Language – itself is a daunting subjects to discuss. According to The Linguistic Society, there are about 6800 spoken languages exist at this very moment while you are reading this. As you see, even scientist are not able to give a more or less exact figure. In fact, from time to time various languages disappear as peoples speaking them die out integrate with other peoples. Thus, their origin languages become extinct. Latin is the most prominent examples of what we known as “dead languages”! Do you know what language is the most widely spoken? I personally think its English but I was wrong. What about you?
Well, according to a site by 1howmany.com:
Although language is considered to be one of the four basic curriculum areas in a Montessori class, it spans every other area; it is an integral part of each curriculum area as well as a special area in and of itself. The first exposure to language begins long before the child’s first day in school; indeed,* language continues to be part of the child’s everyday experience, and, in the Montessori prepared environment, it takes on a specific, well-planned aspect which did not previously characterize it.The child’s own tools for language are vision, hearing, and speech, as well as the sensory motor skills necessary for writing and reading.
During the first year or two of the child’s school experience,the child is exposed to many materials and activities which will support, develop and refine vision,hearing, and speech as a preparation for the more formal learning of writing, reading and penmanship.Similarly, the child is exposed to many exercises designed to develop sensory motor skills.In the lessons for the exercises of practical life and sensory education, the preparation for writing, reading, and penmanship are frequently listed as aims of the exercise. The following outline is a summary of the Montessori developmental sequence in which the child grows in language concepts and prepares the hand and eye for writing, reading, and penmanship.
Half a million years ago, together with the repressive controls over the new and more complex human hand, there create controls over the structure of vocalization. With the growth mechanism of vocalization enable a clearer differentiation of sounds and permitted early humans to code sounds (give them arbitrary meaning) and to decode them (extract meanings from them).
In socially organized groups, such a system of coding and decoding of sounds developed into a symbolic system of communication, language that allowed the sharing and storage of information. Symbols enable people to gather and to share their thoughts (learn and teach).
Symbols make it possible to remember the past, interpret the present, and project the future. On this basis, the world of human imagination becomes filled with the possible, the probable, and the impossible. Symbolic thought and behavior gives meaning to human existence, and that is the foundation of humans and their culture. There is no language that can be described as primitive. All languages enable people to analyze experience, to generate new combinations of ideas and to expand their vocabulary. Thoughts and ideas expressed in one language can be translated into any other language, even though it may involve a good deal of labor. In all languages people can talk of the future, refer to the past, talk about things near or remote, speculate about what exists and what might exist, and create for themselves an imagined world. Languages, like culture, are never static. They change constantly as people speak them and bend them to their purpose.
Languages have their own histories. Any language may change its form and may be spoken by peoples who live in different cultures, different regions of the world, and different historical periods. Language functions not only as a device for reporting experience or for the purpose of communication; it also functions as a self-contained, creative, symbolic organization that defines experience for its speakers. Languages differ in the ways they categorize experience and also in what segments of experience they set apart. All people impose a symbolic order on the universe, an order that is not of nature but of culture, and that gives meaning to their existence.
The origins of spoken language are merely speculative, although we know that some form of oral communication must have been developed in order for humans to live together and hunt cooperatively. The beginnings of this cooperation must have begun with primary need for food. Paleontological discoveries of fossils of giant mammals such as the Wooly Mammoth and Wooly Rhinoceros indicate that a group effort was needed to trap and kill these animals. We therefore can assume that there was a somewhat sophisticated form of oral communication needed for planning and carrying out this activity in the late Cenozoic or early Neozoic Eras, and that some groups of Neolithic humans attributed great power and importance to these events left inspectoral representation on cave walls.
Since the survival of early humanoid groups depended on either the gathering of seasonal plants or the hunting of migratory animals, it is assumed that the early groups following the same migratory route could have met and developed a merged form of oral language in order to exchange thoughts and plans. The roots of spoken language are in this dynamic system of interchange between the first human communities and those that they encountered, all of them based on the primal need for survival and the necessity, at times, for cooperation and, therefore, a common level of oral communication.
