In Montessori Upper Elementary, students deepen their study of grammar. Instead of looking at words in isolation (e.g., “this is an adjective, this is an adverb”), the attention shifts to the relationship of words within sentences.
- The Montessori Sentence Analysis materials—loose wooden circles and arrows—are used to break simple sentences down into their parts.
- As sentences become more complex, the amount of circles and arrows needed to represent them would become unmanageable. That’s when we introduce Sentence Diagramming as a paper-on-pencil, more abstract, yet still visual representation of how the parts of a sentence fit together.
Nine- to twelve-year-olds in Montessori Upper Elementary thus acquire tools that help them to:
- Review the parts of speech
- Understand how the parts of speech function together to create compound sentences
- Explore methods of joining subjects, verbs and objects
- Understand complex grammatical tools used to make compound sentences, including prepositional phrases, verbal nouns, modifiers and compound subjects
Throughout the program, we ensure that students apply what they learn, that they see the value of grammar as an aid to improve their creative writing and their thinking skills. For example, once a student realizes that pronouns must have a clear antecedent to be understood, they can be on the lookout for vague pronouns in their own writing. They can ask themselves, “do all my pronouns have clear antecedents?”
We thus teach grammar as a powerful tool for clarity in communications. By explicitly teaching sentence diagramming, we enable students to, in Montessori terms, isolate the difficulty—to focus on how the English language works, to practice writing with precision and editing with purpose. Thus, we give students an appreciation for the power of the English language—and equip them to be skilled writers, who have at their disposal a well-practiced, intuitive grasp of how to write (and argue!) logically.