When we first opened our Montessori school in September we had one big classroom catering for children aged 3-6 years. I presented new activities to the 5/6 year old children and another teacher presented to the 4/5 year old children. This was a big change for me as I have been working in a Montessori elementary classroom for three years and preferred working with some of the 9+ children I taught. Going back to the younger classroom has been very interesting and allowed me to view the Montessori continuum through different eyes. I have also been warmed by the loving relationships and bonding that happens with the littlest of the children who joined us.
At the start of the year I hoped that Little-N [aged seven] would have settled in the 3-6yrs classroom and found his place. I set up his own work area towards the back of the classroom. However he ended up staying out of the classroom, sitting at the back by himself for the majority of the time. He was a bit of a loner usually spending the whole day doing his own thing hidden from the classroom. As the second term progressed it was clear that most of the six year olds were ready to move into a separate environment. We were not ready to formally separate the ages till the end of the year. I wanted the younger children to have full benefit from observing the older children working and I also wanted the older children to benefit for the responsibilities and help that they provided for the younger children. This worked for a good 6 months, however the six year olds reached a point where they needed separation, they needed their own space to focus and do more intensive activities.
One Friday evening I decided that it was the right time to separate the classes. Using tall free-standing shelves I managed to create a separate area, which is joined yet separate in many ways. I set this new area up as an elementary classroom and was excited to see the children's reaction. At that time I presented [taught] to six children aged 6+ and four children aged 5.75years but not yet 6. We had a bit of a dilemma since the children who have not turned six yet were really supposed to stay in the younger class until they turn six and begin to show signs of readiness to move. The problem was that I presented to the five year olds too and if I was to move to the elementary classroom there would be no one who could present their advanced activities in the other class. We planned that the six year olds would move straight into the elementary classroom and the children who were five could spend time in both classrooms. This way they could stay in the 3-6 classroom and also have me present to them. However we found that these children who were five, almost six, wanted to spend the whole day in the elementary classroom. It was difficult for me to be between both classrooms and maintain quality in both.I expected that the youngest of the five year olds would spend the majority of her day in the younger classroom, however she amazed all of us with her maturity in the elementary classroom. A week or two later it was very clear that all of these children wanted and needed to be in the elementary classroom and although the five year olds should really stay in the younger class it was not possible due to circumstances.
Today I have 10 children in my elementary classroom, Little-N who is eight next week, a boy who is turning seven in a few weeks, 4 six year old children and 4 children who will be turning six in the next month or two.
All the children are part-time except one child. Most children attend between 3-4 days a week and many are homeschooled on the other days. I present new activities to the children and work with them individually and in groups. I also have an assistant who oversees the classroom making sure everything is running smoothly and guides the children when needed. I teach in the elementary classroom Monday - Thursday and only have two children on Friday so that I can spend the day focused on managerial work and mentoring teachers in the younger classroom.
The elementary classroom is set up with minimal materials but has a lot more space and resources than I had in the previous Montessori school I worked in. New materials and activities are added to the classroom daily and it has been amazing to see how my classrooms have changed over the last three years. In my previous I felt like I had so much and was adding more here and there. Today with all the materials I have I still feel like I have so much more to add. Every child I have taught has inspired new activities and allowed me to improve and change some of the previous activities. Little-N studies the material at depth and this has made me look deeply at each elementary activity and ensure that everything he needs for his deep studies is available. My classroom is functional but no where near finished so I will not be posting pictures yet.