The “prepared environment.” Our classrooms are large, open spaces, framed by low open shelves that display a variety of educational materials or “works” from which a child can choose freely. The attractive materials—made from brightly painted wood, ceramic, metal, or glass—are specially designed to be “self-correcting” and lend themselves to repeated practice.
The “demonstration.” Instruction in our primary classrooms is one-on-one or in small groups. The teacher first introduces an activity that is at the right level of difficulty, i.e. that is challenging but achievable within the range of the child’s abilities. She presents the activity while seated next to the child, moving her hands slowly and precisely so that he can observe her actions. She then has the child repeat the activity. Once the child has been shown how to do an activity in this way, he is thereafter free to choose it at any time and work with it for as long as he likes. As he repeats the activity over time, he acquires mastery of both the motor skills involved, and of the abstract concept—such as length, or color—manifested by the material.
The “work period.” Our full-day program has two extended work periods, a 3-hour morning work period and a 2 hour afternoon work period. During these times, children choose their “works” from the shelves, and carry them to a workspace they select – a low table, or a rug they roll out on the floor. Each child works independently (or, occasionally, with one or two freely chosen partners) with the material for as long as he is interested. Once he completes his work, he returns it to its proper location, and is free to select another work, or take a break, maybe have a snack, and then select his next activity. The classroom is structured, but unlike traditional setups, the structure recognizes the child’s need to develop his capacity to make independent choices.
What We Teach
Thinking and Life Skills = Independence and Self-Esteem
Concentration skills and an active mind
Independence and self-esteem
Mature social skills
Academic skills – writing, reading, and arithmetic