Why do we teach the elementary child about grammar?
- The aim is to enrich the child’s language, develop the art of communication and stimulate their interest. This meets the child’s needs during this sensitive period for socialisation.
- It helps the child become conscious of aspects of the language they already know, especially the order, structure and composition. The language work runs parallel to this.
- The children from the Casa have been prepared for this approach and are ready to hear it now.
Language is linked with thought, it is the tool of the intelligence. The children need usable language at their disposal for all their communication needs. In the second plane children are introduced to a wide range of culture and are interested in terms used to describe it. We give the keys to the exploration of language and not prescriptive grammar lessons, to teach how children ‘should’ speak, but descriptive grammar of how children speak. The lessons mirror the acquisition of language and relate to what the child knows.
In the Absorbent Mind, Montessori asks, what is the basis of meaningful speech, is it not grammar?, if we give him some help when he is four years old…we provide conditions which are favourable…children take the liveliest interest in grammar and this is the time to put them in touch with it,..to perfect tit completely (p.158). Between 18 and 27 months Montessori noticed the explosion into words and the second into syntax – the order of the words in a sentence which is vital to comprehension (p129). Exposing the child to correct grammar allows her to use the parts of speech correctly, all later language words is linked to earlier explosions. The preparation in Casa to the Reading Analysis work is when we begin this work. Transposition is very important for syntax, and is given during the sensitive period for order. The direct aim is total reading, while the indirect aim, to bring awareness to certain aspects of language, is more important.
In the Casa
The language work proceeds from work with word, to work with phrases and work with sentences. In the Casa, words were classified according to a sensorial, external basis of meaning, while in Elementary the child is assisted in classifying according to some element intrinsic in the words, it’s root, this is work suited towards older children who are interested in the structure of the word itself. They are exposed to the idea that words can be used to make other words, e.g. prefixes, suffixes, word families. In Casa games involving the Function of Words are to help the child understand their meaning and are classified with symbols, here, at Elementary the work moves to a more abstract level. The work with the ‘Parts of Speech’ is an exploration according to function, with terminology given to help make it more concrete, to culminate their understanding. Reading Analysis prepares for the work with Sentence Analysis. As reading has been acquired we focus on classification, on psycho-grammar to focus on the child’s development as she continues to acquire language, into the abstract.
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Here we continue the focus begun in the Casa on the main features of Words Study and Parts of Speech.
- The structure of words
- Examining words in sentences according to features only accessible to the mind and not the senses
- Classifying words according to miscellaneous features
- Exploring the relationship between parts of speech, verbs and adverbs and nouns and adjectives.
We give the pronoun and interjection and develop the work done previously, moving to a different way to symbolise the parts of speech and more subtle games to develop total reading.
Language is not fixed, it grows and can be added to, once the keys have been given. To do this the concept is isolated in the materials, in such a way that the child can work with the key, they are manipulative. The material does not replace grammar books but prepares for them, calling for reasoning and use of the imagination, so important at this plane.
The children must be able to write and read, at least at a mechanical level. However, Cosmic Stories can be given whether or not the child can read, and after the first few have been told the grammar work can go on in parallel. At Elementary the confident reader and writer will research and express herself, the child who cannot read will grow more conscious and anxious over her lack of ability and needs immediate help.