- Research Questions
- Topic Description and Conceptual Framework
- The Conceptual Framework
- Critical Literature Review of Research
- John Dewey Pedagogy
- George S. Counts Pedagogy: Social Reconstructionism
- Montessori Pedagogy
- The Curriculum Proposal and Implementation
- Montessori Curriculum
- Children Assessment
- Proposed Project
- Primary Classroom
- Elementary Classroom
- Effects and Policy Implementation
Kindergarten Classroom Design and Child Development
The paper is a Montessori pedagogy curriculum proposal and implementation plan for City West Los-Angeles Kindergarten (CWLAK). The Montessori educational method is recommended for the public school owing to its unrelented durability for a prolonged time as it was introduced to the table by educator Dr. Maria Montessori over a century ago. In order to explain the topic of analysis, the article objectively analyses the pedagogical ideas of the early researchers, Maria Montessori, John Dewey and George Counts (George, 1978; Montessori, 1964; Jerome, 1890). The paper justifies the Montessori method by intensively exploring applicable literature, describing the importance of the learning setting. The paper lacks literature, allegedly influenced by Montessori, regarding a school architecture, content, instruments and the world in general. The need for a particular atmosphere for children’s growth and the overall effect on children was often explained (Montessori, 1964). In the final part, a Montessori programme plan for CWLAK is being drafted.
Key Terms: Early Education, Montessori System, Pedagogy
- The design of classrooms influences the actions of both kids and teachers.
- In child care, there is a direct relationship between interactions between young kids and their environment.
- How does the design of the classroom influence the actions of both children and teachers?
- What are the goals of the Kindergarten Classroom Well-Organized Space?
- In the public classroom
- , how do we effectively implement Montessori classroom design?
Topic Description and Conceptual Framework
Children today are rising in a highly technical space. Kids, like Kindle books, are introduced to modern electronics, and the doors open immediately, and interactive and imaginative toys are playable. Early childhood needs equipment to be used in early childhood classrooms (Barron et al., 2011). Scientific studies have demonstrated the effects of introducing children to technical concepts early in life to avoid prejudices and other associated difficulties when they develop up (Madill et al., 2007). For a long time now, there has been an increasing trend in bringing about improvement in early childhood education through the creation of classrooms for children that adapt to technical trends. Good practises and emerging technical curriculum standards for incorporating technology into the architecture of classrooms for early learning. Teachers from all walks of life have been engaged in innovative ways to integrate technology into their curriculum (Montessori, 1964).
Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian, accomplished instructor, and qualified surgeon, came up with an educational pedagogy over 100 years ago. The method adopts a child-centered education strategy where the children undertaking the research are subjected to scientific observations from infancy to adulthood. The approach has become quite a success in different communities around the globe. The American system of schooling is full of several downsides (George, 1978). Implementing a Montessori type curriculum that supports technical advances may be a remedy. The Montessori education system is distinguished by a focus on equality of children within boundaries, individuality, and offers room for technical and psychological growth for children (Van, 1990). The method has undoubted advantages that can only be interpreted as the solution for our society: the system encourages children to do something for themselves, even in terms of ratings, it does not equate children. The Montessori education method is focused on observational learning, particularly for children in kindergarten. The way of instruction is to educate the kids through teaching, not by corrections. There are no penalties, no classes, and positive values are promoted. By preventing boredom, the method encourages a fun, instructional system (Montessori, 1964).
The Conceptual Framework
Educational space is one of the most effective spaces in a child’s life. Children spend a big chunk of their lifetime at the school space. Research has revealed that designing those spaces needs to consider a lot of aspects since they directly contribute to the child’s learning aspects. Educational spaces must, therefore, be designed according to the learning needs of the children. The school’s natural spaces provide three categories of the needs of the children, including communal and physical, educational and emotional. The classroom physical environment can be a very powerful tool and machinery in support of literacy learning or a recognized or unrecognized influence (Loughlin and Martin 1987). This means that teachers who arrange, properly dress up and organize their classrooms intuitively understands that, every classroom, every home, every school contains a specific atmosphere (Van Manen, 1986, pg. 31). Literacy learning in young children is facilitated and imparted through print and language-rich environments (Feutezel and Hollingsworth, 1988; Holdaway, 1979; Goodman, 1986). Early scholars’ studies and the impact of classroom design changes on a kid’s literature behavior shows numerous important concepts associated with the development of the classroom environments that aids children’s literacy learning.
