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Have you ever noted how it seems a child at a certain age can learn new words unconsciously and without fatigue, unnoticeable to himself and to those around him?

This is known in Montessori as a sensitive period. It is a time period when a child seems to quickly absorb new things without much perceived effort—when they seem to naturally soak up new information like a sponge. A child’s insatiable desire for words in this stage is a reflection of their need to explore and adapt to their surroundings. During a child’s sensitive period for language, they may continuously demand to learn the names of all the objects in their environment.

By the time children enter the Primary Montessori classroom, typically at age 3, they can already verbally express themselves and have a growing knowledge of words. The teacher’s (Primary Guide’s) role then is to aid the language development that has already started and continue it. The child will discover and explore language through engaging with spoken language in the environment and the classroom materials. This combination enables the child to enrich their vocabulary, freely explore language more in-depth, and gain a greater ability to communicate. The language material and classroom conversations provide children with a wealth of vocabulary needed to express themselves, properly construct sentences and communicate successfully.

In Montessori education one of the key parts of the development of language is through the informal language lessons and the three-period lesson. The three-period lesson gives the child a chance to be introduced to new terms (at most three at a time), identify them (pointing them out when asked), and finally recall them on their own. By presenting new language in this engaging manner a child is best able to become acquainted with and remember new language. It also aids in the first consideration of the development of language in the Montessori environment which is the enrichment of a child’s vocabulary. Other than the three-period lessons, language can also be enriched through the child practicing spoken language in the Montessori environment through daily conversations and storytelling. A child perhaps best learns proper syntax through practicing and hearing spoken language.

To further assist a child’s understanding, vocabulary is often taught alongside an associated object or situation to help the child solidify the meaning of the words. Whenever possible, real objects related to language are used to help represent the language being given in a concrete manner. For instance, when the vocabulary involved with the names of the parts of a plant is being taught, a real plant may be used to relate the language. When this is not possible, picture cards may be used. Building a strong and diverse base of vocabulary during the child’s sensitive period for language acquisition—and constantly expanding upon it—is important, as it is a key element to naturally develop a child’s reading and writing skills.

Jillian Snyder received her B.A. in Sociology from The College of Wooster in Ohio. Her mother was an AMI-trained guide and, as a child during her primary years, Jillian attended two Montessori schools in Texas. Once reconnected with the Montessori philosophy as an adult, she pursued her Master’s in Montessori Education from the University of San Diego, as well as her AMI 0-3 and Primary diplomas through the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Through her experience, Jillian has become a strong supporter of the Montessori approach to education and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for the Montessori method. Jillian is excited to continue to collaborate with the talented team of teachers at LePort Montessori as they continue to support and create quality personalized educational programs for each child.

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