The Montessori elementary program at AIM places a strong emphasis on the development of strong language skills, in both languages (English/Japanese or English/Mandarin Chinese). Here are some key elements of our language program:
- An emphasis on foundational skills, learned with hands-on Montessori materials. From the day a child moves up into the elementary program, she works under the guidance of her Montessori teachers to build strong English language skills. Cursive handwriting books consolidate and speed up the writing foundation built in Children’s House. The books include explicit practice of phonograms, the multi-letter combinations needed to write many English sounds, which leads seamlessly to the rule-based practice of spelling. Other materials, such as word study exercises (pre- and suffixes, compound words, etc.) and the Montessori grammar materials, enable students to joyfully master English foundational skills.
- An explicit instruction in the writing process, starting in first grade. Several times each week, our students have the opportunity to write about topics that interest them—from recounting excursions, to telling made-up stories. We guide them as they systematically learn to collect topics, to brainstorm content, to craft an outline, write a first draft, edit and finally publish their work in a bound booklet, which they then proudly share with their peers. Making writing a creative process, with a personally meaningful end product, is so much more motivating and challenging than completing worksheets!
- A fast transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn," Reading and writing is omni-present in the Montessori elementary curriculum. Our first graders, for example, discover history by working with cards that illustrated how people through the ages have met their fundamental needs, such as clothing, food and shelter. With short but content-rich text, our six- or seven-year-olds quickly discover how much they can learn by reading—and because they can always work with a friend, they can help each other decipher more difficult words. Older students conduct independent research, document science experiments, or write poetry.
- A library and plenty of time and encouragement to read. Several times each week, our students at all levels have time for sustained silent reading. They can choose books freely from our 1,000+ book classroom library, which includes many Chinese and Japanese books, in addition to a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction texts in English. Being able to read books at school, in the company of peers who are also reading, is a great way to get started on a life-long habit of reading for pleasure—a habit that is highly correlated with academic achievements, even outside of language arts. Because homework is very limited in our Montessori elementary program, children have more time at home to read, either alone or with parents, and we strongly encourage our AIM families to make reading for 20-30 minutes each day a family habit.