The education system choice and the learning environment are very critical in the early life of a child. America needs more of Montessori pedagogical methodology. The Montessori system is based on a number of basic principles (Montessori, 1964). The essential features of the pedagogy have remained intact for a century after it was born in the USA. Schools that have adopted the “Montessori Method” had over the last century been growing in almost all countries worldwide. The method has a high adaptability rate to varied cultural, historical and socio-economic environments. According to the Montessori views, every individual child has a unique potential for development and growth waiting to be unleashed. Such a great potential can be natured by allowing the said child to be free and independent to explore the environment in exciting and new ways: and for the greater purpose of fulfilling the potentials- emotionally, physically, spiritually, and cognitively. The teacher, therefore, assumes the role of interpreting, as opposed to controlling the outside environment of the child’s behavior (Van, 1990).
The traditional American system does not allow for the child to explore their external environment, understand themselves, and do things as they wish. Instead, the traditional system of learning has controlled every learning condition for the children. The systems control the learning space, provide the chairs in a confined space and limits learning in terms of prohibiting learning. The Montessori is, therefore, a good way to bring up more responsible children through creating an ample environment that allows for creativity, innovations, realize self-strength and adapt to the life conditions (Montessori, 1964). The Montessori system is practical in nature since it provides for the technological and scientific materials in learning. Since the current United States mainframe education system is restrictive in nature and controls the environment that a child learns, the child cannot be brought as a whole, and self-expressed individual (George, 1978). The classroom design is so much restricted in terms of lack of psychological, spiritual, and cultural control. Introducing the Montessori in the American system of education promises to bring better people who are adaptable to the current technological changes.
Critical Literature Review of Research
Dr. Maria Montessori promotes a new pedagogy that is in tandem to the modern world and science. Man has formed a new world through years of scientific progress, man must, therefore, be ready to be prepared and developed through an entirely new pedagogy. Maria gives an example of an Italian School of Scientific Pedagogy, a system, designed to prepare the teachers to follow the newly established movement that was common in the pedagogical world. The school became very successful within two years to three years, attracting teachers’ attention and interest from all over Italy (Van, 1990). The City of Milan endowed the project with scientific material and splendid equipment. Maria explains that the teachers are not fully improved in scientific betterment of the learning conditions. The teachers are limited in their scope and need to do more towards raising the scientific standards in schools.
John Dewey Pedagogy
My Pedagogic Creed by John Dewey describes education as what calls for and promotes individual participation in the race’s social consciousness (John, 1777). The process starts immediately after birth and shapes the individual continuously, forming his habits, saturating his consciousness, arousing his emotions and feelings and shaping the individual’s powers. It is the unconscious education that the individual comes to share in the moral resources and intellectual that humanity has been successful in putting together. Man grows in the society to inherit the funded capital of civilization. Even though Montessori has been very progressive by many standards, the framework received criticism (John, 1777). John Dewey, educational reformer, and American philosopher, was one of the major critics. Dewey was not passionate about the teaching by reading Montessori Method. He was for the fact that children should be taught to read when they reach the age of about 4 to 5 years. Dewey was for the “look-say,” against Montessori’s phonics.
According to Dewey’s, the only true pedagogic system comes through the activation and stimulation of a child’s powers by the social institutions demands. It is these demands that make the child to act and become a member of the community, to move away from his original narrowness of feeling and action (Wolf, 1996). The educational process has two sides; sociological and psychological. Neither of the sides can be subordinated to the other or ignored without bad consequences. Dewey believes that the child is a social individual and that the community people are the organic union of the individuals. If the social construct is removed from the social individual, then there is nothing left of the person. Alternatively, if the person is eliminated from the society, there is only a lifeless and inert mass. Education should, therefore, start with a psychological insight into the learner’s interests, capabilities, and habits. A school is entirely a social institution. Education is a living process and not a way to prepare the students for the future (John, 1777). The school should be a function of the present and not the past. The life is so complex and consists of so many conflicting factors that confuse the child. The child cannot therefore learn alone, but musty get guidance from school agents. A child should, therefore, start by continuing to do the things he was doing at home in his first days at school. This way, the system allows for psychological continuity for continuous growth of the child (John, 1777). Dewey believed that the education system has failed because the system is built to be a place where certain habits are to be formed and new lessons to be learned.
