January Gumbo Limbo Newsletter

Joyous and Prosperous New Year, Gumbo Limbo Families,

“The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people.” —Dr. Maria Montessori
Although I have been a Montessori guide for well over 10 years, I find it imperative to review and study the philosophy regularly. Because we take into account each child’s personal development, this review guides me toward meeting the needs of each individual. Over the break, I reviewed the language curriculum, which is broken down into the following subcategories: oral language, writing, reading, and grammar. Let’s take a look at oral language.

The sensitive period for language development is from birth to roughly 7 years old. In the Primary classroom, oral language begins as soon as a child enters the class; however, the child is sensitive to hearing the sound of language spoken around and to them from birth.

“Talking to a child in slow, quiet speech, using clear pronunciation, precise usage and a varied choice of words, is important from birth, for he absorbs the patterns and tonalities long before he can produce them,” Rosa Covington Packard wrote in her book, The Hidden Hinge. The importance of language spoken to a child from birth is a key Montessori concept. In the Montessori classroom, oral language activities promote social and emotional development and serve as a basis for cognitive development. Language acquisition empowers the child to function appropriately within their environment and with others. It also allows for a refinement of the senses that aids in exploration, enabling the child to communicate with precision about what they experience.

In this area, lessons include:
Expressing Needs and Feelings
Social Conversation
Sharing Experiences
Gracious and Courteous Communication
This set of lessons has the adult giving language to the child in order to empower them socially and emotionally, and encourages the child to explore his world. Prereading Listening Games (including asking a child to follow an instruction or having them close their eyes, listen to a sound and guess what it is) and Pre-reading Function of Word Games (introducing adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions through games — e.g., “Please bring me the blue pencil” or “Can you walk across the room?” and then, “Can you walk quickly across the room?” and asking, “What did you bring?” or “What did you do?”). These games also encourage language comprehension and self-confidence by giving language to further describe experiences and foster self-expression.

Other oral language lessons build vocabulary to assist in both ordering a child’s environment and fulfilling their need for movement. Each of these lessons uses oral language, usually in the form of questions, to reinforce and test language acquisition based on refinement of the senses, another Montessori curriculum area in itself. For instance, “Can you bring me the other blue tablet?” or, a favorite in the Gumbo Limbo class, “Do you remember how the sphere rolls? Can you bring me something in the classroom that is the same as the sphere?” Each also requires the child to move from one area of the classroom to another some distance away, again accommodating the need for movement.

Finally, explaining to a child or answering their questions through a transition to a new place or simply through their daily schedule fosters self-efficacy and confidence. In Endangered Minds, Dr. Jane Healy explains that this shows a child “how to think and plan ahead — to act rather than react … to express his needs, ask questions, understand and organize his world, but also to think and reason about situations far from the one at hand.” In other words, oral language assists the child in developing planning functions for thinking through problems.

Maren Schmidt offers a number of short articles on the topic of language development and acquisition in her parent newsletter. Here is the link; I hope you enjoy!

Sensitive Periods: Language Development Is Critical

We are excited to be back at school and look forward to hearing all about the children’s winter break adventures!

Dates to remember:
January 18th – Comedy Show Fundraiser and Auction
Look for an email asking for donations to the Gumbo Limbo basket featuring local specialties and services.
January 20th – No classes – Martin Luther King Day

Ms. Suzanne and Ms. Jill