Primary Course Summary
The Primary course is an undergraduate course which trains adults to work with children from 2 ½ to 6 years of age. It is designed to be an interactive study based on Dr. Montessori’s vision for lifelong learning, utilizing all her materials and methodologies, integrated with current research in child development and early childhood education. Instructors facilitate the learning process and share their experiences and resources. Opportunities are provided for observation and discussion of ongoing classrooms as well as attendance at parent information meetings and parent conferences. Trainees are required to participate in practice sessions with materials, present materials to the group at intervals, complete personal, illustrated curriculum manuals which describe the Montessori materials and outline their presentations, as well as explain the Montessori viewpoint on child psychology and development and the philosophy of education. They must also create a variety of teacher-made materials based on the models available in the training center classrooms, and eventually practice-teach under supervision in ongoing Montessori environments.
The course intends to prepare adults to teach children, between the ages of 2 ½ and 6, in a Montessori environment. The academic phase can be completed in two school years. A school-year long supervised internship (working at least three hours a day, five days a week) as an assistant in a functioning multi-age Montessori classroom is also required after the completion of the materials section of the course. This can be done in conjunction with the Philosophy, Psychology and Classroom Management segments of the course, or separately. The MMTTC issues a Certificate of Completion upon successful completion of the course. Graduates of the program are qualified to hold a teaching position in a Montessori 2 ½ to 6 year old classroom [a California State Teacher’s Permit must be obtained before becoming a head teacher. This usually requires 12 units of core classes, available at most community colleges, and potentially awarded with submission of the MMTTC courses.]
The course includes instruction in the following areas: The Exercises of Practical Life; The Sensorial Materials; The Cultural Subjects; Peace Education; Language Development; Mathematics; Child Psychology and Development – Montessori’s Approach (The Formation of Man); Child, Family & Community; Montessori’s Philosophy of Education – Cosmic Education; Classroom Management; and Observation Techniques.
PRACTICAL LIFE EXERCISES
The exercises of Practical Life assist in the development of the child’s motor coordination, focus and concentration. Some of these activities lead him from large muscle movements, like those necessary for scrubbing tables and chairs, to the more refined movements necessary for buttoning, buckling, etc. The mastery of the associated skills assists the child in learning to care for himself and his environment. As the child acquires these skills and others, which focus on appropriate social interaction, he gains independence and self-confidence.
The Sensorial Exercises were created by Dr. Montessori to help make the child aware of the functioning of his/her senses and to refine and develop them. Each exercise isolates the input from one particular sense, intensifying and focusing the child’s experiences of it through repetition of each activity. After the absorption of this sensory input, or “key experience”, the child is given the language to associate with the experience, thus allowing him to classify and categorize the input he receives from his senses concerning his environment and express his experience accurately. The Sensorial Materials include experiences for the visual, auditory, tactile, stereognostic, gustatory and olfactory senses as well as thermic and baric stimuli.
The Cultural Subjects are comprised of materials and exercises with which the child discovers the interrelatedness and interdependence of different aspects of the larger world. The areas they explore include physics, geography, biology, anthropology, history, music and art. Their synthesis provides the foundation upon which, combined with peacemaking and peace keeping skills, the Montessori peace education curriculum is built.
Peacemaking and peace keeping skills, including problem solving and arbitration techniques, are demonstrated through role-play and practice. These, combined with the children’s familiarity with the common needs of all people, gleaned from their work with Peoples of the World and the Fundamental Needs of Humans materials, build a solid foundation for a peaceful individual.
The most concrete aspect of language is sound. Therefore, to encourage language development, we first focus on increasing oral skills through vocabulary development and sound awareness activities, always associating words with concrete experiences. The specific materials and activities that assist the child with acquiring writing, reading and composition skills are presented, as are the materials that expose the child to the function of words and reading analysis.
The concepts of quantity, symbol, sequence, arithmetic, geometry, algebra and fractions are introduced to the child through the use of beautiful, manipulative materials. The child proceeds from the concrete experience with the materials to understanding and utilizing the abstract concepts, which they embody and demonstrate.
CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT – MONTESSORI’S APPROACH (THE FORMATION OF MAN)
This curriculum gives an overview of the history and current ideas in the field of child psychology and development. The study of Dr. Montessori’s concept of the developmental stages, the Planes of Development, the Absorbent Mind, the Sensitive Periods and the Tendencies of Man, are explained, discussed and presented (assisted, in part, by the student’s research and written reports on five educators/ child psychologists).
CHILD, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY
This course examines the developing child in a societal context, focusing on the relationships among children, families, schools and the community. Emphasis will be placed on the nature of the parent-child relationship, and the role of adults and mixed age peers in a child’s socialization and identity development. Ways to support and empower families will be discussed, including parent education. Observation of parent-teacher conferences in a Montessori school is required.
MONTESSORI’S PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION – COSMIC EDUCATION
In this segment of the course, we enter into the study of Montessori’s philosophy, which concentrates on the function of humankind within the framework of the evolution of life and the cosmos. The preparation of the child’s imagination for the recognition of this great task is achieved by the use of creative, hands on materials relating to the evolution of consciousness. We also compare and contrast Montessori’s philosophy with other philosophers (discussions are assisted, in part, by the student’s research and written reports on five philosophers).
This course addresses techniques for behavior management; record keeping, parent conferences and information meetings; staff communications, meetings, management and training; how to start a new classroom, how to set up a classroom and set a daily schedule; and California State Licensing requirements and other relevant subjects are presented and discussed. Opportunities to attend parent education meetings and parent-teacher conferences at Montessori schools provided.
Observation of children within the Montessori environment is an essential aspect of teacher training. It is only through the acquisition of excellent observation skills that the guide is able to properly assess each child and truly be “the dynamic link” between the child and the environment, knowing when to “kindle the flame of interest” and when to step back and allow the child to interact with the environment on his own. Students will develop the ability to observe self and others; to observe, assess and act in a classroom setting in relationship with individual children; to better access and evaluate children and understand when outside assistance and support are needed. Twenty hour-long guided personal observations in Montessori classrooms are required of each student. Group discussions about these student observations and intern experiences are a key learning modality.
LENGTH OF CYCLE/CLOCK HOURS – PRIMARY PROGRAM
The course is made up of an ACADEMIC phase and a PRACTICUM phase. The academic phase is composed of lecture, presentations of materials, group process and discussion, and supervised practice with materials, with a minimum of 400 hours of on-site, direct contact between instructor and student. The practicum (internship) is comprised of approximately 600 hours, including a minimum of 400 hours of student teaching and 200 hours of seminars, independent study, observation, projects, additional student teaching, etc. The total instructional clock hours for the program is approximately 1,000 hours.
The academic phase is comprised of eight courses. The courses can be taken over six school-year quarters, in two summer intensive units (when offered) or in a combination of both. School-year classes are usually held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 PM to 7 PM. Summer intensive courses are usually held Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Students may enroll at the beginning of any quarter with the approval of the Director, but it is most successful to begin with the Practical Life and Sensorial unit. After successful completion of the materials portion of the course (Practical Life & Sensorial, Cultural, Language and Mathematics classes), students may then embark on a year-long internship during which they student teach 5 days a week, for at least half a day (three hours), under the supervision of a MMTTC-approved, Certified Montessori Teacher. Most students complete the cycle and are certified within a three-year period, however some are able to complete in two years.