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Teaching and learning methods

Active learner – someone who is actively engaged in the learning process, rather than passively absorbing information. An example would be a child who cuts a pizza into six pieces and then works out how to share the pieces equally between three friends. A passive way of experiencing this activity would be where the child watches as the teacher does the same thing in front of the whole class.

Adult guided – when an adult supervises or acts in a supportive, advisory capacity in response to the needs or requests of the children.

Adult-led activities – when an activity that is influenced and directed by an adult. The activity is the idea of the adult only.

Age appropriate – adapting something to be suitable for a certain age.

Assessment - The process of evaluating knowledge, skills and attitudes. It is usually done in measurable terms. Assessment is one of the four parts of The Learning Cycle which also includes planning, teaching and reflection.

Child initiated –an activity or project that is chosen or directed by the child rather than the teacher.

Circle time –when children and adults gather together to share their personal feelings and ideas about anything that is significant to them. The circle form promotes the development of social skills through eye contact, focused listening and turn taking. Story time, on the other hand, is best conducted in a small or whole group situation where the reader and book are the focus of attention.

Constructive play – play associated with the use of materials such as blocks, Lego, box collage etc where children build.

Developmentally appropriate – something that is suitable for a specific stage of growth

Differentiation –the process of designing different learning experiences and assessment on the basis of ability, interest, learning style, etc so that all children have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning and development.
Disposition – enduring habits of mind and action, and tendencies to respond to situations in characteristic ways. A willingness to explore, communicate, act independently and collaboratively and to persevere are examples of dispositions that are important to lifelong learning.

Dramatic play – play in which children imitate the actions of others such as family members, nurses, police officers or super-heroes. This type of play lets children explore the life roles of these people or characters.

Emergent biliteracy – the ongoing, dynamic development in the early years of concepts and expertise for thinking, listening, speaking, reading and writing in two languages.

Emergent reading - the reading and writing behaviours of young children that precede, and develop into, conventional literacy. There is a broad understanding now that learning to read and write should happen at the same time and should support each other.

Exploratory play – through this type of play children seek new information about their environment. They need to touch and handle objects, ask questions, observe other children learning, have time to find out how things work as well as feel free to investigate.

Extended conversations – Sustained conversation between children and between teachers and children that builds understanding of concepts and ideas. These have been shown to improve vocabulary, thinking skills, social skills and self worth.

Extended play – It’s a kind of play that is conducted over a long enough period of time to enable children to fully explore their ideas.

Fine motor skills – skills that involve the muscles of the hands and fingers and allow controlled use of tools such as pencils, knives and forks. Strength in the arms and shoulders are also necessary for fine motor control.

Formative assessment - The process of gathering information about a child’s learning and development which is then used immediately to adapt teaching and learning to meet the needs of the child.

Gross motor skills –skills that involve the large muscles of the body that enable such functions as walking, kicking, sitting upright, lifting, throwing a ball etc.
Holistic development and learning - considering all factors relating to the child’s growth. These include physical, cognitive, environmental, social and emotional factors.

Multi-sensory - in which children use all or a number of the senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing to engage with an activity or materials.

Observation - An assessment technique used for gathering information about children’s learning. The technique involves watching and listening to, and interacting with, children deliberately and purposefully to gather information about and interpret children’s learning across a range of contexts. Observations can be recorded and gathered in many ways, including anecdotal records, running records, using checklists or focus sheets (e.g. rubrics), and taking photographs and audio/video recordings of children’s learning.

Play - a context for learning through which children organise and make sense of their social worlds, as they engage actively with people and things. Play often involves pleasure and imagination. It is usually begun by the child or worked out between children rather than being imposed by an adult. Play is sometimes described as social, purposeful, extended, interactive, constructive, dramatic or exploratory play.

Scaffolding - the process of supporting a child’s learning to solve a problem or perform a task that could not be done by that child alone. The aim is to support the child as much as necessary while they build their understanding and ability to use the new learning; then gradually reduce the support until the child can use the new learning independently.

Summative assessment – is assessment that is undertaken at the end of a them, project or term.

Transitions – those times during the day when one activity is coming to an end and another activity is about to occur. Transition times can be complicated if children don’t know what to do. Effective teachers plan short ‘transition’ games, songs or learning activities that will ensure that this change happens in a calm and positive way.

Zone of proximal development- The distance between the actual development level of the child and the level of development that could be reached if working with a more capable child or a supportive adult.

Absorbent mind- A mind able to absorb knowledge quickly and effortlessly. 
Montessori said the child from birth to six years has an “absorbent mind.”

