…at school, when we are parents or students, and particularly in the Montessori schools which emphasize individual progress.
“The Work schedules”
Early in the primary class, teachers should always use individual work schedules for all subjects : grammar, spelling, conjugation, vocabulary, reading, creative writing, mathematics, history, geography and science, etc…
A work schedule is initially the same for each student at the same level. It is carried out according to the national curriculum. The official program is divided according to the number of weeks actually worked during the school year.
These work schedules determine the objectives to be worked each week by the student. In the Montessori school, they should use official files and textbooks associated with the corresponding Montessori material.
Work schedules include the concept to study, the exercises to be done, lessons to learn, the Montessori material to be used … They also include different tests, spelling tests, etc …
Gradually, as the student has done some work, he can surline the exercise performed with a stabilo, or check to see that the work is done, and can move on.
This enables the student:
■ to be more independent because he doesn’t need to wait for instructions from the teacher to advance in the program,
■ appreciate the work he has done each week,
■ to be proud of him when he achieves the aims or goes faster than the established program.
When the student is ahead of the objectives of the work schedule, it gives him time for other activities: working with other materials, helping his classmates to advance their own work, make more arts or sports, etc …
When he fails to achieve the work schedule :
■ whether the problem is regular, it may mean that the schedule is a little too busy. The teacher can then reduce it or suggest to the child to try working a little at home. This is an opportunity for him to realize that this child probably needs more care, more attention…
■ whether the problem is punctual so the teacher has to try to understand why… This may be the opportunity to resolve learning problems or detect fatigue or family disruption for example, and better help the child succeed.
One risk of the development of individual work schedules is the fact that students may compare each other. This is largely balanced by the fact that Montessori doesn’t encourage the spirit of competition at all but rather emphasizes the individuality of each child with respect for differences.
This allows parents who obviously must have access to these schedules:
■ to follow their child’s progress and better understand how he learns, what he learns and what are the goals,
■ to be aware of potential learning problems and respond quickly before negative consequences,
■ to have a good control and the possibility to set up more efficient helps according to the child’s schoolwork,
Children also appreciate very much that their parents are interested in what they do. These work schedules are then a very effective interface between school and families.
It is very comfortable for Montessori teachers who have mixed-age classes and teach individually to be able to quickly situate students in their programs, efficently guide their individual progress and determine the best help to set up.
Obviously nothing prevents adding extra-curricular activities to individual work schedules. They are numerous in the Montessori method. But we must remain vigilant and not give priority to curriculum established by the Montessori teacher training programs. The danger would be to marginalize the children, making their adaptation to other schools very difficult if not impossible. Indeed some concepts in the official curriculum are not part of any teaching in Montessori training. It should be forbidden for any school to forget parts of the official programs.
The Montessori program has the advantage of being virtually the same in all countries of the world, which greatly facilitates the adaptation of children of families who often move. However, it is impossible for all the countries in the world to have the same national curriculum.
This requires that each school adapts the Montessori program to formal programs so that students can pass their exams and adapt to any change of school.
In conclusion, the Montessori method is exceptional to emphasize the intellectual capacities of students while respecting their individuality and create an harmonious development of their personalities. Work schedules are the best way to promote students autonomy, personal management of their work and sense of responsibility. In addition, these schedules contradict the main reproach often done to Montessori schools which “allow children to do what they want.”
Respecting the formal curriculum, the individual work schedules are an excellent response to parents who question themselves about the progress of their children and their possible adaptation to any other school.
Sylvie Rousseau d’Esclaibes