Materials Spotlight: Miniature Environment and the Grammar Boxes
We love grammar! This probably doesn’t come as any surprise, considering we work at a school. In our humble opinion, Montessori grammar materials are so beautiful, and they do a great job of drawing kids in to learn about something many of us dreaded when we were kids ourselves.
It all begins in the final year of primary or the first year of lower elementary, with a sweet introduction to the miniature environment.
The Miniature Environment/Function of Words
Traditionally, the miniature environment consists of a replica barn, complete with tiny toy animal figures, although some Montessori schools today have strayed from the original farm and created other environments.
When we think of grammar and six-year-olds, the goal is to let them graze. We don’t expect mastery. We want to introduce concepts in a way that is light and fun and makes them want to engage.
This is where the farm animals come in.
Nouns are naming words, and six-year-olds are often still developing their reading skills. It’s so much fun for them to match labels to animals as they name cow, sheep, chicken, and even fence, barn, farmer. As time goes on, we introduce the concept of articles, and how their function is to introduce the noun. The cow, a sheep, an ox. Tiny paper labels lie alongside the figures as the child works. This progresses through all the parts of speech: adjectives, verbs, prepositions, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and finally, interjections.
The Grammar Boxes
Of course, there’s more to grammar than adorable toy animals. In the second year of lower elementary, and extending into the third year, children use the grammar box materials. The grammar boxes consist of wooden boxes containing cards with words and phrases, sectioned trays to lay the cards in, and open-topped containers with larger index-sized cards.