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After our recent parent education session on literacy at Forestville Montessori School, we wanted to introduce you to more of our in-class language materials.

Montessori grammar materials are not only beautiful, they do a great job of engaging children to learn about something many of us dreaded when we were kids ourselves.

Parents who attended our In Conversation Literacy session had a first-hand experience of some of the beautiful literacy materials used in our classrooms. Many parents commented they had ‘education envy,’ at the joyful learning Montessori materials provide.

For families who could not attend, and for anyone else interested in Montessori education, this article will give you some insight to these beautiful and functional literacy materials too.

It all begins in the kindergarten year, with a sweet introduction to the miniature environment.

Traditionally, the miniature environment consists of a replica barn, complete with tiny toy animal figures.

When we think of grammar for our five or six-year-olds, the goal is to let them graze. We don’t expect mastery. We want to introduce concepts in a way that is light and fun and makes them want to engage.

This is where the farm animals come in.

Nouns are naming words, and children in the kindergarten year are often still developing their reading skills.

Tiny paper labels lie alongside the figures as the child works. The children have fun matching the labels to animals as they verbally name cow, sheep, chicken, and even fence, barn, farmer.

As time goes on, we introduce the concept of articles, and how their function is to introduce the noun. The cow, a sheep, an ox.

This progresses through all the parts of speech: adjectives, verbs, prepositions, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and finally, interjections.

The Grammar Boxes

Of course, there’s more to grammar than adorable toy animals. As children progress into primary school they begin to use the Montessori grammar box materials.

The grammar boxes consist of wooden boxes containing cards with words and phrases, sectioned trays to lay the cards in, and open-topped containers with larger index-sized cards.

We start with the cards, which are called command cards. Command cards progress through the different parts of speech and direct children to physically do specific things. “Throw the eraser out the door” is a crowd favorite. This is one exciting way Montessori turns language work into something more hands on and participatory.

Once they’ve worked their way through the command cards, children engage with filling the boxes, recreating phrases and sentences and identifying the various parts of speech.

At some point, the children learn symbols for different parts of speech. We use different shapes to indicate various parts of language: adjective, article, noun, verb, prepositon etc. They begin to write sentences in their notebooks and can draw the correct labels above each word, effectively analysing their own writing.

The grammar boxes are typically completed sometime during the final year of lower primary school (year 4), although teachers may choose to use the material for review purposes.

Sentence Analysis

Montessori sentence analysis is not the same as the sentence diagramming some of us did when we were younger, but it is based on similar concepts.

As the child progresses through their primary school Montessori education, they are beginning to move toward what we call abstraction. That is, they are beginning to internalise concepts in a way that doesn’t require them to use hand-held manipulatives or materials nearly as often.

At this stage, sentence analysis materials are moveable, but there’s much less to interact with. A series of wood circles and arrows help the child learn concepts like subjects and predicates.

Eventually, sometime in upper primary school (year 5 or 6), children explore all kinds of sentence analysis concepts such as indirect objects and adverbial extensions. Children begin to create more descriptive and complex sentences. Continued practice enhances writing skills and prepares children for future writing tasks such as essays and presentations.

For many parents reflecting on their own education, the Montessori learning materials are substantially different.

If you’d like to know more about our learning materials and methods, please keep an eye on our blog articles and look out for our next In Conversation session. These are held twice each term at Forestville Montessori School.

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Denice Scala

Author Denice Scala

B.A, M.Ed, Dip ED, Dip RSA, Cert. Neuroscience. Principal, Forestville Montessori School. Denice Scala is an executive leader with extensive experience in key strategic roles requiring business transformation and innovation. As a passionate advocate for the power of education to enrich lives, Denice moved from classroom teaching to leadership positions in 1992 and since then has held international in roles in Scotland and Australia as Principal, Head of Junior School, and Head of Learning Support. She has an impressive working knowledge of early learning, primary, middle, and secondary schooling including gifted education and special needs. Her Masters in Gifted Education led her to work extensively to find ways to cater for gifted students. This led to providing professional development opportunities for educators to assist in their understanding of the characteristics of gifted children and the complexities of growing up gifted. Denice’s unparalleled grasp of current educational realities is equally matched by her big picture thinking combined with practical solutions to navigate change. Denice’s passion for Montessori education led her to undertake the AMI Introduction to Adolescents Course, to audit the AMI 6-12 Diploma, and to also currently undertake the AMI School Administration Certificate Course.

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