The purpose of Language Arts is to develop language skills in learners for them to reach mastery. The emphasis is made on such major elements as writing, reading, listening, and speaking. The curriculum is also focused on the necessity to make learners love literature, use correct grammar, etc.
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A lot of attention is paid to language in the framework of the Montessori curriculum. From the very preschool education, children learn sounds of the letters and then transfer to their names because in this way it is easier for them to write and read. In this way, they also start writing before reading, as it is considered to be a less complicated activity. In addition to that, children get to know that every word has its particular function and that it should be used following some pattern.
The preschool and elementary school classes according to the Montessori curriculum allow children to develop spontaneous writing. In this framework, teachers do not concentrate on mechanics. Their task is to ensure that the words are down on the page. Of course, the first attempts to write something in this way are often not that good. But inventive spelling improves with time.
Montessori believes that reading is decoding of the words people keep in mind. That is why she starts teaching it with matching exercises. Printed cards with short-vowel words on them need to correspond to appropriate images. Thus, children can get to know new words and their meaning. Soon, pictures are substituted by word labels and lists, etc. Similarly, the complexity of the selected world alters and reaches long vowel digraphs.
Finally, the audition is introduced while reading some literature in small groups. Additional work can also be included, such as classes devoted to abbreviations, punctuation, capitalization, sentence analysis, etc. Grammar is discussed apart from the parts of speech (NAMC, 2013).
Teachers of the Language Arts maintain several roles to ensure that one’s students have an opportunity to receive a high-quality education. They act as a controller who pays attention to learner’s answers and behaviors. They encourage students to participate in all activities and act as assistants who support them and help when necessary. Teachers are great sources of information related to the Language Arts area, which allows them to guide students. In addition to that, they often help learners who need to work with other resources. Thus, they guide them regarding the usage of the Internet or various books, focusing on specific topics and educational purposes. Teachers are constantly evaluating their students.
They assess learners’ performance and notice achieved progress as well as drawbacks that need to be improved. In the framework of this role, they also define how all Language Arts’ objectives are fulfilled. Of course, teachers organize the working environment and processes. They determine the way all activities are maintained. Teachers provide instructions, according to which students do particular tasks and focus on those elements of the Language Arts that are underlined. What is more, educators are in charge of creating a positive atmosphere in the class so that every student participates in all activities and has an equal opportunity to obtain and master new knowledge and skills. As tutors, they are also expected to consider the individual needs of their students. They guide them on how to maintain self-study as well. In addition to that, teachers of the Language Arts have a range of external duties, such as meetings with other educators and parents. Still, they are mainly focused on the learners’ capacity to use English (What are the duties of a language arts teacher, 2016).
Children tend to have different needs in the classroom depending on their characteristics. However, when speaking about the issue in the framework of general education, it is significant to ensure that different types of perception are considered. Thus, materials selected by the teacher should both meet the objectives of the Language Arts and the needs of the learners.
Students with auditory learning styles should be involved in listening and speaking activities. It would be beneficial for them to listen to the text that is read by another person. The teacher can use a talking dictionary and an audio recording with the help of one’s laptop, tablet, etc. For students with visual learning style illustrations, videos, and any printed materials can be used. In this way, they have an opportunity to memorize information with their eyes and avoid a lack of understanding that could be faced if the information was just read to them. Those who have kinesthetic learning styles require special materials that can be touched. A teacher can resort to fingerspelling, use of response cards, or different model items (letters, toys, etc.) (Voltz, Sims, & Nelson, 2010). It is rather advantageous to use a game format because it is appropriate not only for kinesthetic students but also for the rest of the class, as children like to play. They can play board games that require communication, usage of images, and dices.
Reading and writing are often connected in the framework of learning activities. Still, writing is often seen as an objective of the class, while reading is perceived in different ways. It is discussed as a supportive activity and as a dominant force depending on the situation. The most effective is likely to be seen when writing and writing are tightly linked (Dartmouth, 2016).
The number of assigned readings is often rather extensive. For example, students are expected to read not chapters but the whole book, which is time-consuming. It would be better to limit their amount and allow the learners to have more time to focus on writing. Class discussions and writing assignments should focus not on the very content of the reading materials but specific issues and the construction of the argument. Teachers should provide the list of the course readings beforehand and discuss them with the students, identifying those elements that make them well-written so that the learners can not just obtain critical information but also follow the example. Similarly, students should receive some examples of poor writings.
For instance, due to the discussions in the classroom, learners have an opportunity to avoid them. It can be used to improve reading skills as well. To prevent students from being passive, teachers can encourage them to write in the margins. For example, they can make notes about the most interesting information or confusing questions. Learners can be encouraged to have a reading journal so that they can make notes and write down everything related to the course materials so that their understanding improves. In addition to that, they can write response papers to particular readings. In this way, their writing skills will become better, and a complete understanding will be achieved. In-class writing assignments can be used to guide class discussions. They are not time-consuming and can be based on readings.
In the framework of a Montessori classroom, listening activities are considered to be among the first ones. Children play silent games and listen to other people’s reading to differentiate words and phrases. Enormous attention is paid to the differences in tone and voice. Children are taught to perceive and understand the storyline as they listen to various texts. They work in groups and learn to listen to each speaker and to be attentive (grasp everything and not interrupt others). Dramas, songs, and poems allow them to practice pronunciation and intonation. Speaking is often mastered while expressing one’s ideas and beliefs (Mi Casa Montessori, 2013). Fun activities, such as the creation of some story sentence by sentence or a discussion of a favorite meal, encourage children to participate in oral communication.