Analysis of movement- A technique used by Montessori teachers. The adult, when showing a complex action to a child, breaks it down into its parts and shows one step at a time, executing each movement slowly and exactly. The action thus becomes a sequence of simple movements and the child has a greater chance of success when “given the liberty to make use of them.” (Montessori, 1996, p. 108)

Classification- Sorting. Allocating or distributing according to common characteristics. The young child engages in classification activities because the process is essential for the construction of the intellect. The Montessori classroom offers many opportunities for classification.

Concentration- The act of concentrating - The young child focuses his or her attention on aspects of the environment essential for development. From a Montessori perspective, concentration is “a consistent activity concentrated on a single work –an exercise on some external object, where the movements of the hands are guided by the mind.” (1983, p. 149). Deep engagement.

Concrete to abstract- A progression both logical and developmentally appropriate. The child is introduced to a concrete material that embodies an abstract idea such as size or color. With hands-on experience, the child’s mind grasps the idea inherent in the material and forms an abstraction. Only as the child develops is he or she gradually able to comprehend the same idea in symbolic form.

Control of error- A way of providing instant feedback. Every Montessori activity provides the child with some way of assessing his own progress. This puts the control in the hands of the learner and protects the young child’s self-esteem and self-motivation. Control of error is an essential aspect of auto-education.

Cycle of activity- Little children, when engaged in an activity that interests them, will repeat it many times and for no apparent reason, stopping suddenly only when the inner need which compelled the child to activity has been satisfied. To allow for the possibility of long, concentrated work cycles, Montessori advocates a 3-hour uninterrupted work period.

Development of the will- the ability to will, or choose to do something with conscious intent, develops gradually during the first phase of life and is strengthened through practice. The Montessori environment offers many opportunities for the child to choose. Willpower, or self-control, results from the many little choices of daily life in a Montessori nursery.

Discipline from within- Self-discipline. The discipline in a well-run Montessori classroom is not a result of the teacher’s control or of rewards or punishments. Its source comes from within each individual child, who can control his or her own actions and make positive choices regarding personal behavior. Self-discipline is directly related to development of the will.

Exercises of Practical Life- This is one of the four areas of the Montessori prepared environment. The exercises of practical life resemble the simple work of life in the home: sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, etc. These purposeful activities help the child adapt to his new community, learn self-control, and begin to see himself as a contributing part of the social unit. His intellect grows as he works with his hands; his personality becomes integrated as body and mind function as a unit.

Grace and courtesy- An aspect of Practical Life. Little lessons which demonstrate positive social behaviour help the young child adapt to life in a group and arm her with knowledge of socially acceptable behaviour; practical information, useful both in and out of school.

Human tendencies- A central tenet of Montessori philosophy is that human beings exhibit a predisposition to exploration, orientation, order, abstraction, work, self-perfection, communication and a spiritual life. The tendencies are universal, spanning age, culture and racial barriers; they have existed since the dawn of the species and are probably evolutionary in origin. “Montessori stresses the need to serve those special traits that have proven to be tendencies of man throughout history.” (Mario Montessori, 1966, p. 21).

Independence- Normal development milestones such as weaning, talking, etc., can be seen as a series of events which enable the child to achieve increased individuation, autonomy, and self-regulation. Throughout the four planes of development, the child and young adult continually seek to become more independent. It’s as if the child says, “Help me to help myself.”

Isolation of difficulty- Before giving a presentation, the Montessori teacher analyzes the activity she wants to show the child. Procedures or movements that might prove troublesome are isolated and taught to the child separately. For example, the simple movement of holding and snipping with scissors is shown before cutting curved or zigzag lines; folding cloths is shown before table washing, an activity requiring folding. A task should neither be so hard that it is overwhelming, nor so easy that it is boring.

Indirect preparation - The way nature has of preparing the intelligence. In every action, there is a conscious interest. Through this interest, the mind is being prepared for something in the future. For example, a child will enjoy the putting together of various triangular shapes, totally unaware that because of this work his mind will later be more accepting of geometry. Also called “remote preparation,” the deeper educational purpose of many of the Montessori activities is remote in time.

Language appreciation- From the very first days in the Montessori classroom, children are given the opportunity to listen to true stories about known subjects, told with great expression. Songs, poems and rhymes are a part of the daily life of the class. The teacher models the art of conversation and respectfully listens to her students. Looking at beautiful books with lovely, realistic pictures is also a part of language appreciation.

Learning explosions- Human development is often not slow and steady; acquisitions seem to arrive suddenly, almost overnight, and with explosive impact. Such learning explosions are the sudden outward manifestation of a long process of internal growth. For example, the explosion of spoken language around two years of age is the result of many months of inner preparation and mental development.

Mathematical mind- All babies are born with mathematical minds. That is, they have a propensity to learn things which enhance their ability to be exact and orderly, to observe, compare and classify. Humans naturally tend to calculate, imagine, abstract and create. But this vital part of intelligence must be given help and direction for it to develop and function. If mathematics is not part of the young child’s experience, his subconscious mind will not be accepting of it at a later date.