Written language is one of the youngest forms of communication, yet one of major importance for civilization. Written language has the advantage of permanence. It can be understood at great distances as well as over extended lengths of time. Languages which may be considered cousins of English include such living languages as French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Persian as well as some “dead” languages such as Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, and Latin. Although these languages are not uniform in their construction, there are many similarities within them which point to a prehistoric parent language known as Indo-European. Linguistic scholars ascertain that the people of this language lived in one group between 3000 and2000 B.C. in an area which still uses an Indo-European language. To locate this geographical point, linguists studied the words that languages have in common.
Indo-European languages have common words for snow, winter, beaver, wolf, bear; words oriented to a cold climate. They do not have common words for tropical plants or animals native to warm areas such as the lion, tiger, or camel. Because of this, it is theorized that these ancestors lived in a cold climate. There are no common words for ocean, sea or surf. Therefore, it is thought that the group lived inland. There is a common word for honey, which is not found in Asia, as well as a word for beech, a tree native to Central Europe. Thus, linguists consider it possible that the ancient speakers of the Indo-European language lived upon the plains of Southern Russia. It is scientifically clear that writing began as pictographs. Cave pictures have been found in Southern Europe and North Africa dating back forty to fifty thousand years. Picture writing was developed to a high degree by some Native American groups. The Sumerians, Egyptians, and Chinese all developed pictograph (picture writing) using various tools. The Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians all pressed wedge shaped instruments into wet clay tablets. This method of writing was known as cuneiform. The Egyptians carved hieroglyphics into stone with a hammer and chisel. Hieroglyphics simultaneously utilized picture, idea, and sound writing. Later they used a dried reed paper called papyrus upon which they wrote with paint and brushes. Until recently, the Chinese people used no alphabet. Their writing is composed of characters similar to ideographs. There are 40,000 characters in the Chinese written language, although most Chinese use between 6,000 and 8,000 symbols.
Actual paper was also invented by the Chinese and brought to Western civilization 1, 000 years ago. The Phoenicians (Canaanites) worked for and traded with the Egyptians. They, therefore, were familiar with the hieroglyphic method. Yet, the Phoenicians improved upon this writing by designing an alphabet that represented sounds. This alphabet excluded vowels and was written from right to left. Many of the Phoenicians were skilled traders and sailors, and they introduced their alphabet to many people in the world. Evidence has been found of a Phoenician ship arriving in South America between 600 to 500 B.C. The Greeks lived north and west of the Phoenicians and Egyptians. They too were traders and sailors as well as soldiers. The Greeks were also a civilization of philosophers and storytellers, and so a written language was of great importance to them. They borrowed from the Phoenician format, adding vowels. While the Greeks were developing their written language, the Romans were under the rule of the Etruscan s. They, too, developed an alphabet using the Greek version as a model. Today, however, Etruscan words are difficult to decipher.
The Romans developed an alphabet around 600 B.C. They used only upper case letters with no spacing between words. The Romans were a disciplined group and established a Roman Empire by conquering the Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians, and Egyptians. They also traveled north and conquered the lands known todayas Italy, Spain, France, and England. The Romans established roads, towns, water systems, public buildings, and postal systems. They taught their language and alphabet to their subjects. During the fifth century A.D. the Romans adopted Christianity as their religion. One of their priests, Sucat, asked to be sent to Ireland to convert the Celts from Druidism. While there, Sucat established many schools, teaching the Celts to read and write. The Pope was pleased with this work and honored Sucat with the title of Patricius, meaning noble. Later Sucat would be known as St. Patrick. It was the Irish scribes who designed lower case letters called miniscules. They also softened the shape of the letters. The scribes’ writings were famous for their beauty as exemplified in the Book of Kells. With the coming of the Dark Ages, learning and the arts were reduced in importance as people struggled daily for basic needs. The peaceful way of life gave way to the barbarian invasions.