In a Montessori classroom, children are taught how to write before reading. However, they develop their fine motor skill before practicing, as it ensures that their muscles can maintain the required actions. Thus, kids are occupied in such activities as polishing or dishwashing. Then they learn sounds in the way they are read and only with the course of time start relating them to corresponding letters. They can use colorful papers to construct words. At this stage, they focus on the ability to express themselves and do not pay attention to spelling or grammar. To enlarge children’s vocabulary, teachers teach them the words that refer to present experiences and natural things instead of some pictures and recordings. With the help of storytelling, the kids are encouraged to read (Kids Collective, 2015). As they can match letters and sounds, they use special books to master their visualization skills and improve reading.
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The direct aims of the Language Arts activities and materials reflect the necessity to help children to master their listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills. In addition to that, they develop their sense perception, training them to observe, compare, decide, etc. Indirect aims refer to emotional enrichment, for example. Students also have an opportunity to develop their social skills through communication with teachers and other children. Their physical development improves especially fine motor skills. Kids also become more independent and learn how to be objective.
Practical Life activities can be used to prepare children for handwriting, developing their motor skills. For example, washing plastic dishes, kids practice their ability to hold large objects in their hands and manipulate them at the same time. At this time, it is enough for them to learn how to control a thumb separately. In this way, children work with their hands more. They become more stable and can move smoothly. Passing to the activities with tweezers, children improve their skills and learn to be more accurate, as they need to work with smaller objects. The eyedropper allows children to learn how to hold a little object in their hands and direct it to the required destination, which is also rather small. In addition to that, it makes kids conduct some extra actions when holding a dropper. They need to squeeze it with their fingers for a drop to fall. As a result, their fine motor skills develop, and they start controlling their fingers better.
Sensorial materials are also rather useful in this framework. With the help of knobbed cylinders coordination of fingers improves greatly. Mainly, it is targeted at the development of thumb and two fingers that catch things. On the next level, teachers can resort to geometric cabinet insets (MIKACJJ, 2013). They assist in the development of tactile skills and improve children’s ability to differentiate various shapes as well as to reconstruct them. Kids need to remember the shape of an object and correspond it to the appropriate hall so that they perfectly match. Similarly, they need to write letters according to the example. Needless to say that motor skills are also involved in this activity. Sandpaper letters allow to development of a muscular memory of the shape of the letters. Children memorize letters and correspond them to their phonetic sounds. In addition to that, they can see how each letter is written and follow this pattern to improve handwriting.
In the framework of Language Arts, reading should be taught based on speaking and writing skills. Professionals believe that there are two main stages of reading. During the first one, kids learn the mechanics of reading. They learn symbols and sounds that correspond to each other and try to decode them. When putting them together, children find out some words that are already familiar to them. During the second stage, kids learn to read phrases so that they do not focus on each word separately. Here, they can already consider grammar and syntax (Montessori primary guide, 2016). In my practicum classroom, similar stages of reading can be observed. However, the emphasis on already acquired writing skills is not that critical. While the Language Arts manual of the training program encourages us to avoid using images and pictures, they are present in the classroom. They tend to make children more interested in the task and willing to participate. Still, it should be admitted that they also distract attention from the main purpose of reading. In addition to that, pre-reading activities are not always properly maintained. But those that are to be maintained during and after reading are used. The test is processed in-depth, which ensures students’ understanding. They also review the information they have read and often discuss the content of the text.
Different pre-reading activities allow children to improve their skills. For example, they can match objects with corresponding beginning sounds. Such activity allows preparing a control of error (NAMC, 2007). When creating cards for matching, teachers should also create such cards so that objects and sounds on them are already matched. In this way, children have an opportunity to cope with this activity in the way they consider to be right, and then check whether they have done everything correctly, referring to the cards with answers on them. Control of effort can also be put into the reading materials. While working with cut-up sentences, teachers should prepare a list of sentences used for this exercise that is provided correctly with no changes. As a result, children will be able to gather words so that they create a sentence on their own and then check whether they have made mistakes or not with the help of this list.
According to the Montessori philosophy, children are ready to write when they can successfully cope with pre-writing activities, developed all required skills, and can color inside the lines properly. To reach this state, a child’s large muscles are to be developed. One should learn how to walk and talk. With time, fine motor skills should improve so that a kid can be able to hold and control little objects, such as a pencil that will be needed to write. Still, before a child tries to use it, one should develop eye-hand coordination and be able to follow moving objects. For example, one should cope with going after a ball or a pet. Further, the child’s hand should become stronger. One should be able to eat little pieces of food with his/her hands and grasp little objects. It is also critical to ensure that a child can catch things and hold the balance. The hand control can also be checked with puzzles. All in all, it is significant to ensure that the pencil-holding ability is achieved. Then it is possible to start working with writing and working supplies. Painting different objects and even walls can be beneficial. Finally, children can be encouraged to color geometric shapes inside the lines. If they cope with this task, they are likely to cope with wiring letters. Such development is usually observed between the ages 3-6, but it is more critical to pay attention to the child’s skills than one’s age (Jacobs, 2012).
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