arrive, they made up their own fun, playing across ages and girls with boys. Learning to be friends with those around you (as against separating out into cliques) is a key benefit of a Montessori education.
Montessori teachers are great at finding ways to make even repetitive tasks--like learning Chinese Zhuyin or characters--more fun. Here, a 1st year boy is practicing water calligraphy on a Zen drawing board.
At different times of the year, our elementary students have opportunities to participate in performances. Here, a teacher in our Mandarin immersion elementary program is working on poetry in Chinese with students. Memorizing poems, and learning to recite them in front of an audience, helps children become comfortable with public speaking.
In Montessori elementary, children often work together. Here, two students solve arithmetic problems into the millions with the Large Bead frame. By explaining the process to each other, by helping each other when they get stuck, our students deepen their understanding for math. They also learn to problem solve together--rather than view other classmates as competitors.
Here, a five- and a seven-year-old work together on addition with carrying into the millions. In the mixed-age Montessori setting, a gifted child can work with older peers, and still have social interactions with same-age peers as well.
Montessori mentoring in action! The five-year-old boy in this photo is still working on learning to read. He's sounded out words, and labeled objects; he's put out little markers to indicate the number of syllables in the words. When he was done, he asked these older girls to check his work. He gets immediate feedback, and the girls casually review a prior lesson. Win-win!
Our older students regularly give lessons to younger ones. Here, a 2nd year student is giving a lacing lesson to a 1st year student. He's gaining confidence and pride--something that can help him keep going, when at another time he struggles with something that's challenging for him.
In our immersion programs, children learn content simultaneously in English, and in their second language (here, Mandarin Chinese). The curriculum is available in both language, and children can work in English or Chinese, or in both at the same time!
Art is integrated into the Montessori elementary curriculum. Here, a 1st year student is painting a map of North America. Look at the focus on his face. Imagine his pride when he can show his beautiful map to this parents!
Carlsbad Village students enjoyed weaving during lunch break. While we don't require parents to volunteer, we do love it when parents bring some of their passions into our classroom--like this parent, who made these looms and taught weaving classes as an enrichment activity.
At our Carlsbad Village campus, a parent who fell in love with retro-crafts brought in looms for the children. A fury of creativity ensued during the lunch hours, and these self-made rugs were the result.
Learning about the Fundamental Needs of Man is a core part of our history curriculum in Montessori elementary. Making pottery helps students understand how things are made--and integrates art into the curriculum.
Our after school enrichment programs are a convenient way for working parents to offer additional experience to their children, without needing to drive them all over town. Here, students are playing Chess as part of our after-school chess club.
Karate and other physical activities offered to our elementary students are a great way to exercise those large muscles. We carefully select enrichment programs that align with our Montessori principles, programs led by teachers who understand good pedagogical principles.
In our Montessori elementary programs, we use technology selectively and purposefully. It can be a great tool for making memorization more engaging. It also works well when immediate feedback is helpful--such as here, where a student traces, in correct order, the strokes of a Chinese character.
Starting in late 2nd/early 3rd year, we introduce children to keyboarding skills. Each classroom has at least one computer with a keyboarding program which is accessible to our older students and which prepares them for our upper grades, where each student is equipped with a laptop and needs to know how to use it well.
Many of our schools have gardens that the children plant themselves. Botany lessons then take place outside as students observe plants grown--and harvesting is integrated into cooking and the study of the fundamental needs of man.
Montessori elementary students quickly progress from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." This boy is learning about the fundamental needs of man across cultures and ages using Montessori three-part cards.
Being able to curl up with a book to read is one of the pleasures our elementary students treasure! How much more enjoyable this is than laboring through the text excerpts so commonly found in grade readers!--at the Irvine Spectrum campus
Science in Montessori involves lots of observations. What do plants need to grow? Let's see what happens if we put some seeds in a warm spot, and others in the fridge, some with light, and some without. Students are encouraged to talk through insights gained from observations--instead of being given ready-made answers.
Lessons in Montessori elementary are often given to small groups of students who are ready for the same materials. Here, a teacher is giving a lesson on place value with the Large Bead Frame: children build large numbers using the beads, translating their understanding from more concrete materials to this last material prior to doing arithmetic with just paper and pencil.
Read aloud time is a favorite time in our elementary classrooms. Often, children make themselves comfortable and do some handwork project, whether modeling in clay or knitting or crocheting or weaving.
Montessori covers a broad curriculum and includes many cross-curricular integrations. Here, children learn about the months of a year--and relate terms like "semester" or "quarter" to the relevant fractions of the year, integrating math and social studies.
Botany is a big part of the Montessori curriculum. In primary, children may trace leaf shapes and manipulate physical objects; in elementary, they draw the same shapes, and may link that work to research on plants that feature these leaf shapes.
This student is practicing multiplication with the Stamp Game. Look at all those hundreds in front of him, as he is about to combine them by exchanging each set of ten hundred squares into one thousand square, making carrying real to himself.
This five-year-old is practicing arithmetic with the Small bead frame. Notice not just the math, but also the focused look on his face, and the serene setting around him: wouldn't you want to learn in such an environment?!
This student is skip counting the six chain. He's marking each multiple of six with a small tag, and places a square after each square of six. This is a great, hands-on way to learn multiplication facts.
This 1st year student is practicing addition with carrying with the stamp game into the thousands. In the Common Core curriculum, by contrast, dynamic addition beyond 1,000 isn't introduced until 3rd grade.
Learning math facts shouldn't be boring! In our Montessori elementary program, students have many different ways of practicing multiplication facts. Here, a student has built multiples of two out of colored bead bars and labeled them.
Here, a student is solving a multi-digit multiplication problem with the Checker Board. Students start by counting out beads--but that takes a lot of time. So they become motivated to memorize their multiplication facts, as that allows them to solve problems faster!
With the Box of Sticks, children are experimenting with angles--right angles, obtuse angles, acute angles. Children benefit from starting with physical materials, before doing similar activities abstractly, with just paper and pencil.
The Multiplication Checker board enables 2nd or 3rd graders to really understand multi-digit multiplication into the billions--a skill that is rarely taught to that level even in 4th or 5th grade in other schools. When children run out of space on one checkerboard, they can add another one! Often, children become fascinated by the huge numbers they can make!
Montessori is all about mastery. Math problems are often written on small cards. After the student uses the materials to arrive at a solution, he just turns the card around, and, voila, there is an answer against which he can check his work. No grade = no incentive to cheat.
Teachers in Montessori elementary often work with one student or a small group of students. Here, a child receives an individual lesson with the Box of Sticks. This materials helps children learn about the property of lines (parallel, convergent, divergent) and of angles (acute, obtuse, right).
Recess is an important time for elementary children. Our teachers are right there with them, observing carefully, interacting as needed to ensure a benevolent atmosphere, but not stepping in prematurely: we believe children learn social skills through experimenting with them!
Our elementary programs often have strong family communities. Here, two students from our Emeryville campus explore a hay maze at an October community play date. Each month, a different family volunteers to pick a park or local attraction so families can get to know each other outside of school.
It's great to see the seven- and eight-year-olds play happily with the five- and six-year-olds. Parents often tell us that the mixed-age environment has helped their children be better siblings at home, as they practice being the youngest, middle and oldest child at school all the time.