What does the transition look like?
As students move from Lower Elementary to Upper Elementary, they are moving away from reliance on concrete materials and toward greater abstraction. The framework of lessons and concepts students began in Lower Elementary culminate in Upper Elementary. Students at this level reach a high level of abstraction of concepts and explore themes and topics in greater depth.
CURRICULUM IN THE CLASSROOM
Language lessons fuel active and purposeful writing activities. Students often work collaboratively and write every day, with pencil and keyboard, learning to organize increasingly complex ideas and information into original stories, reports, poems, business letters, and essays. At this level, students push themselves to acquire reading fluency, analysis skills, and writing strategies that stimulate cognitive development. As these new skills develop, students examine their writing much more critically.
Developing solid research skills is key to independent learning. These skills allow students to find information to satisfy their curiosity. To be literate in our modern world requires the ability to research both in books and using online sources. Students are guided with locating information in books efficiently, finding interesting facts, and taking notes effectively. With online research, students are helped with constructing effective key words for search engines and how to judge the credibility of a site. Students learn how to move through the steps of putting a project together, including how to type a final copy of a project.
At the Upper Elementary level, computers become a tool of the classroom. Each class has a set of computers that are available to students throughout their day. Students at this level are encouraged to use books as well as the Internet for research. Most of a student’s work is written by hand, but final projects and presentations often make use of word processing, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint applications. Upper Elementary students are introduced to proper keyboarding, and an online keyboarding tutorial program capitalizes on the natural tendency at this age to be faster. Direct instruction is given on Internet safety as well as search skills, site credibility, and citing sources. Longer projects that will be ‘published’ (brought to a polished final stage to be shared with an audience) make use of planning strategies, keyboarding skills, and revision and editing technologies, but we ask students to illustrate their work by hand. Much more is learned when a map, diagram, or picture is drawn by hand rather than instantaneously ‘cut and pasted’ from the Internet.
MATHEMATICS AND GEOMETRY
Math is the language of science, particularly chemistry and physics. The Upper Elementary program consists of arithmetic, geometry, and algebra. Students are given the big picture of the history of mathematics. Mastering math facts is a key to progressing with the operations, as well as multiples, divisibility, factors, fraction concepts, and operations. Concrete materials are still in place from Lower Elementary, but students often move quickly to an abstract understanding. New concepts are generally presented with materials, but students move to pencil and paper as soon as they are able.
CULTURE – THE SCIENCES, GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY
In Upper Elementary, students receive their cultural lessons in such a way that the subjects of language, mathematics, the arts, history, geography, the physical sciences, and biology are intertwined and viewed in a broader context in relation to each other. The students’ lessons on the creation of the universe integrate basic physics, chemistry, and geology concepts. Students are introduced to the parts of an atom and the periodic table of elements while learning about the origin of the universe. Upper Elementary students study rocks and minerals, work with geographical concepts such as the layers of the Earth, the naturally occurring ecological cycles, and the work of air and water as forces of erosion. They study the timelines of life and early humans, migration theories, and the concept of the nomadic, agricultural, and urban stages of human development. In biology, they learn about the needs and characteristics of the six kingdoms of life.
We believe that all children are natural artists and have an artistic voice. By experimenting with materials, tools, and techniques, children learn to think creatively and to take risks with ideas and materials. Mistakes become opportunities to think again and try new directions. Art from many cultures and times inspires critical thinking and observational skills.
GBM teachers integrate visual art into all studies, and students’ artwork is exhibited throughout the school to celebrate creativity.
Yoga cultivates self-awareness and self-acceptance. Yoga builds strength, flexibility, and coordination and stimulates new neural pathways. Simultaneously, yoga fosters both self-discipline as well as relaxation and inner calm.
Children practice and learn the importance of breathing slowly. Slow breathing relaxes the stomach, helps food digest, aids sleep, and helps each student to be present in the moment. Being fully present helps children learn.
We are fortunate to have many bilingual families in our school. This gives our students the opportunity to hear languages from all over the world. We teach songs in other languages or teach children to count in languages such as French, German, Korean, Hindi, Polish, Japanese, and Finnish
Initiative, persistence, determination, integrity, respect, and confidence are the social skills that we look to facilitate. This is the level where students refine their movement and cooperation skills, enjoy the stricter rules of more complex sports and games, and help each other develop strong sportsmanship.
In a Montessori classroom, students are free to work on their choice of activity after lessons. The student may pick who they collaborate with, but they must demonstrate engagement in the work. Music is one of the many subjects a student can choose to explore, specifically through the piano. Students play in the halls, the classroom and often perform for other classes. In addition to exploring the ukulele on their own accord, all students receive weekly lessons in small groups from a professional musician. Music pieces presented during these lessons are immediately ready on the shelf for the students to use. A piano is available in the classroom, and students are responsible for keeping track of their music.