Upper Elementary - Grades 4 - 6
Montessori Community School’s Upper Elementary Program provides a solid academic base for the 9 – 12 year old student, through an interdisciplinary approach to education in a nurturing, respectful environment.
Our program emphasizes consistent, responsible study habits. Organizational skills are stressed, including listening to and following directions, tracking and prioritizing multiple assignments, managing time, taking notes, writing short answers and essays, editing and correcting one’s own work.
The Upper Elementary classroom helps the students identify their individual strengths and weaknesses as they learn how to evaluate their own work. Students learn to think for themselves. They are encouraged to do their own research, analyze what they have found, and come to their own conclusions. Students are taught to think, not simply to memorize a concept, take a test on it and then forget it.
In the Upper Elementary classroom, students move forward with more abstract work. They move from hands-on learning experiences to having the ability to learn from a variety of sources within the classroom and in the community. The transition to more abstract thinking and the use of books and other research materials is supported.
Dr. Montessori observed that for 6 year olds (Kindergarteners), 9 year olds (Third Graders) and 12 year olds (Sixth Graders), their great work is social and emotional and lays the foundation for the next "explosion". She concluded that unless the social and emotional growth was addressed directly and effectively, rather than suppressed, academic growth could slow and suffer.
Sixth graders have much more in common with 4th and 5th graders than with 8th graders. Clearly, the full benefit of the educational program accrues to our children in the third and capstone year of each cycle, and a student’s educational experience is greatly diminished without it.
Upper Elementary students undertake a rigorous course of study, exploring the realm of mathematics, science and technology, the world of myth, great literature, history, world geography, civics, economics, anthropology and the basic organization of human societies. Students are also given the basics found in traditional curriculum, such as the abstract application of mathematics, spelling lessons and the study of vocabulary, grammar, sentence analysis, creative and expository writing, library and computer research skills.
- Science: Our science curriculum is segmented into zoology, botany, the human body and earth sciences. The science curriculum follows a three year cycle to enable students to deepen their understanding of scientific concepts and their applications. The ideas are presented in a simple form and progress into more complex theories.
- Mathematics: Through the use of Montessori materials, students learn basic operations, math facts, fractions, decimals, word problems, measurement, pre-algebra, ratio and proportion, percents, graphing, tables and charts, rounding and averaging. Upper Elementary students learn to define, calculate and draw all sorts of geometric relationships: angles, polygons, circumference, area, volume, squares and square roots, cubes of polynomials, among many others. Each concept begins with concrete material that supports its topic, leading to the desired mastery and the ability to solve math problems abstractly. Our curriculum ensures that all students are challenged appropriately, while progressing toward higher mathematical thinking.Unlike traditional school environments where students learn mathematical concepts through memorization, our students develop a concrete understanding of mathematical concepts and learn to apply math in everyday life to areas such as measurement, handling finances, making economic comparisons or gathering data and statistical analysis
- Language: Our language curriculum includes grammar, reading comprehension, writing skills, vocabulary, word study and the spoken word. Specific lessons and assignments are given to teach and improve skills in the areas of grammar, vocabulary and word study. Students work with many Montessori materials to these reinforce language components, including: parsing symbols, sentence analysis charts, and synonym matching cards.
- When needed, reading comprehension is worked in isolation through leveled reading activities.It is also a skill that is woven throughout every aspect of the curriculum. Journal and report writing introduce creative and expository writing skills that are refined and enhanced throughout a student’s three years in the Upper Elementary classroom.
- Independent reading, reading aloud and group reading allow for the development of reading skills, literary discussion and investigations into literary styles and genres. Students also have the opportunity to express themselves through spoken language. Oratory and dramatic skills are refined through report presentations, poetry recitals and theatrical performances each year. In addition, students select and develop campaigns to promote issues that are important to them and the school community. Recent campaigns have related to topics such as hand washing, box top collection and developing a culture of respect. These campaigns have culminated in a variety of ways - speeches, posters, skits, etc.
- Upper Elementary students participate in a Reading Partners program with our Lower Elementary class, which gives them the opportunity to mentor, teach and guide emerging literacy and fluency in the younger students.
- Cultural Studies: At the Upper Elementary level, cultural studies (History and Geography) follow a three-year rotation. Studies in these areas involve an introduction by the teacher followed by assignments and independent research. In Geography, students expand on their knowledge of political boundaries, map skills, cultures, communities and basic human needs. In History, students study ancient civilizations and American history, as well as local and state history.
- Computer Skills: Students develop word processing skills as they publish their creative writing and research papers. They become proficient in using the Internet as a research tool. Students also learn to develop and deliver PowerPoint presentations.
- Field Trips are designed to enhance the curriculum and to encourage students to be physically active by hiking, swimming, skating, etc. Our Winter Sports program provides a six week opportunity for either skiing/snowboarding at Brighton Ski Resort or skating and swimming at downtown Salt Lake facilities.
- Social Responsibility and Life Skills
- The elementary years are a time when the child is developing and establishing a sense of justice and moral reasoning. As a member of the classroom community, the Upper Elementary student plays an active role in decision making and conflict resolution, developing a strong sense of social awareness and responsibility. The student is given the freedom to make choices and is held responsible for his or her ideas, actions and judgments.
- Each year, the students are given the opportunity to define the values that they will adopt and practice as a class. Recent examples include the values of responsibility, respect and tolerance.
- Students frequently work in pairs or teams; the mixed age group provides opportunities for students to sometimes be the leaders and sometimes follow the direction of others. Working together helps develop collaborative skills while peer teaching enhances self esteem. We emphasize collaboration over competition.
- Students assume responsibility for animals and plants as well as cleaning and maintaining the classroom. They also learn the art of flower arranging, needlework, baking and meal preparation, table manners, conversation skills, and planning and organizational skills as they schedule events and field trips.
- Service Learning: Service to the classroom, school and larger community takes on an increasingly important role in Upper Elementary. Students are encouraged to “think globally and act locally” by participating in many different service learning opportunities within our school, Greater Salt Lake and global communities. This focus helps the students understand their role and responsibilities as members of a greater community, as well as to help them develop a clear sense of values.
- Examples of Upper Elementary service learning projects include monthly visits to a residential care facility where our students participate in reading and conversation with elderly individuals, interaction with and fundraising efforts involving the Ethiopian girl that our class sponsors through the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund (COEEF) and our three Navajo Grandmothers (Adopt a Native Elder program).
- Physical Education: The structure of the elementary Montessori classroom allows the students freedom of movement for the majority of the day. In addition, children have a daily minimum of 30 minutes of outdoor playtime where they are encouraged to participate in active play, either structured or freeform. Direct instruction in Physical Education is through movement classes and organized games.
- Appreciation of Arts: Students participate in art, music and dance classes several times a week with pecialists in these areas. Spanish classes are also taught twice weekly by a native Spanish speaker, with an emphasis on conversation, grammar and composition. The classroom curriculum includes art appreciation through the presentation of an Artist of the Month. Students examine the life, the work and the style of each artist through hands on activities. The artists range from classic to contemporary.
- Great Outdoors Environmental Program ("GO"): Throughout the year, Upper Elementary students participate in an environmental program called, "The Great Outdoors". This program combines classroom and field studies in local environmental issues and ecosystems. Environmental expeditions involve observations and studies of local biomes and Salt Lake City's water systems as well as conservation and ecological service projects such as the Bear River Cleanup.