As the child leaves the Primary classroom, he is usually reading and writing with some degree of fluency. During his years in the Lower Elementary classroom, he will continue to build on this basic competency. Reading is a continual process that builds over time, with assistance at school and support at home. Once reading is mastered, the child expands into reading quality literature and poetry, and to self-expression through creative writing. There is a library in the classroom in addition to the school library, Nona’s Corner, which students visit on a regular basis.
Many students entering the Lower Elementary classroom have been writing for some time. If they have been Montessori students, they have mastered cursive writing. They will continue to develop their basic writing skills in the area of fine motor skills, penmanship, and the developent of the writing process. Students will begin to move from inventive (phonetic) spelling, where the focus is on promoting a love of writing and the ability to communicate about ideas, to a more refined use of spelling, grammar, sentence construction, punctuation, and capitalization. Children will learn to edit their own work, as well as that of their peers. These skills will be further developed as the students pursue cultural studies, work in the areas of geography, history, botany, biology, etc.
The Great Books curriculum begins at second grade in the Lower Elementary classroom. This program provides students with the experience of reading for meaning. As they work through a series of short stories, students explore the meaning or greater questions underlying different elements of the story or its characters. There is no right or wrong answer in Great Books. The outcome is that children learn to develop their own answers, share them, and perhaps adapt their own point of view once they have heard from another perspective.
In the third grade, students complete a Hero Project as part of their Great Books experience. Within the context of a discussion about what it means to be a hero, each child chooses a person who is a hero to them. They then research this person, write a brief report (2-3 pages) and create a poster board depicting their hero’s life, achievements or characteristics. As a final step in this process, the students present their projects to the other children in their class.