Montessori Monday: The Farm
The Montessori didactic materials are designed to match particular qualities of children's development we understand to be inherent to the child. For example, they are self-correcting, matching the child's intrinsic motivation to learn and to self-perfect. They are tangible, matching the child's concrete mind and his or her developmental need to touch and move materials in order to internalize abstract concepts. They often include small objects, attractive to children's natural curiosity about tiny things and figures. They allow children to enact the world they see around them in a manageable way. The Farm is a perfect example of these qualities coming together in one work. In the Early Childhood classroom, the Farm is an advanced language material, although it is common in the earliest levels of the Elementary curriculum. Children are invited to explore a small model of a farm, complete with animals and objects, and including a series of label cards that match each of the figures the child discovers. Through the Farm, children can practice building simple combinations of words to read, labeling the objects and then reading aloud their sentences or phrases. Although the child may not have yet been introduced to the parts of speech, the label cards are nonetheless color coded to match the same system we'll use when teaching about verbs, nouns, articles and other parts of speech. As such, similar concepts maintain a consistent design even though they may be found in various lessons. Some classrooms have expanded upon the original Farm, noting that the agrarian life that was common for children in the early days of Montessori may not be as familiar to children today. In some classrooms, you may find a dollhouse similarly structured, or a model of a city plaza, or a model of the child's own classroom. We find, though, that although our children may not be as familiar with sheep and pigs in their daily lives as Montessori's first students, they are nonetheless equally enchanted by engaging with these models. By attracting them to a material to piques their curiosity and maintains their interest, we are able to enhance the children's understanding of formal, written language and its rules without the children ever realizing they've been "practicing their grammar."