Sunday, May 10, 2009

Montessori Language Program


Language is an organized system of symbols which human use to communicate. These symbols can be spoken or written down. It is an exploration through sounds which results in a medium of communication. Our ability to use language is one of the main things that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

It is a human tendency to communicate with others and this could underlie the emergence of language. Dr. Montessori said, “To talk is in the nature of man.” Human needed language in order to communicate, and soon, the powers that come with language were revealed. The evolution of the human language began when communication was done through pictograms or pictures and drawings. It then developed into ideograms when pictures began to turn into symbols. Later, these symbols became words, words involved letters, vowels emerged, one symbol came to represent one sound, and an alphabet was created, and then came the alphabet we now use today. And just as language evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago, it also changes with each generation. Unneeded words are dropped and new words come into use. Language rose and continues to rise with the collective intelligence.

We know that the development of a young child's language skills begins at conception. An infant is born into a family with a unique communication style. Family members may be quite open, freely expressing their wants, needs, and feelings. Alternatively, communication may be reserved or even restrained. Babies listen to and absorb not only what family members say but how they say it because they are in the unconscious stage of the absorbent mind. They posses LAD (Language Acquisition Device) which starts functioning from birth and continued till 6 yrs. By this age, with almost no direct teaching, the child learns basic sentence patterns and has achieved considerable mastery in Phonology, Lexis (Vocabulary) and Syntax (order or words in a sentence). This doesn’t mean a child of this age has full language competence. He needs to acquire more complex structures during primary year. He should be given names of all the things in his environment for this is the period known as the ‘sensitive period for language’ where he learns things naturally. Later he will have to memorize them, which will be not only more difficult but not nearly so likely to stimulate a life-long interest in these things. It is equally important to surround him with the written words. A balanced environment, one that is open yet not chaotic or inappropriate, is the most conducive to language learning. We need to talk often and meaningfully with babies. Babies learn to trust their surroundings as older siblings and adults hold and cuddle them, engage them with smiles and coos, and most importantly, acknowledge their communications.

While talking about the child’s language development, we should name Naom Chomsky other than Dr. Montessori because he asserted that the capacity for language is genetic. The brain is pre-wired to understand and produce language. Chomsky found that all language contain the same elements like noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, conjunction and interjection despite of cultural differences. He coined the concept as ‘Universal Grammar’.
When the child arrives in the Montessori classroom, he has fully absorbed his culture’s language. He has already constructed the spoken language and with his entry into the classroom, he will begin to consolidate the spoken language and begin to explore the written forms of language. Because language is an involvement in the process of thinking, the child will need to be spoken to and listened to often. The child will need a broad exposure to language, with correct articulation, enunciation, and punctuation. The child will need to experience different modes of language and to hear and tell stories. Most importantly, the child needs to feel free and be encouraged to communicate with others.

The most important preparation of the environment for successful development of spoken and written language in the child is the language environment of the home. It is never too early to speak clearly and precisely to the child. In fact the language of the caregivers in the first six years of life will literally form the spoken language of the child. Reading aloud to the child gives the message that reading is fun for everyone, and concepts and vocabulary words will be experienced which would never come up in spoken language.

The development of language in early-childhood classrooms is an umbrella for the entire Montessori curriculum. Often teachers and parents consider activities on the shelves of the Language area as the heart of actual language learning. Certainly these activities provide powerful opportunities, but language learning occurs most profoundly in the moment-to-moment life of interactions within the classroom.

To help the child in his development in language, the Montessori classroom is designed to help the child. Because the learning of language is not done through subjects as in a normal classroom, the child is learning at his own rhythm. This allows the child to concentrate on the learning of each important step in language so that each progressive step is done easily and without any thought on the part of the child. The special material also plays an important role in aiding the child develops the powers of communication and expression, of organization and classification, and the development of thought.

But the most important tool in the child’s learning of language lies within the directress. She must support the child in his learning; give him order to classify what he has learned, to help the child build self-confidence, and to provide the child with meaningful activities. The directress is the child’s best source in language development.

As the child leaves the Montessori classroom after the age of six, he will have become an articulate person, being able to communication his feelings in well-formed sentences and in writing. He will be able to write these thoughts and feelings in a skillful handwriting. He will have the ability to write in different styles and about a variety of subjects.
For success in language a child needs confidence that what she has to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing. There are several things that we can do to help.
We can listen and talk to the child from birth on, not in baby talk, but with respect and with a rich vocabulary. We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language, providing a wealth of experience, because language is meaningless if it is not based on experience. We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories we will greatly increase the child's love of language.
If we help our children with the physical preparation of the body and hands, listen carefully to our children when they talk to us, set an example of loving to read, and approach giving our children language with the same spirit of fun with which we play other games, we will be doing the most important things to prepare for a successful life of reading and writing.
Each new concept can be presented in a multisensory, hierarchical procedure matched to the child's level. Each activity can be broken into reduced levels of difficulty or increased levels of abstraction as fits the student. For this reason the child, having difficulties in grasping language may move more slowly than another child but will not suffer complete confusion.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sharmila. Your blog is so informative espexially since I am studying toward my montessori diploma.
    How did Maria Montessori set the stage for Noam Chomsky's work on language? I hope you can help