The art of writing was preserved by monks living in isolated monasteries. Charlemagne became Emperor in 800 A.D. and brought order once again to Europe. He set up schools and encouraged art and study. He ordered the revision and rewriting of Church documents as well as the works of the classical Greek and Roman authors. Charlemagne’s director for these projects was Alcuin of York who expanded the Irish minuscule into the lower case letters used today. This alphabet was known as the Caroline. The Caroline alphabet would later be adapted into the Gothic alphabet. The difference lay in the capital letters which were written in a more angular style. The Gothic letters were quite thick and difficult to read. Thus it was abandoned. With the rise of the Renaissance Period, books were in great demand and the scribes could not hand write fast enough. During the mid fifteenth century, Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. One problem in printing was the dimensions of the type. Thus, Gutenberg was instrumental in establishing uniformity for upper and lower case letters. With the expansion of printing, the design of the letters has often altered, yet the basic concept of the Roman alphabet remains intact.
(sharing from my manual)
OVERVIEW OF LANGUAGE IN THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOM by Virginia B. Fleege
- The beginning of language in the Montessori classroom is the day the child enters. Reading begins with conversation; conversation with adults and conversation with other children. Conversation should be apart of the classroom from the first day. By the time a child is five years old the language of the culture has been mastered. The child from 3-5 is learning new words to add to his vocabulary. The structure and grammar of the child’s language will be mastered during these young years.
There is a big difference between teaching the child to read and having the child come to reading on his own. Any child can be taught to read, reading is a skill and a child can be taught to master a skill. The reading referred to in the Montessori classroom is that which comes from the child having had many and varied experiences in working with materials which have prepared the eyes (develop observation skills) and hands for reading and writing.
The Montessori language materials provide motives for activity that will enable the child to master movement (Purposeful movement)
II. Language in the Montessori classroom. Always name the materials the child is working with. Say, “May I help you with the brown prisms?” or “May I help you work with the constructive triangles?” Most children do not know how to tell their parents what they have worked with in the classrooms. One reason is because they do not have the language and vocabulary to describe their work. They often do not know the names of the materials. Naming materials will aid the child in developing vocabulary, language, and names to associate with the learning taking place through the senses.
It is very important to use accurate language in naming objects, exercises or materials. The child between the ages of three and four years is passing through an acutely sensitive period for language. During this critical learning period the child is absorbing language as it comes to him. It is very important to use correct language during this stage of learning.
III The child needs many experiences to support readiness to read and to write. The child needs to have performed many exercises of practical life. The use of practical life exercises aids in the perfecting of the eye-hand movement and coordination. Thus, in scrubbing the table from left to right and back, the eyes is following the movement of the hands. The child needs to develop a good visual span. Many slow readers have learned to read with bad habits and one of the main reasons children read slowly may be because of their limited visual span. Slow readers or children with reading problems often start on the left side of the page, read to the center of the page and turn their heads for the second half of the page, read to the center of the page and turn their heads for the second half of the page. This causes them to read slowly and jerkily.
The child must also be able to listen well, and have good listening habits. The 3 year old has the ability to hear 4 times as well as the adult. By the time the child is 4 years old this ability has already begun to decrease, and by 5 years the child is most adept at tuning out the sounds he doesn’t wish to hear, most decidedly those voice which he finds annoying or which command him to do things he may not wish to do. Very often those who do not hear most often do not listen. Children can be taught to be better listeners.
Listening has to be interesting so the child wants to listen. Auditory games should be played in the classroom:
- The Silence Game. The silence game should be played from the first day of school and it should be done daily. Silence is a means of getting the child to hear from of the sounds otherwise missed. Silence should be played everyday. The first days it may be only seconds long and hardly noticeable, but daily it will increase in length and in depth. It should begin by asking the children to sit on the line and “make” silence. When the children have reached the moment of silence, the name of each child should be whispered from some spot in the room.
