Thursday, December 3, 2009

How Do Montessori Toddler Programs Affect a Child's First Year in Primary

I have been here and there substitute teaching. Last week, I spent five days subbing in an AMI Toddler classroom. I was amazed at the work these young children were doing. So much of their work looked familiar, as it was. They did leaf washing, plant watering, cloth washing, mystery bag 1 and the list goes on. It was great to see them so occupied and so accomplished. But, I was left wondering how this work that they are now doing would later affect their work in the Primary classroom. I wondered about those first preliminary lessons that are so much of the work done in the first few weeks of the year. Would they be as captivated?

Looking at the Practical Life shelves in the Toddler room, I noticed several of the dressing frames. There was the button frame, the Velcro frame, the snap frame and the zipper frame - although the flaps and buttons were slightly larger than the Primary versions of these same works. Having already had lessons on these, could they simply use the ones in the Primary environment without another lesson or would I re-present the slightly modified frames in hopes that some small detail would catch their eye and their interest.

I am hoping all of you would provide answers to some of my questions - as naive as they may sound. I see more and more Montessori schools offering Toddler programs. I think they are amazing. I just want to dialog about how to create a bridge between the Toddler environment and the Primary environment, just as with the elementary program. If I have all these questions and thoughts, I am sure others do also.


pattyannie said...

We just opened a Toddler classroom this school year. I was thinking about how they would adjust to the EC classrooms. I am getting 2 children that are transitioning to my classroom in January.

Angela said...

Hi Susan,
My friend runs the toddler program here in England (she is S. Africian) and it is amazing. I substituted in the classroom one day and absolutely loved it. I think the primary purpose is to educate parents. Then, it prepares the child for work in the primary classrooms. The children begin here at 2.5 and they transition right from the toddler room. Most things are familiar to them if just a little bit more complex. (Good for intrinsic motivation!) They create a sense of order which we know is so important in the 3-6 years. They are able to manipulate these materials and create impressions and develop concepts. Entering into the primary classroom they feel more secure which helps with self esteem and independence. When done well it is brilliant. I am moving back to America on MONDAY (finishing my 3-6 training this weekend) and hope to start some toddler programs! I wish I hand known about these when my children were little. They have been in Montessori since 3 but if only I had been more educated! I love your blog and am always inspired by it. It has brought me to tears and encouraged me to continue this work over the past year. Thank you! Angela

Susan Y. Dyer said...


I am moving soon to Vt. It takes a lot of energy. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I absolutely think Toddler programs are amazing. I think it is important for the Primary teachers to observe in these classrooms and to see the work being done there. And too, Toddler teachers should observe in Primary. I am simply wondering about the dialog between the two classrooms and the significance of this dialog.

I often feel this is not happening enough between the Primary program and the Elementary program. I wish I had better knowledge of "What comes next" for my older students and now I am wondering "What came before" for some of my youngest.

Susan Dyer
The Moveable Alphabet

Anonymous said...

I have had several students transition from Toddler to Primary, and they come in with a sense of self-control and independence that takes newcomers of the same age about 6 months to achieve.

Therefore, I find myself moving more quickly with the transitioning students towards activities like sandpaper letters and more advanced Sensorial activities, because they're ready to handle them. Their language skills are more advanced, they "get" more out of each activity, and they know how to choose freely. They also quickly pick up on the concept of not touching materials they haven't been presented with.

Most of the students at the model Primary classroom where I did my training transition from their Toddler program, and the level of work in that Children's house is phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I enjoy reading this blog. I like looking at the pictures. Also, I look to this blog for guidance and inspiration for my classroom. I have a MED is Special Ed and a BA in Elem. Ed. I have my Montessori training from NAMC but I really would like to do an AMI training, so that I can learn the purest way to apply the Montessori Method. Before getting training I assisted in Only the Practical Life Area with a Directress who was trained in Somoa (spelling?).Also, my Master's Internship was in a Multi-age setting. We used teacher made materials and constructed our own curriculum, also my Mentor teacher was inspired by the Reggio Emilia Method, and I hope to go to Italy for a study tour. In my limited knowlege and experience the directress was very pure in her approach in applying the Montessori Philosophy to helping children realize thier potential. In response to the Toddler programs, I must say I have some areas of concern. For example, depending on training programs, NAMC for example, have thier toddler program from Birth through 3. So, when it is applied in a school setting, in one instance that I know of the children are kept from 2-3 three years old in the toddler room. (Keeping the fact that not all programs are the same in approach, setting, age of children, materials etc)I am concerned about the children not being with a three year multi-age range of children to work with and learn from, as well as a full range of Children's House Montessori Materials. I feel that at 2 1/2 the toddlers should be immersed in The Children's House. Another factor is that some programs really focus on Language Acquisition for the toddler program and that seems counterintuitive to the core of Montessori, Practical Life, which is lessons with more actions that words. Also, my last concern or area to explore and really think about as a Childrens House Directress, who works to transition toddlers into the environment is ratio. For example the toddler ratio for 2's is 1 to 5 if they are with oldest (not sure about 3's and this varies state by state), The school where I assisted at did not have a toddler program and my directress insisted that 2 1/2 children should be enrolled in Children's House we had a ratio of 1-11.) So, in some cases the toddler program has a ration of 1-5. This seems like a difficult environment for the children to interact freely with the environment, and with eachother with out interruption. As I have not worked in a toddler room, I don't know very much about how much 1-1 or small group assistance that they truely need. But it seems that even at that age we do not want to "entertain" the children but give them the tools learn that they can complete activities in their environment and "move things", or organize thier environment. The toddler work that is posted on this sight here are very different than the Practical Life work that I have seen in other toddler rooms. I could go on and on about this because I am so passionate about the Montessori Philosophy and I am constantly seeking to perfect my ability to inspire the children to be happy wiht their work.