“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.” –Maria Montessori
The Kindergarten Transition Program at Montessori Family School is located at our El Cerrito Campus and offers children ages 4 1/2 to 6, the time and support they need to transition from early childhood to the more rigorous and exciting learning experiences that lie ahead in the Elementary Program. In our busy and demanding world, the gifts of time and support are priceless.
The Kindergarten Transition Program is ideally suited for children who are too young for first grade, or not quite ready for an academic, Lower Elementary Classrom (1st–3rd grade), even if they have attended a three-year Montessori Early Childhood Program. The age range for the program is for children approximately 4 1/2 to 6 years old.
In this small classroom, a maximum of 18 students are taught by two trained Montessori teachers. This low teacher/student ratio allows children to receive individualized attention as they experience a range of age-appropriate materials. Some children, who enter on the younger end of the spectrum, may spend two years in the KT class.
The school day runs from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. The morning serves as the “work period,” with the rest of the day taken up by recess, lunch, rest/story period, and time for resource activities. The KT program’s complete, in-depth curriculum, is specifically designed for transitional-age children. It prepares them to enter the Lower Elementary Program with a high level of both academic and social skill.
The KT program follows the Montessori curriculum in all subject areas: cultural (science and social studies), language (reading and writing), math, sensorial, and practical life studies. All subjects are taught using concrete, developmentally appropriate materials, focusing on the experiential aspect of learning. Children move at their own pace, pursue particular subjects that are of interest to them, and teach and learn from each other.
The KT “cultural” curriculum covers geography, anatomy, botany, zoology and simple physics. In general, students are introduced to the “big picture” first, then go in-depth as the year goes on. Children study the solar system, the earth and its layers, climate zones, the animals and plants that live in these zones, and the rich history of different cultures. Puzzle maps, flags from different nations, songs, music, and foods from around the world support the cultural studies curriculum.
Language studies in the KT classroom are designed to prepare students for the academic work of the Elementary Program. The children access a wide range of materials designed to teach reading and writing using, among other things, phonics and site words.
In KT math, children focus on learning place value and beginning math operations. Traditional Montessori math materials provide students with a physical component to the experience of learning math concepts. This gives them a solid foundation for moving into the study of abstract concepts, and gaining a broad understanding of math as a whole. These materials include sets of golden beads that enable students to count all the way up to 9999, grasp place value, and learn beginning addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions.
Children learn with their senses, so the Montessori Program uses special materials to hone those senses, and thus enable students to learn more quickly and easily. These materials include the “pink tower,” “red rods,” “sound cylinders,” “smelling bottles,” and “thermic tablets”—familiar to and beloved by anyone who’s studied in a Montessori school, and designed specifically to enable children to develop such skills as clarifying, sorting, and classifying. Using these materials to complete specific “works” also helps build a child’s self esteem, and gives him or her a solid base for learning mathematics and higher-level language skills.
Practical Life Studies
“Practical Life” is an important part of the KT curriculum, helping children learn to take care of themselves and their physical environment. As part of their practical life study, they prepare their own snacks, learn how to tie their shoes and zip their jackets, wash tables, and clean up after themselves. They also care for the plants and animals in the classroom.
To meet their broader developmental needs, children participate in a number of weekly enrichment classes, on such topics as music (using the Orff Schulwerk system), art, Spanish, and physical education.
Developing a vocabulary for expressing needs and ideas is a key skill that helps children explain themselves to others, whenever there is a conflict or difference of opinion. In the KT classroom, children are encouraged to “use their words” in order to explain their point of view, whether to a friend or to the rest of the group, whenever necessary.
As children learn to work out differences of perception or opinion, the KT program helps them develop peaceful strategies for conflict resolution. They learn how to cooperate with others, and how to become a member of a community that cares for, supports, and needs them.
The School-Family Connection
There are many opportunities for KT parents to help out in the classrooms. They can serve as room parents, read to the class, help with writing or with special projects, or participate in field trips.
MFS strives to maintain excellent home-school communication. Each teacher is open and eager to listen to parents’ concerns, and respond accordingly. Teachers can be reached by email, and are available for ad-hoc meetings, as well as twice-yearly conferences, which take place in November and February.