George S. Counts Pedagogy: Social Reconstructionism
Social Reconstructionism pedagogical philosophy is based on the idea that schools should “reconstruct” or “shape” the society (George, 1978). George S. Count promoted social reconstructionism. He was a sociologist, educator and political activists about 75 years ago. George is remembered for his works in the pamphlet “Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” Count published several scholastic works that prompted educational, social study and emphasized in teaching as a political enterprise and amoral. George’s works remain relevant to the educational problems today. Count’s interest was in social problems and conditions and how they relate to education. Count reshaped education by considering the effects of varied political-social interests and social forces on the educational practice (George, 1978).
George counts progressive meant that teachers should lead the society but not follow the society. He shared most of his views with John Dewey. The teachers are leaders, and they have to take their responsibility as leaders. Teachers should play an active part in decision formation. Since the teachers are conversant with the school matters, the government must entrust them to make school-related decisions. Teachers should not only show concern for educational matters but should also come in to help in decision-making where there are controversies in politics, morality, and economics (George, 1978). Counts believed that the school was an agent that should take part in the society’s economics, politics, ethics, art, and religion. If the school were involved in the matters, it could either contribute the knowledge, values, and beliefs of the society. George Count also believed that the American educational system should identify with the society progressive forces like farmers’ organizations, labor unions, and the minority groups. The schools would contribute towards social improvement by joining forces with society progressive forces (George, 1978). A new social order will rise if the teachers could be involved in solving main society problems.
Dr. Maria Montessori created this model of education about a century ago. The system focus on children’s natural inclination to learning (Montessori, 1964). In the Montessori learning environment, the role of the teacher is to offer appropriate developmental materials and allow the children to enjoy the freedom to explore personal and new interests. Teachers are not allowed to direct the learning process but to give the children the space and the chance to learn. Teachers promote respect for the children efforts directed towards the mastery of independence (American Montessori Society, 2013b). Most of the United States Montessori schools are private and are meant to serve the children whose parents or guardians have the ability to pay the tuition fee (Lillard, 2010).
One of the main defining characteristics of a Montessori school approach is that the children are allowed to stay in their respective classrooms for several years. Giving them the chance to interact and form strong relationships with their classmates and teachers (American Montessori Society, 2013b). The Montessori (2012) explains that it is children’s natural tendencies to unfold when they confined within these specially designed environments (multi-age). When placed in a setting where they feel free and open, the children begin to develop a sense of community. The creation of the classroom environment as described, therefore, plays a huge role in creating a setting that fosters a sense of community amongst the learning children.
The Montessori Method is also characterized by the “beautiful objects” and manipulative, for example, metal, glass beads, and wicker (American Montessori Society, 2013b). The materials are made available to the children to assist them in forming words, counting, or playing games. A number of scientific studies have proved better learning outcomes through the use of object-based learning system (Glenberg et al., 2004). The object-based learning also foster cognitive developmental skills in young children (Montie et al., 2006). The Montessori teachers are trained to handle these objects; they demonstrate how to handle the objects, bring the sense of fragility. The teachers show the kids the need of learning with the objects (Montessori, 1964).
For the regular teachers, including the new technologies to the already existing traditional Montessori materials may seem a little challenging or unrealistic with the usual traditions. However, according to the American Montessori Society’s most recent statement on the introduction of the new technology to the system, new technologies were welcome to boost digital literacy in learning in the 21st century (George, 1978). However, the statement warned that before integrating technology into the Montessori system, it has to be carefully implemented so that it does not replace any important principle of the Montessori curricula approach. The society also directed that any technology introduced into the system must be continuously monitored for its appropriateness in its developmental role (American Montessori Society, 2013a). The integration of technology into the Montessori systems raised debates amongst educators, parents and policymakers. For example, (Schneider (2012) argues for technology inclusion into the Montessori system. She says that incorporation of technology into Montessori encourages intersection between digital learning and Montessori education. Schneider comments that “both Montessori education and high-quality digital learning prioritize learning personalization and develops a system that permits content and instruction personalization” (Schneider, 2012).
