The Lower Elementary program, for students aged six to nine years is based on key Montessori principles: multi-age grouping, concrete lessons, and individual pacing. This is a time for extending and perfecting skills already begun at the Preschool level.
The mixed-age elementary classroom creates a community where the child lives and learns. Children develop the social skills necessary to handle increasingly challenging interactions with their peers. They learn that following is equally as important as leading. They develop a confidence that forms a foundation for future leadership skills.
Learning takes place individually through the child’s personal work plan and cooperatively in small groups. The Lower Elementary program emphasizes the connection between different areas of study, not the mere presentation of isolated facts. Reading, Math, Geometry, and Science all bring the student to a new understanding expressed through writing. The presentation of History, Biology and Geography all give meaning to the great order of the universe.
Students are also engaged in enrichment classes such as:
Language and Literature
Westwood uses phonics as a base where the students at this level move from mechanics of reading to fluency and comprehension. The SRA Reading Laboratory and Reading for Understanding (RFU) programs are used to hone individual skills in reading comprehension. The Reader’s Theater allows opportunity for oral group reading. The Great Books are used to strengthen critical thinking and initiate lively discussions. Chapter books and classic children literature form the foundation for creative writing.
Writing and Handwriting
From silent reading with journal exercises to creative writing, Montessori materials enhance the teaching of writing and grammar concepts. These skills are emphasized and developed both individually and in small groups. Westwood recognizes the importance of handwriting to a student’s control of focus and control of attention.
In addition to the Montessori math and geometry curriculum, Westwood works with students to acquire speed and accuracy in math fact retrieval through the use of math games and timed tests. Additionally, foundations are laid for other math concepts such as binomials, long division, fractions and metric measurement. Geometry is a particular favorite at this age through nomenclature and projects.
The cultural areas of the Lower Elementary feature geography, history, science and other information to broaden the child’s grasp of the interconnectedness of life. This includes simple and classified nomenclatures for biology, earth science, geology, Fundamental Needs of Man, and Timelines of Life. Additional group classes in history target specific periods for study.
Homework begins at the Lower Elementary level. Each week students memorize a poem and complete spelling homework. Additionally, periodic assignments in reading and three-dimensional projects are assigned. Some concepts require extended time, and homework provides an opportunity for students to strengthen their understanding. Take-out homework begins at the Lower Elementary level.
Gardening and Stewardship of the Earth
Lower Elementary children love to work in the garden. They want to know the names of all the plants and take particular joy in weeding! Through their work outdoors and their interaction with the animals available in each classroom, these students come to respect the natural rhythms of nature.
Visitors and Off-Campus Learning
This is the age at which students gain intrinsic knowledge about their environment through off-campus field trips. “Going out” into the local community helps children place themselves in the larger world. Students love to see real-life activities as well as participate in the fine arts. Visitors to the classroom also bring further enrichment by highlighting thematic units of study and sharing cultural experiences.