Children are the future
Children's minds are at their most absorbent from birth till 6 years old. They soak up everything like sponges, making this the most crucial part of their development. Preschool teachers therefore have among the most daunting tasks on this planet - moulding young minds into incredible individuals, while managing the hyperactivity and curiosity that comes with youth.
Everyone who's had a kid knows that they're often fidgety, excitable, and pretty much all over the place. Capturing their attention to teach them new stuff can be really hard, so how do preschool teachers do it? Modern Montessori International recently clinched the Top Brand award in Influential Brands’ Pre-School Education category for 2015, so with that in mind, we headed down to their Kovan branch to find out how preschool teachers are shaping our next generation.
1. Turning learning into a game
“Play is the work of the child”. Under the Montessori approach to education, it is believed that children learn through discovery and play.
Instead of traditional spelling tests, children are given a box of plastic letters that they arrange in order to form words as requested by their teacher. Vocabulary is taught through “matching” games, and math is taught using number rods and beads. I probably would have cried less on Mondays if school had been so fun.
2. Focus on growing the child holistically
The Montessori approach to education focuses on the whole child - social skills, cognitive preparation, physical development, emotional growth. Children are given opportunities to grow as individuals and pick up important practical skills.
Daily classes are allocated for everything from language to science, as well as extra activities like yoga, speech and drama, and swimming lessons. They’re also taught about values like responsibility, integrity and respect, ensuring they grow up into well-rounded individuals.
3. Concepts are illustrated concretely
To the young mind, numerals have no meaning. “4” looks nothing like four sweets in Mummy’s hand. Children at good preschools are taught about numbers using beads and blocks in order to help them form the association.
Concepts like estimation are picked up through activities like pouring water into cups, and words are taught through association with objects, like matching the word “crab” to a toy crab. Illustrating abstract ideas in concrete form helps the kids with their understanding of concepts and boosts their learning.
4. Every child is given individual attention
In Montessori education, every child is unique. Sessions are conducted one-on-one. That’s right - each child receives undivided attention and learning tailored to them. Everyone learns at a different speed, and everyone excels in different areas. With individual sessions, children can learn at their own pace and not feel demoralised if their classmates seem to be moving faster than them.
5. Children are given their freedom
During Montessori sessions, the teacher has one-on-one interaction with her students. When she’s interacting with one kid, what do the others do?
At MMI, the children have freedom to do as they want - within limits . When not with the teacher, they can choose any activity they want to do. Build towers using blocks that teach them colours? Practice tying shoelaces and buttoning shirts? Do simple puzzles to develop their problem-solving skills? They can choose to focus on what they like, allowing them to become self-directed and independent learners.
6. Sparking curiosity about the world
The kids at MMI know about pectoral fins and archipelagos, which is more than I can say about myself at their age. On top of the usual language and arithmetic skills, these children learn about nature and geography - I saw one child working on a puzzle of the anatomy of a fish! They’re also capable of identifying all the different continents, which is quite a feat.
Additionally, the school has an activity known as ‘MMI News Hour’, where teachers talk to the kids about current affairs, broadening their worldviews.
7. Developing their leadership ability
Montessori education promotes vertical integration and peer learning. Rather than keeping different levels separated, the K1s and K2s mingle. The K2s have the opportunity to teach the younger kids, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem, while the K1s have role models to look up to.
MMI also has a “Thumbs Up Morning Opening Session” (their morning assembly), led by one of the older children, instilling in these children a sense of responsibility and leadership.
8. Getting parents involved
When we went down to visit MMI, one of the K1 classes just had a science lesson on living things. A parent who was a science teacher had come down to teach the kids about fishes, and each child received their own little fishy friend to bring home.
This is a common sight at MMI - from a pilot dad who came down to talk about his job, to a chef mom who did a cooking demo, the school often collaborates with parents to enhance the kids’ learning.
9. Exploring the world
MMI has a programme called “Passport to the World”. Every term, there’s a new country for the kids to learn about. From Tasmania to China, the children learn about the country’s flag, customs, language and culture.
At the end of each term, the kids have a little passport and go on a “flight” to the country they learnt about, with each child assuming roles like pilot, customs officer or steward. Upon “arrival” in the country, they get to try various snacks and handicrafts, giving them hands-on experience that enriches their learning.
10. Good morals, great people
One hallmark of a good person is good values. Children are taught to take ownership of their belongings by storing them in their cubbies, and to be responsible by putting materials away after using them. Skits and stories are used to emphasise values, and positive behaviour is affirmed and praised.
Moulding the next generation
I don’t remember my kindergarten days very clearly, but there were days when I absolutely refused to go to school. At MMI, we were told about a child who cried because he couldn’t go to school on the weekends. Talk about parallel emotions.
Our visit to MMI left me impressed with their programme. It’s a discovery-based approach that is systematic and structured, while allowing kids independence and freedom of choice. The teachers use innovative tactics and creative strategies to help our children blossom, and are extremely dedicated to their work.
With such amazing staff and engaging curriculum, our children will definitely grow into well-rounded individuals who love learning and will propel our world forward.
About Modern Montessori International
Modern Montessori International was founded in London, and offers a patented program that has been specially developed to help each child achieve full potential in all areas of life. With centres across 16 different countries, and 30 centres within Singapore, MMI is dedicated to offering a holistic and well-rounded program to children that allows them to experience the joy of learning.
About Influential Brands
Influential Brands is a consumer insight driven awards programme which provides a platform for brands to celebrate their achievement; for consumers, businesses and stakeholders to recognise the brands’ efforts in arriving where they are today. The study conducted by Influential Brands is purely consumer driven and the Top Brands are selected by consumers through their perception and preference, demonstrating the level of impact and influence of the brands in each consumer’s life.
Influential Brands seeks to identify consumer preferences, their behaviours, values and to understand how the ever-changing environment affects consumer experience in the purchase journey. The programme is tailored to enrich the brands’ relationship with their consumers through ongoing meaningful conversations and engagement.
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This is part of Influential Brands 2015, where we highlight the most influential brands in Singapore.