Montessori Inspired Learning Environment
Today America has more than 6000 Montessori schools. They are beautiful, thoughtfully arranged and inviting. The rooms are purposely designed following in the Maria Montessori approach. Soft colors, natural light, and uncluttered spaces are characteristics that aids in setting up an environment for activity that is calm and focused. The learning materials are strategically on accessible shelves that promote the learners independence as they go about their daily learning. Every other thing is [placed in its own ideal place, showing a sense of order and harmony.
Montessori School Layouts
The flow and design of the Montessori classroom develop a learning environment that allows for choice. There are enough spaces that are suited to group activities, and areas where the learners can enjoy quiet time alone. Some parts of the room are open and precious, prompting the learners to layout beads strands for counting, or to ponder a 10-foot Life Timeline. There are no school desk customary rows; children basically work on the floors or at the tables, rolling out the mats to define their workspace and work. Each part of the curriculum has well-defined spaces, for example, Math, culture, and Language Arts. Each of the areas has display tables or shelves containing an assortment of materials from which the students can choose their most preferable tool. Many of the classrooms are designed with sections dedicated to reflection and peace; a table or a quiet corner with strategically chosen items, for example, a vase of daisies. The classroom also provides a section where the learners curly with books, meant for reading.
Every classroom is intentionally designed in a way that it meets the needs of the learners. The preschools classrooms feature chairs, low sinks, and tables. The preschools also feature a reading corner with some cushions or tiny couches, child-sized kitchen tools, and reachable shelves. These elements allow for the development of small motor skills and independence. The upper-level classrooms, on the other hand, features larger tables meant for group work, features interactive whiteboards, computers, and science lab areas. Additionally, every class is warm, inviting and well-organized. All the classes are made up of additional items like rugs, couches, and flower for creating peace.
Figure 1: Montessori Classroom Layout for Kindergarten
Figure 2: Toddler Montessori Classroom Layout
Figure 3: Montessori Classroom Shelving and Spacing Sample
Montessori Learning Materials
Maria Montessori hallmark on the pedagogy is the hands-on approach to learning. The learners get the opportunity to handle specially designed materials investing and manipulating until they fully understand the concept. The materials are beautifully crafted, making the children want to touch them. They are displayed on open shelves and are easily accessible. They are keenly arranged from left-to-right according to the curriculum sequence, starting from the simplest to more advanced materials. Each material in the classroom has a skill it passes on to the children. The concepts one at a time, moving on to the next level only after the first level is successfully accomplished. For instance, the rooms are dressed with different “dressing frames” which help the children to zip, button and tie. There are the 3-dimensional grammar symbols which are essential in teaching the elementary children to analyze sentence style and structure. Mechanism is also constructed in the learning materials (some level of ‘control error’) for giving the learner with a system of knowing their progress and making corrections on the errors without the help of the teacher.
The concrete materials provide abstraction passages and introduce complex concepts. The complexity increases gradually as the learner goes deeper into learning.
Examples of Montessori Learning Materials and tools:
Figure 4: Montessori Materials and Tools
Figure 5: Montessori Tools and Materials Samples
Montessori Outside Environment
The Montessori outside environment must be built according to the Maria Montessori concept. The outside environment is very important for learning. Maria Montessori says that children develop high-value motor skills while they jump, climb, and swing in the outside classroom environment. The children also gain social skills while they play hide and seek and other games outside the environment. According to Montessori, children should be in constant touch with the substance of their world that encourages gardening, work with clay, building little houses and growing activities amongst others.
Figure 6: Outdoor Montessori Environment
Figure 7: Montessori Playground
Montessori in the Kitchen
Montessori is about making the kids learn to do it by doing it. Montessori endorses a kitchen where the kids can learn to task on some basic cooking ideas and grow to kitchen conscious adults. Make it fun for the kids to have fun peeling, chopping, and spreading. Some of the yummy treats the young kids can learn to prepare include fruit popsicles, fruit smoothies and pizza.
