Language training in the Montessori classroom begins the moment a child steps through the door.
Definition of Language: a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks, that have understood meanings.
Language is learned and not inborn. The mental capacity for creating language is unique; it allows the child to speak the language (mother tongue) correctly even if it is the most complicated language. The child has all he needs to prepare for language - therefore, put into his environment, he absorbs completely and with little effort, the language of his group. Until the child is age six he absorbs everything with little effort. After age 6 the child is able to learn a new language but it is only with a conscious effort that this can be done.
It is important to remember that language is a point of departure - not a point of arrival. The world is opened up to the child when he is given rich vocabulary that is rooted in reality. It is a means for understanding the world around him and it drives the child to seek out the truths of the world.
Language training in the Montessori classroom involves activities that elicit language from the children and make them aware of the content, meaning, and context of the language they are hearing and using. There are many activities that can be used in language training with young children (2 years and up).
From the very first meeting with each child you must give them the sense that they can talk to you and that you will listen. When they speak to you, you must be present in thought with them. No day should be so rushed that a child has not had the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings with you. This exchange of thoughts (however short or simple it may be) will give a child the opportunity to express themselves, and to be truly heard. They will learn that even though they are young, their thoughts matter in this world.
Throughout the school day be sure to engage the children in conversations. You can spark a conversation with a child regarding recent events (age appropriate content), current lessons or new clothing they are wearing. Try to talk with the children about things that they are interested in - they will love to talk to you about these things.
Reading should be a part of your daily activities. Be sure to have a variety of books to read including picture books, poetry, fantasy and non-fiction. When reading a book always give the name the book, the author and the illustrator. Encourage parents to read to their children at home every day. As little as 10 minutes a day will increase a child’s vocabulary and help to instill in them the love of reading and learning.
Be sure to make time for songs – rhyming songs, silly songs, celebration/holiday songs, traditional songs. Most children enjoy learning new songs and feel a sense of accomplishment when they have learned all the words and can sing it by themselves. Give the children an opportunity to teach each other new songs. This is a great way to pass on old songs to the next generation.
During appropriate times allow the children the opportunity to tell you and each other their stories. It can be about their weekend adventure, their time at home last or a family holiday. They will also find your stories to be especially interesting – "When I was a little girl/boy…."
Collect a variety of pictures showing people, places, objects and animals from all over the world - you can download a Free set of Imagine Story Cards that we've put together. Gather a small group of children and show them one of the pictures you have collected. Ask the children what they think of the picture: Where do they think it was taken? Who do they think is in the picture? What is the picture about? Why did someone take this picture? Be sure to allow each child an opportunity to "imagine" the story behind the picture.
Question Games (using a book)
This activity offers indirect preparation for future reading analysis. It can be done with either a small or large group of children. You will be asking the children to listen while you read and respond to questions throughout the story. After reading a sentence you ask the children a question related to the information within the sentence that was just read. i.e.) Read -"It was a dreary day in the small town of Prattville." Your question to the children could be - "What kind of a day was it in Prattville?". The answer – "A dreary day".
This can be done with a small or large group of children. You begin the story with a few words to get the children started: "Once upon a time there was a …" Then ask a child, "Mary, what was there?" Mary might answer "a black cat". Then ask another child, "And Stephen, where was this black cat?" Stephen might answer "On the roof of a house." You ask another child …."Ronald, what was the cat doing on the roof of a house?" Continue to elicit parts of the story from the children by asking them questions and creating the story as you go.