Mixed ages- One of the hallmarks of the Montessori method is that children of mixed ages work together in the same class. Age-groupings are based on developmental planes. Because the work is individual, children progress at their own pace; there is cooperation rather than competition between the ages.

Normalization- If children are repeatedly able to experience periods of spontaneous concentration on a piece of work freely chosen, they will begin to display the characteristics of normal development; a love of work, attachment to reality, and a love of silence and working alone. Normalized children are happier children: enthusiastic, generous, and helpful to others. They make constructive work choices, and their work reflects their level of development.

Prepared environment- The Montessori classroom is an environment prepared by the adult for children. It contains all the essentials for optimal development but nothing superfluous. These include order and reality, beauty and simplicity. Everything is child-sized to enhance the children’s independent functioning. A trained adult and a large enough group of children of mixed ages make up a vital part of the prepared environment.

Presentation- The teacher does not teach in the traditional sense, but rather shows the child how to use the various objects and then leaves him free to explore and experiment. This is called a presentation. To be effective, it must be done slowly and exactly, step by step, and with a minimum of words.

Psychic embryo- The first three years of life is a period of mental. Concentration, just as the nine months in utero is a period of physical creation. The brain awaits experience in the environment to flesh out the genetic blueprint. Since so much mental development occurs after birth, Montessori called the human infant a psychic embryo.

Repetition- The young child’s work is very different from the adult’s. When an adult works, he sets out to accomplish some goal and stops working when the objective is achieved. A child, however, does not work to accomplish an external goal, but rather an internal one. Consequently, they will repeat an activity until the inner goal is accomplished. The unconscious urge to repeat helps the child to coordinate a movement or acquire some ability.

Sensitive periods- Young children experience transient periods of sensibility and are intrinsically motivated or urged to activity by specific sensitivities. A child in a sensitive period is believed to exhibit spontaneous concentration when engaged in an activity that matches a particular sensitivity. For example, children in a sensitive period for order will be drawn to activities that involve ordering. They will be observed choosing such activities, becoming deeply concentrated, sometimes repeating the activity over and over, without reward or encouragement. Young children are naturally drawn to aspects in the environment that meet their developmental needs.

Sensorial materials
-The sensorial materials were created to help children in the process of creating and organizing their intelligence. Each scientifically designed material isolates a quality found in the world such as color, size, shape, etc., and this isolation focuses the attention on this one aspect. The child, through repeated manipulation of these objects, comes to form clear ideas or abstractions. What could not be explained by words, the child learns by experience working with the sensorial materials.

Simple to complex- Moving from the simple to the complex is a principal used in the sequence of presentations in a Montessori classroom. Children are first introduced to a concept or idea in its simplest form. As they progress and become capable of making more complex connections, they are eventually able to handle information that is less isolated.

Sound games-Many children know the alphabet but have not analyzed the sounds in words nor are they aware that words are made up of separate sounds (phonemic awareness). From the age of two (or as soon as the child is speaking fluently) sound games can make them aware of the sounds in words. In England, they use the nursery game, “I Spy.” The sound of the letter and not the letter name is pronounced.

Three hour work cycle- Through years of observation around the world, Montessori understood that children, when left in freedom, displayed a distinct work cycle that was so predictable, it could even be graphed. This cycle, with two peaks and one valley, lasted approximately three hours. In Montessori schools, children have three hours of open, uninterrupted time to choose independent work, become deeply engaged, and repeat to their own satisfaction.

Three period lesson- “The famous three period lesson of Sequin” (Standing, 1957, p. 307) is actually quite simple. The first period is Naming: “This is thick. This is thin.” The second period is Recognition: “Give me the thick. Give me the thin.” The third period consists of The Pronunciation of the Word: “What is this?” In three simple steps, the entire learning process is brought into play. The three period lesson is used for giving language.

Vocabulary enrichment- The young child’s vocabulary increases exponentially in the years from 3-6. To feed this natural hunger for words, vocabulary is given: the names of biology, geometry, geography, and so forth, can be learned as well as the names of qualities found in the sensorial material. The child’s absorbent mind takes in all these new words “rapidly and brilliantly.” (Montessori, 1946, p. 10)

- From an evolutionary perspective, the long period of childhood exists so children can learn and experiment in a relatively pressure-free environment. Most social scientists refer to this pressure-free experimentation as “play,” although Montessori prefers to call this activity the “work” of childhood. Children are serious when engaged in the kind of play that meets developmental needs. Given freedom and time, they choose purposeful activities over frivolous ones.

Writing to reading- In a Montessori environment, children usually begin writing before they can read. They are keen to create words with a box of loose letters (the moveable alphabet) or write their words with chalk or pencil. About six months later, they begin to understand what reading means, and they do so only through associating it with writing. (Montessori, 1936/1983, p. 142