- Make interesting sounds while the children are silent. Ask the children to close their eyes and listen to sounds such as closing a door, dropping a pencil, closing a window, etc. Have the children identify the sounds.
- Have 3 Bells of different sounds. Give one bell to each of three adults; have them stand in different parts of the room. Indicate that one adult at a time should ring the bell. Have the children close their eyes and listen for the sound of the bell, then point to the adult to rang it. Later use 3 Bells if different sounds.
- “Knock-knock, who am I?” Have a child sit in the center of the line with his eyes covered with his hands. Indicate to a child to go to the center of the line and knock on the back of the seated child. The child ask the question, “Knock-knock, who am I?” The seated child tries to guess the name of the child by listening.
- Stories may be read to the children. The books should be about real things and experiences. Allow the children to bring some of their favorite books to school and read these at dismissal time while children are waiting to be picked up.
- Records serve as an excellent tool for listening. Records may serve as music for walking on the line, etc. Records chosen for the classroom should be of good quality.
- Records such as “Opera for Children” and “Symphonies for Children” are excellent. Fantasy and nursery rhyme type records should be reserved for use at home.
- Group singing is good for listening too. Group games that involve actions with music or words involve the child in dramatization of words.
- The use of tape recorder familiar sounds for children to identify affords an excellent opportunity to test the memory and hearing ability of preschool children. The tape recorder may be used to record the voice of the children to allow them to hear them.
Many of the above games may be used after walking on the line. These may be followed by the Silence Game. Silence calls attention to itself because it is different.
IV. Preparation of the eyes and the hands is an important factor in the Montessori classroom.
The use of the practical life materials not only prepares the hands but the eyes too. Eyes follow the movements of the hands. In the practical life area the child uses the whole arm, thus giving the movement necessary to prepare the arm for its role in handwriting. The control thus learned gives the child a lighter touch in writing. The materials placed on the rug, enables the child to develop the left to right orientation. All children read and write in a left to right movement regardless of whether the child writes with the left or right hand.
The repeated use of sorting exercises prepares the fine muscles of the child’s hand to hold a pencil but also prepares the eye to distinguish between like and unlike objects. This is a good preparation for reading in that reading is the recognition of like and unlike letters and words in the formation of language which is written.
The various exercises of Practical Life as well as Sensorial Exercises cause the child to choose the dominance hand much sooner than might otherwise occur. Most children have their dominance established by the time they reach 5 years old, however, this usually occurs much sooner in the Montessori classroom, due to the increased use of hands. The use of the sandpaper letters, the metal insets, and other fine muscle activities will aid the child in the establishment of the dominant hand. The use of the sound boxes as well as the auditory games will aid the child in establishing dominance in the auditory sense.
The stimulation of the tactile sense through the use of the sandpaper letters and the naming of the letter at the same time will increase the child’s ability to remember both the sound and the shape of the letter
The child should always be addressed by name.
This is the child’s most personal possession; it belongs to the child alone. The name should be used on as many occasions as possible. The child likes to hear his own name.
Eye contact should be established with the child when talking. One must look into the eyes of the child, not over the head or at something else. It is necessary to get down to the eye level of the child to make this contact.
The child’s name in written form should be used in classroom. Private items, such as drawer, folder or box should have the child’s name on it. The use of the child’s name on a birthday chart, juice time chart, carpool chart, or any other activities will aid the child in recognizing his name in writing.
The use of definitions, labels, names and illustrations of objects will enable the child to enrich his growing vocabulary and establish recognition of written symbols, thus offering many experiences which will pave the way to reading and writing.
V. The Lesson
Lessons are given to individuals, small groups, and large groups.
- The Individual Lesson – a presentation made to any individual child who is interested and ready.
- The Small Group Lesson – a presentation made to a small interested group of children
- The Large Group Lesson – an initial presentation or review given to an entire group where all of the children would benefit from the lessonVI. Toward writing and readingWhen the child moves into that part of the sensitive period, there are psychic (inner) forces to support symbolic language acquisition:
- Purposeful movement