Thursday, April 5, 2012
Today I just wanted to record a few thoughts about differences in approaches to Montessori grammar.
I am going to say this right away up front: I could be quite wrong in my interpretation. I am going to tell you all what I think anyway. Just keep in mind that I am not an expert.
I have looked at maybe ten different primary and elementary Montessori albums. What I saw made me believe that there are two different ways to approach grammar.
The first approach is to march steadily straight through all of the works for each part of speech in a linear fashion until complete. The idea being that you want to get grammar finished before the child loses interest in grammar.
The second approach is cyclical. You cover all of the parts of speech three or four times. You repeat the "key experience" and certain other elements each time, but follow it up with different work each time to keep it fresh. In a traditional school this might mean revisiting each part of speech each year. In a homeschool it could mean the same thing, or alternatively, just starting over at the beginning whenever you get to the end no matter what the calendar says.
I believe this is why you will see six year-olds or even primary students working with grammar boxes in one classroom/homeschool and nine year-olds working with them in another.
I have thought about it carefully, and have decided (at least for now) that the second approach is right for our family. At least for Kal-El. One person suggested that we should have both approaches in our bag of tricks and use the approach that is right for each particular child.
There are many reasons I lean strongly toward the second approach. The first is that we are homeschoolers. In a traditional Montessori environment the children have repeated exposure to the grammar materials before and after they do the work due to the work being accomplished by the other children in the environment. I believe that this repeated exposure is valuable, but as homeschoolers we need to find another way to accomplish it. A cyclical approach fits the bill.
Another factor that I am sure influences me is my affinity for the classical method of education. Classical educators will be the first to sing the praises of cyclical revisiting of a topic at increasingly deeper levels. Also, I'm sure it is no secret that a classical education involves grammar practice for many, many years.
I own the Montessori R&D grammar album and they address this beautifully, if not somewhat cryptically with the following chart:
This page could be interpreted to be making an analogy to Seguin's classic three-period lesson, used so prevalently in Montessori education.
In some albums the grammar presentations at the primary are very sensorial and the name of the part of speech isn't even given. As Meg puts in her language album (available through Montessori by Hand) the grammar work at the primary level is "a series of sensorial introductions to each of seven parts of speech...this area is not teaching grammar directly, rather bringing to the child's awareness that there are certain kinds of words that have functions in a phrase." She describes it as "dealing with the parts of speech, but not with definitions of parts of speech."
In other albums, grammar presentations at the primary level are identical to the elementary presentations. This kind of album was the only kind I was familiar with for some time and what lead me to skip the primary presentations with Kal-El because it seemed like he would get them in elementary anyway. Me Too by contrast, will have the opportunity to cycle through seven parts of speech four times because he is receiving the primary presentations. There have to be some perks to being the younger brother!
Despite espousing a cyclical approach, the Montessori R&D albums are still organized by part of speech. This can make it look just like another album's linear approach. It doesn't help that they throw this chart in the front of the album and don't say anything about it. However, if you read carefully the album does let you know that certain presentations are to be given each year.
Anna, at the blog The Broad Stair, has done a lot of work studying the cyclical grammar sequence. The album she uses is either an older version of the Montessori R&D albums or nearly identical to them. She has done a series of posts on the topic. Here is a link to just one of the posts. It is not the first post in the series (and you should go and find them all and read them through) but it the one that gives an example of just a few of the charts she has made that give a general breakdown of which works the child might do for each part of speech in a particular year. She is by no means saying that this is "law" and is a quite experienced Montessorian who would naturally adjust her theoretical "on paper" sequence to fit the needs of any particular child. Her charts are just an example of what the breakdown might usually look like to use as a jumping off point. She doesn't have all of the charts on the blog, but will e-mail them to you if you ask her nicely :) The post I linked to is nice because even though you don't to see every chart for every part of speech, you get to see one chart that shows what each part of speech might look like for the child across one year and a second chart that shows you what one part of speech might look like across three years.
At any rate, if you have been waiting excitedly to see us start our command boxes and grammar boxes you had better stop holding your breath. We won't be getting to grammar filling boxes for about two years! I will try to make this the best place I can to get a glimpse of what the cyclical approach can look like at home. Go to The Broad Stair to see what the cyclical approach can look like in a traditional Montessori school. If you would like to see the linear approach in action, go take a look at my bloggy-friend Cherine's blog Making Montessori Ours.
I won't go through all the albums, but here is a short run-down on which approach you can expect to find in a few particular albums:
Keys of the Universe (Jessica's album. She disagrees with this categorization. See comments.)
Montessori by Hand (but only covers primary)
"Montessori Materials Research Foundation" (Anna's albums, possible an old name for Montessori R and D?)
Mid-America Montessori (probably the best explaination)
AMI primary guide (online)
Montessori for the Earth
Cultivating Dharma (Seems cyclical to me, but I won't go as far as to impose the category.)
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