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We meet the standard established by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which include guidelines for class size. We apply internationally proven co-teaching model that involves Bulgarian and English AMI Montessori teachers and an Assistant teacher. The ratio is 1 teacher per 8-10 children. For nurturing the curiosity, initiative and independence, the self-directed activities account about 80% of the work, while the other 20% is teacher-guided. Materials are self-correcting so that once a student has a lesson from the teacher on a particular area, he can work independently to problem-solve. This independence fosters self-discipline, initiative, responsibility and community. The older children in the class often help the younger students with their work. This builds confidence in the older child as well as allowing for an internalisation of the knowledge and solidification of skills necessary to move through to the next work. By seeing what older children have mastered, younger children experience encouragement and connectedness to where their own work can lead them.
At Otkrivatel Montessori School, we believe that the skills needed to resolve conflicts are as important as math, reading, writing and other disciplines that are traditionally taught in school. When a conflict arises that lends itself to conflict resolution, we use a variety of mediation techniques. Mediations are facilitated by either teachers or peers. One of the tenets of Montessori philosophy is the belief in the importance of freedom and responsibility. We emphasise respect and personal responsibility. If a student is acting in an inappropriate manner, a teacher may speak to the student directly and address the behaviour and/or redirect the student to appropriate work.
Otkrivatel Montessori School places great emphasis on Bulgarian and English language and literacy throughout the curriculum. According their level, each day students in all classes work on social and emotional language, self-expression, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, spelling, and handwriting in both languages. Elementary children read, write a daily journal, and do research projects. The Lower Elementary students present the results of their research projects orally, while older students do so in writing for review by the teachers. Elementary students read individually and with their teachers every day in Bulgarian and English language. These students prepare frequent book reports and read a variety of materials in association with their research projects. Students practice expository and creative writing, such as poetry and fiction. All students at Otkrivatel Montessori School participate in English lessons taught by native speaker each day. Some students participate in German or Spanish language lessons each week, working toward cultural awareness and developing some elementary conversation skills. All languages are taught by native speakers and include participation in cultural experiences such as singing, dancing, native arts and crafts, cooking, and celebrating native holidays.
The use of mobile phones during lessons with us is prohibited, so when entering the territory of the school they should be handed over to the classroom teacher. In case of an emergency students can phone, but only with the permission and in the presence of the teacher.
We encourage development of skills for reflection and self-evaluation. The assessment is qualitative and focuses on areas for improvements. Traditional grades provide only a quantitative assessment of a child’s work. That grading creates an environment of winners and losers, undermining the spirit of cooperation and community. Research indicates that grading actually reduces creativity, as students aim for work that will be safe and acceptable to the adult. And therein lies a third powerful reason not to use traditional grades: the children begin to work to please the adult rather than themselves; to work for the extrinsic rather than the intrinsic reward.
Setting examples by the adults and older children is the most effective way of teaching social skills. We further emphasise the social skills by frequent reviews during the circle time and Grace and Courtesy lessons.
The answer is “When they are ready”. For example, teaching a child how to write if he doesn’t yet know how to hold a pencil is doomed to failure. Most of what goes on in a child’s development at this age is to do with motor skills, concentration, and confidence, socialising and becoming aware that learning is great fun. Only when those are firmly in place, and providing the child is beginning to show an interest in numbers and letters, we do introduce him to the relevant materials and lessons.
We do not introduce computers into the classroom until the child is 9 years old. Not because Montessori schools don’t believe in technology, but because the young child learns best through experience in the concrete, tactile reality of the three-dimensional world rather than through two-dimensional simulation of an electronic, virtual reality. The Upper Elementary Program is committed to integrating technology into the curriculum and making it accessible to students. The students have access to a wide variety of tools that support the school’s curriculum, including a video camera to film their productions, projects and experiments, plus microscopes, telescopes, barometers and other equipment for scientific experimentation. Our classrooms have state-of-the-art technology with computers and Internet access that students can use daily as key tools in research, information management and communication. Starting with proper use of the keyboard, students soon expand their skills to research a botany or geography topic, take a “virtual field trip” to the Louvre, or seek more in-depth understanding of current events on the Internet. Children can communicate with students in other schools.
The development takes place 24 hours a day, and it happens even when we sleep, so we can say that it is reasonable to expect at least 3 hours of homework every day. But what is homework is all that the home can offer and that will help children broaden their love for the environment and acquire the skills and competences they need for a successful inclusion in society. It’s all that a home can offer and can help children learn how the world works and how humans learn to live together. These could involve physical activity, teamwork, use of public transport, group activities with other children, responsibilities at home and for contributing the family, reading aloud, experiences in nature, art and crafts.
Our students have the wonderful experience of a smooth transition, whether they choose a public or private school. It is recommended that the transition points are at the completion of each three-year cycle. It is our hope that each student who begins at primary will complete the full breadth of Otkrivatel’s program. We help with the transition to area high schools and other schools as a supportive part of the school environment here. Happily, the habits and skills a child develops in a Montessori class last a lifetime and stand a child in good stead no matter where they go.