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Language Acquisition A Mini-journey
February 16th, 2018
Young People’s Community – Judy Olsen
YPC is an environment rich with Language. Children this age have a natural ability to learn language - so much so that at times it seems that they effortlessly absorb it. Children that had a limited vocabulary in September are now, in February, carrying on conversations not only with Rachel and myself, but also with each other. Some children use sign language. It is so much fun listening to the older children carrying on a conversation with the younger children. Sometimes the conversations can get a little garbled. I have been hearing them asking each other – “What are you talking about?” – as they encourage their peers to express themselves.
Singing is another means of acquiring language with toddlers, and we practice every day in YPC. In our classroom, dinosaurs are marching to the beat of a song every day – or as they like to sing in Spanish, marcha, marcha, marcha!
As you know, you can read the same book 100 times and they enjoy hearing it as much as they did the first time, only now they can recite the entire book with you. It is through repetition that they gain confidence in their newly acquired language skills. It is truly a joy to observe the progression of their language skills in YPC.
Children’s House – Carrie Schmidt
The Sandpaper Letters are the place we begin when introducing sounds in the Montessori classroom. During the lesson a child is shown a letter, and the teacher demonstrates how to trace the letter with a fingertip as she speaks the sound of the letter. This is repeated three times. This repetition helps the child to internalize the sound and symbol using all his or her sense. Only three letters are introduced in each lesson.
Once a child has learned a handful of sounds the child is given a lesson with The Moveable Alphabet. A treasure box full small objects, each beginning with a specific phoneme is presented. The child begins to match initial sounds with the objects, eventually sounding out the whole word. As the child begins to read, we introduce “Phonograms” which are combinations of letters that are not phonetic ex: “sh”, “oo”, “ch”.
Many activities in the classroom function to strengthen the pincer grip required for pencil work, and often overlap with other subject areas such as geometry. For example, the punch work. The classroom is rich in language, each aspect of the environment offers language experience.
Lower Elementary – Grail Kearney
The Montessori Language curriculum virtually extends into all areas of the Lower Elementary environment. In each area, the child is afforded the opportunity to practice the necessary skills for reading and writing. The classroom is a complete environment, set up for the interest and benefit of the emergent reader. Indeed, it is a virtual laboratory in which to refine these skills. Working with nomenclature booklets, matching picture cards with simple labels and definitions, is a hallmark of so many areas of the Montessori Elementary environment.
Simultaneous to the work of strengthening these skills. is the imaginative and enjoyable study of grammar and its nine parts of speech. The elementary child is naturally drawn to the brightly colored grammar symbols, with their interesting (and amusing!) stories. Additionally, in the elementary, the children devote much time to word study, learning about word etymologies, and such word families as the prefix, suffix, antonym and homonym.
Throughout the Elementary years, there is much focus on the strengthening of the elementary child’s developing hand. Through the use of metal insets, puzzle map pieces, scissor activities and a variety of handwork (such as weaving and knitting) the children are given a broad spectrum of choices to develop these important fine motor skills.
The lower elementary children are also exposed to a wide variety of classic children’s literature in the form of the read aloud. Throughout the year, we read many children’s novels, enjoying the experience of great writing and the pleasure of a well told story. Finally, in the culminating third year of Lower El, the children participate in a regular book discussion group, learning to think about and discuss the various aspects of a classic work of literature.
Upper Elementary – Kate Gnitzcavich and Katherine Vandiver
The language curriculum of the Upper Elementary is a continuation of that in the Lower Elementary, focusing on the refinement of reading and writing skills, as well as advanced levels of grammar and word study. Tuesday evening, we put out several examples of work that Upper El students are currently engaged with, including, but not limited to: grammar analysis of literature, advanced study of types of nouns (common/proper, collective, and abstract), analogies, poem memorization, sentence analysis, root/suffixes, and book discussion.
A shortened version of the Great Lesson: The Story of Communication in Signs (the story of our alphabet) was presented to parents. The purpose of the lessons is to help the child make the discovery that the alphabet and the sounds are the keys to make spoken language visible. It opens up the whole exploration of one of human’s greatest achievements, the creation of written language. It also introduces the child to the development and history of written languages, following civilizations throughout the Mediterranean region, from Sumer to Anglo-Saxon England. In the classroom, this lesson is a springboard to all the various aspects of our language curriculum, in addition to further exploration in geography and history.