Figure 8: Montessori Kitchen
The Curriculum Proposal and Implementation
The name of the new kindergarten will be City West Los Angeles Kindergarten, abbreviated as (CWLAK). The kindergarten will offer a high-quality, unique education to young children and their families living in the Santa Monica, Pico Blvd, Sepulveda and Beverly Glen neighborhood. The school will also accept children from the Rancho Part to the south and Westwood to the North. The school administration will do recruitment from the mentioned neighborhoods. The main objective of the school will be to ensure that each and every admitted child to the schoolmasters the basic skills in the core subject areas. Mathematics, linguistic arts, history/ geography and technology are the subject fields, while physical education, arts and community service are integrated into the school programme (Montessori, 1964). CWLAK students would have the privilege of appreciating the importance of disparities between individuals, both geographically and internationally, since the school is situated in a region rich in ethnic, economic, and cultural diversity. The diversity will be essential in imparting sustainable living and non-violent conflict resolution virtue amongst the children (Gardner, 1983). CWLAK School will ultimately serve through a six grades kindergarten system. It is in the interest of the plan to accommodate about 175 students when the school is fully operational. The plan looks forward to adding a preschool instruction in case there are funds for the project.
The objective of the CWLAK School will be to implement the Montessori pedagogy to the current educational system and make it the main educational framework for the school. In order to fully implement the Montessori approach learning, CWLAK will have to adhere to the following:
- CWLAK will have to recruit and hire experienced Montessori teachers who have undergone intensified Missouri system in the certified institutions and obtained elementary certification in the state of California (Van, 1990).
- The school will have to develop a high-quality, stimulating learning environment and fully equipped with a complete set of scientifically tested Montessori materials and equipment.
- The school will have to issue a continuous professional development for Montessori training and the training that will allow the teachers to renew or achieve certification in the state of California.
- The school will have to contract with a certified Montessori professional to fully put in track the Montessori curriculum with the Grade Level Expectations and California Show-me Standards for all the grade levels (Montessori, 1964). CWLAK School looks forward to having a California curriculum grade for kindergarten by 2019. This will be done successively over the years until the goal is achieved, with the addition of the grades being done every year.
The children who joined the kindergarten by the age of five are considered “First Plane Development” or “primary” in the Montessori system (Marzano, 2003). These children need to place and tested in a unique and special environment that is specially designed. The primary children environment should be different for that designed for children age six to twelve years “Second Plane of Development” or “elementary.” The vision of the school will emphasize more on the interest of the primary children aged three to six years. These kids will, therefore, have special classrooms as described in our Montessori model.
The children who will be joining the kindergarten at the age of about five years will be classified as primary (Van, 1990). These students will receive a slightly special and unique treatment and environment from those joining between the years six and twelve. Those joining between the years six and twelve will be classified as elementary.
- Primary classroom: the Montessori classroom will be the children’s “living room.” The living room will allow the children to choose the kind of work they love to do from a variety of self-correcting tools that are intelligently displayed on the open shelves (Montessori, 1964). The room and the material will be arranged in a manner that the children have to work from a given area. As time passes, the children will be growing into a “normalized society” where they work with few interruptions and high concentration.
The distinct work areas:
- Practical life, by self-care, can strengthen the development of the child’s hand-eye coordination, balance, gross motor and cognitive order. Practical existence often encourages social relationship growth and environmental care, synchronisation of physical movement and social relationship development (Wolf, 1996).
- The sensorial area will allow the children to classify, order, and describe sensory impressions effectively through width, length, mass, color, temperature, etc.
- Mathematics will help in making the child use the manipulative materials to enable them to internalize concepts of symbol, number, operations, sequences, and memorization of the basic facts.
- The language arts will be essential in oral language development, reading, written expressions, grammar study, children literature, and creative dramatics. Language arts also impart the basic skills in reading and writing, and the children get to develop through alphabetic cut-outs, sandpaper letters, and different presentations. They also permit the child to link letter symbols to sounds without much effort and to express their thoughts through scribbling/ writing.
