Rainbow Price: $199.95
Based on the three-point instructional method: "this is;" "show me;" and "what is?" as well as an underlying Socratic question/answer format, ShillerMath Language Arts is Montesorri at its best. The totally scripted teaching manuals each provide a semester's worth of daily lessons (71-84 lessons in each book). Kit 1 (Books 1-4) is designed for ages 3-5. We understand there will be two more levels: Books 5-8 are for ages 4-7; Books 9-12 are for ages 6-8. If these age levels seem a bit odd to you (they do to me as well), it's because there are two levels of things happening here. One is phonics instruction and the other is an amazing/exciting combination of language arts "more." For example, here are the "more" topics covered on the Book 4 Review Test imitate (speaking, listening, reading, writing), introduce yourself, repeating 5 words back in order, articles (as in part of speech), retelling a story, emotions (tell me about a time when . . .), touch typing (home position basics), rhyming words, identifying adjectives, describing basic geographic features, describing peripheral vision, naming the months of the year, naming first ten ordinal numbers, comparisons, copying a very diverse collection of shapes, showing directions, and, lastly, identifying Shakespeare and naming a sonnet. The bottom line is that there is a lot of learning going on here and a lot of flexibility. An older student (5 years) might start with Kit 1 and fly through the learning but still come away with new information.
Lessons require no preparation and vary in both length and complexity. There is also great variety in the content which is why the teacher is encouraged to skip lessons if the student is not ready for its content. Since one of the basic premises of Montesorri education is that children are natural learners, the teacher's role is to provide a learning-friendly environment and the proper tools. Students are usually the best gauge of their own competence and will know when they have closure on a topic so be prepared to be flexible and sensitive. There is a checklist included, as the back cover of each lesson book is to be used to record when a lesson is completed.
A good part of Montessori instruction is managing the dialog between teacher and student. Although appropriate wording is modeled in the lessons, there is also general information at the front of the Lesson Books on building an environment conducive to learning.
As mentioned before the Lesson Books are totally scripted. This means that everything you need to say to the student is provided for you. For instance, Lesson 24, Book 4 practices comparative terminology. There are eight points to the lesson. The first point covers "est" words and comparing three or more things. The second point talks about the "er" words and comparing two things. Then there are five sets of pictures of various objects to compare starting with three objects of varying sizes but progressing to four and six objects. About 95 pgs each, spiral-bound.
The lesson on emotions is illustrative of the different directions this curriculum takes. First we are told that "emotions are what we feel." There are pictures of four children illustrating these emotions: shy, sad, jealous, and sorry. As part of the lesson the child is encouraged to demonstrate how she/he feels with each of those emotions as well as to tell a story about a time when he/she was . . . . . All in all, an interesting and excellent introduction to an intriguing subject.
The Mother Goose Book includes 358 "stories." These are to be used as part of each day's lessons (read-aloud) and can be requested by the child as desired. These stories are printed in large print and would be read by the child (if able). There are multiple stories on each page. Please note there are no illustrations at all in the book. 152 pgs. spiral-bound.
The Lesson Mat needs to be mentioned. It is large (22" x 34") and cream-colored. Fabric is some sort of foam but the touch is velvety. It is slightly stretchy in one direction. This mat is used with all lessons and serves as a portable workspace allowing you to take your lessons anywhere inside (or outside) of the house.
The Kit contents all have a purpose within the lessons. While most of the items are somewhat typical (letters, numbers, crayons, Play-Doh), that is not true of the Montessori shapes manipulatives. There are ten shapes (square, circle, triangle, rectangle, trapezoid, quatrefoil, pentagon, oval, elipse, and curvilinear triangle) illustrated two different ways: blue shapes with molded lifters and ten matching pink stencil shapes. Stencils are 5.5" squares; shapes are various sizes with 3 7/8" square being the largest.
Kit 1 includes Lesson Books 1-4; foam mat; magnetic alphabet (uppercase & lowercase letters plus numbers); quinoa grain, washable large crayons; shapes with knobs and matching bases (10), 4 tubs of Play-Doh; book of Mother Goose Rhymes; and CD with 24 language arts songs. ~ Janice