All children are gifted and unique in so many ways.
Each individual shares a part of themselves with the world a little differently than everyone else. A more formal definition of giftedness is children who give evidence of high-performance capabilities in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership or specific academic fields who require services not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. Sometimes a child’s mind develops at a more rapid rate than their physical growth. The estimated number of gifted children is between 6 and 10% or 3-5 million students.
Traditional, general education schools make accommodations in the regular classroom like advanced projects and studies, pull out advanced group sessions, acceleration or grade advancement. Grade advancement is difficult because social-emotional development is not always advancing at the same rate as academic abilities. How does the Montessori method address these gifted students?
Montessori early childhood classrooms are multi-aged and contain a range of curriculum materials from 2.5 years to 7 years of age.
Students can enter the classroom and with an assessment by teachers, advance at their own pace. If a student excels in verbal and language arts abilities he can progress through all of the letter/sound recognition, blending, creating words with the movable alphabet and be reading within a short time.
Teachers rely on a students’ ability rather than age or grade for placement.
Children who are interested in numbers and math can advance rapidly through 1-10, teens, tens and thousands using golden bead materials. Students learn about cubing by using a variety of prisms, some square some rectangular inside cube-shaped boxes. One is called the Binomial Cube and the other is the Trinomial Cube. These prisms ard put together to form the solution to (a+b)2 and (a+b+c)3. When I was a high school algebra student, I had to learn the Binomial Cube and the Trinomial Cube formula. I did not know that each of the cubes squared or cubed made a larger cube – did you? I didn’t visualize math formulas. Montessori math materials define a solid foundation for later abstraction.
The Montessori Math materials are mathematically perfect in construction with attributes that enable students to make comparisons between materials. Mathematics is sensorial, seeing a thousand golden beads in a cube, feeling its weight, comparing it to one unit bead or a ten bar or a hundred square gives a firm foundation of number relationships and quantity. (Can you tell that I adore the Montessori Math material?)
Every area of the classroom has advanced materials.
The youngest children in the classroom can experience the materials sensorily without learning the concept. When they are ready for more advanced experiences the teachers can present specific lessons to the children. In addition, there remains the joy in discovery to see that the pink tower cubes are the same size and shape as some of the elements of the binomial and trinomial cube. That the geometric solid shapes can be seen in features within the classroom.
We remember 10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss with others
80% of what we personally experience
95% or what we teach others
– Edgar Dale
In a multi-aged classroom where older children are role models for younger children and older children help to teach younger students – they do retain an exponential amount of information.
Authentic experiences also increase the amount of information retained. For instance, if a child learns how to tie a bow by using a dressing frame, she will be able to tie her own and other’s shoes. A child who serves snack, one napkin and cup for each child will understand one to one correspondence. Children who learn to take care of and respect the classroom will take care of their belongings at home.
Montessori classrooms are safe spaces where mistakes are opportunities for learning to take place.
Children experiment, make their own choices and plan their morning work cycles. Children also set their own learning goals. I worked with a 4-year-old student who loved Geography. He set a personal goal to learn every country in the world. He worked one continent at a time. He made his own set of continent maps with countries labeled with colored pencils. They were beautiful works of art. Once he accomplished the countries, he started on the capitals. It was his own personal independent project based on his interests.
Montessori classrooms have large blocks of uninterrupted work time.
What this means is that children do not change classrooms or have specialty teachers teaching during this prime learning time. Teachers do organize one-on-one time and direction and small group lessons. This allows students the time to work through various tasks and responsibilities at their own pace. It is vitally important for building concentration, coordination, independence, and order. Executive function skills of problem-solving, perseverance, working memory, mental flexibility and self-control all need time to develop.