Can You Explain an Average Day For Me?
Look for an integrated extended work time of about 3 hours, and a group circle time.
Not that these two activity periods should be the extent of the day, but an average day should include AT LEAST a work period and a circle time.
What is an Extended Work Time ?
In a true Montessori school math, language, and the cultural areas (science, social studies, history and geography) are all worked on during a three hour work period. (In a pre-school program sensorial and practical life work are also worked on during this time). This extended work period gives the child time to work to fulfillment on a concept. Often art projects that reinforce academic skills are available to all children. Additionally, with the help of the teacher, as the child matures, work time also teaches a child time management skills. This is because as the child matures there is a certain amount of developmentally appropriate work that needs to be completed during work time. Children learn to be responsible for getting this work done and in the process learn to manage their time effectively.
This extended work period is one of the things that makes a Montessori classroom so radically different from a traditional classroom, whether public or private. In a more tradition classroom the day is broken into parts where one topic is taught and all the children in the room work on that topic, (math time, reading time, writing time, ...) In these classrooms, for each lesson there is usually a lecture, an activity, then work to complete.
After a certain amount of time, the work is either handed in or shoved in a desk (depending on the expectations of the teacher). Children who finish work early are told to sit quietly, help others, read a book, or are given more work to complete. Slower children who often don’t have enough time to finish the work, either don’t finish it, bring it home for homework, or work on it during recess. (once again depending on the expectations of the teacher)
The problem Montessori teachers, and many others, feel with this situation is that bright children become bored, while other children never get a chance to completely finish the work.
Some teachers try to differentiate the work given for part of the day. During this time some children are either given more work or work that requires higher level processing skills, while other children are given less work. If this is not done correctly the bright children feel like they are being “punished for being smart and the slower children still do not learn to mastery!
Other times there is talk about “extensions” for the bright children during this time, an art project or such, sometimes incorporating the concept that is being worked on. There certainly isn't a problem with this, it is really wonderful and fun for the bright child, but it is often the slower child who will benefit more from the concept being taught in a different way. This is why Montessorians feel that this extended work period is so important. It allows children to explore and work on all concepts, in many different ways, at their individual level, uninterrupted.
What is Circle Time?
If we look at the Montessori Classroom as A Children's House, circle time is the family dinner time. It is the part of the day where the class comes together to share, discuss, and learn as a community. Maybe weekends are shared, an exciting topic introduced, a problem discussed, it all depends on the needs of the day.
The length of a Circle Time should increases as children mature, but it duration should NEVER take up most of the school day.