- Cultural activities have the children exposed to the basics of life science, history, geography, and earth science. Art, movement education and music form part of the incorporated cultural curriculum.
- Elementary Classroom: After completion of the primary school, the children are graduated to the elementary school. As the children to grow more mature in their current classes, the materials continue to change and become more engaging and tasking according to their abilities (Montessori, 1964). The materials are designed to evoke imagination, generate a worldview and to aid abstraction and to create a sense of purpose. In the elementary school, the child works through a philosophical system, trying to understand the origin of the word, asking relevant questions about the universe, life, nature, and the people. The interdisciplinary studies are known on a factual basis to combine biological, anthropological and geological sciences in the study of world ecology and natural history (Marzano, 2003).
Here is the proposed environment for elementary children for CWLAK School, for children aged six to twelve years:
- Integration of sciences, arts, history, geography, and language into the environment evoking the abstraction and the natural imagination of the elementary child
- Knowledge is presented as a big narrative showing the origins of life, earth, modern history, and human communities (Gardner, 1983). The display is always in the life context. The formal scientific language is presented through botany, zoology, geography, geology, geography, etc., which exposes the children to organize and accurate information. The arrangement also respects the child’s interests and intelligence.
- The setting delivers a connective storey that gives an encouraging description when great lessons are incorporated and structured (George, 1978). The past of man and the world can be traced from the creation of the universe, the idea of the big bang, to earth and life forms, to great lessons. The kids enjoy myths like the growth of culture and the rise of human culture.
- Learning is aided by charts and timeline. The child appreciates the need for learning the great lessons, applying the experience to real-life experience.
- The students learn mathematics curriculum that is creatively presented with concrete and plastic materials that simultaneously reveal geometric, arithmetic and algebraic correlations (Wolf, 1996). This programme supports the need for reputation for a boy, knowledge for varying degrees of concreteness, to shift from concrete to symbol and eventually to abstraction. The emphasis is on rendering laws and formulas a time to learn and arrive, not a point of departure (Marzano, 2003).
- The usage of photographs, diagrams, timelines, and other visual aids helps the very first concepts of each topic to be visually and linguistically summarised.
- The elementary school offers a language arts curriculum that focuses on expository writing, creative writing, research, grammar, interpretive reading literature and sentence analysis. The school also offers spelling based on usage and etymology, creative writing, oral expression for sharing research and dramatic productions.
The school should be opened exactly one year after the proposal is endorsed, hopefully in 2016. CWLAK first phase should start with an average of 50 children in kindergarten grades through to third. The students will be separated into two classes. Each classroom will have one teacher and an extra instructor or class assistant/ instructor. Due to the curriculum’s cumulative nature and the high expectations for the Montessori self-discipline approach, the school culture will be strengthened by building an additional grade level every year (and 25 students). In the fall of 2017, the fourth grade will be added to the school. The grade levels will be added every year such that the school will have built the entire six grades by 2019. While the method seems to be slow, it is very realistic and steady and will allow for the creation of academic excellence culture (George, 1978). It is this excellence that will transform West Los Angeles and its neighborhood.
Effects and Policy Implementation
CWLAK School intends to comply fully and cooperate with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act). It will be the responsibility of CWLAK School to ensure that the needs of the children with special needs are taken care of according to the IDEA Act (Marzano, 2003). Additionally, any of the provisions contained in the document are subject to federal and state requirements for the children students with disabilities. The school serves the right to contract with relevant and outside agencies where it is required, to accommodate all the needs of the students’ population (Montessori, 1964). CWLAK School acknowledges every child rights, irrespective of their abilities, to get appropriate and relevant public education. No child will be discriminated in terms of disability. CWLAK School aspires to comply and adhere to all the regulatory special education needs of admitted children with disabilities, the IDEA children laws Section 504 of the famous Rehabilitation Act. Together with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and any other U.S Department of Office Education of the Civil Rights (OCR) Civil rights (Wolf, 1996).
The school management will ensure that the plan goes as proposed. The board of directors for the school will be crucial in ensuring that the school opens by 2016 and remains operational for the long term. The director will be reporting to the school board of directors (George, 1978). A headteacher will oversee the daily operations of the school assisted by assistant director.
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