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How Is Grammar Presented In A Montessori Classroom?

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

by Ms. Anisa Foy, Educational Advisor of AMCA

The formal presentation of grammar starts at the lower elementary level in a Montessori classroom. The children arriving in a lower elementary class have already been made aware that different words perform different functions, through the primary room Function of The Word exercises. They have identified the different functions with symbols, a large black triangle denotes a noun, a large red circle denotes a verb and so on. At the lower elementary level we expand on these exercises, giving names for different parts of speech.

Every Montessori teacher is required to learn the philosophy of grammar, so we may present it to the child not as a boring set of rules, but as a rich and living part of our heritage. We teach the children the historical changes and connections of grammar. In a book entitled Psycho-Grammar Dr. Maria Montessori outlines how to help the child to fully understand the role of language. She symbolized matter by a black pyramid (noun). She symbolized the energy of a verb as a red circle, equating it to the energy of the sun.The pyramids go back thousands of years to early civilizations. A pyramid does not move and is rooted to one spot. We therefore use the black symbol to denote the noun which is also solid and is a naming word. A red ball however will go wherever one throws it. Montessori translated the red ball into the red symbol for verbs. The verb animates objects like the sun animates all living things.

The grammar lessons start with a set of 9 Grammar Boxes, and the work we do centers around nouns and verbs. The other boxes are all related to and linked with nouns and verbs. We do not present grammar as a boring set of rules, we help the children to penetrate and understand the essence of language. We help them to to use language correctly and appreciate the beauty of it. The child is made aware that language, as we know it, has been around and has evolved over a very long period of time. It is in fact still evolving and will go on doing so as long as man exists.

While doing the course on English Language, we present the 9 parts of speech. Many of those the child has encountered in the primary room, with the exception of Pronouns and Interjections.  The grammar boxes have materials which the teacher uses to get the child physically involved in the lesson. The children are active participants in the lesson, they are not expected to sit still and just listen. At the end of the lesson the child is encouraged to write the rule for each part of speech, and is not just handed down the rule.

Most of the grammar boxes are introduced with an oral command or an oral introduction. The work with the boxes allow the children to have a manipulative activity, which does not have to be a written activity. As long as the child is having fun and learning it is not necessary to make it a written exercise. The idea is to enjoy the activity and be impelled to repeat it, till the lesson learned becomes a part of their being. Lessons learned this way will never be forgotten.

With some parts of speech we use charts. Some are impressionistic and some are for classification, for example with different kinds of adjectives. At the end of the grammar box work there are some exercises to be done to help to transition the child to Grammar Books. Dr. Montessori did not intend that the grammar boxes replace grammar books. The main purpose of the Grammar Boxes is to aid understanding of parts of speech in an interesting way.

The transition work is done without materials. It could take the form of the child’s own writing. Or the child could copy a passage from a book, and underline each word that corresponds to the grammar box symbol. Another example of this work could be to write a sentence vertically, and next to each word is the child indicates what part of speech it is. These exercises are really a summing up of all the manipulative work with the grammar boxes.

All the grammar boxes must be completed by age 8. By the time the child is 9, this work no longer holds any interest. They have outgrown the need for manipulative work and games. In the 9 to 12 class the grammar text books are introduced. The children are made aware of different grammar books, and also how Grammarians don’t all agree. They are encouraged to research and find out and come to their own conclusions. In this age group the child still needs a lot of repetition, and the teacher finds creative ways to help them repeat.

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