What does my child do all day?
Moving from a traditional public school to a Montessori public school, was exciting for me. The Montessori philosophy intrigued me, and I knew it was what was best for young learners. But what set it apart from traditional education?
One aspect of Montessori is student choice in work. Having used “centers” in my kindergarten and 1st grade classes, I was familiar with choice. Parents, however, often ask me, “What does she do all day?” “I never see any papers come home from school?” and “How do I know what she’s working on?”
Students have guidelines for what needs to be done daily, however, other than whole group, small group, and individual lessons, students choose what they work on, and when. So, when parents ask their student what they did all day, often the student only replies “works”.
Works are what Montessori students call their learning activities. Each day, students have extended periods of time, called a work cycle. They choose works from the areas of math, language arts, science, social studies. Teachers, or guides, help students choose which area of focus they will work on daily, as well as the tasks they will complete. These works often involve manipulatives which help students learn and understand concepts tied to the Common Core State Standards for each grade level. Because so many works involve manipulatives, often there are minimal pencil and paper products of student work, which means there is nothing to bring home.
Students use a work plan to guide their choices during the work cycle. As they complete works, the teacher or teacher aide signs off on the completed work. The student then moves onto the next activity. This provides the students with timely feedback regarding their work, and the opportunity for the teacher to correct any misconceptions the student has. Students reflect on their work accomplishments daily/weekly. Often these work plans are collected and stored in the student’s file for the year, easily accessible to both teacher and parents. The process of student reflection helps empower students to take charge and set goals for their own learning.
This process of the work cycle, choosing work, completing work, getting feedback, and reflection helps students in the Montessori school prepare for life as active learners. So, the next time your child comes home with an empty backpack and replies to your question of “What did you do today?” with, “works,” you know you have a Montessori child! Trust the process and you will see the product.