What are the parents’ reactions to Montessori teaching methods?
Very positive. At the beginning, they are a little worried. Parents compare their kids to the neighbours’ children. So we have parent meetings where we explain the whole process and methods to them. Slowly we see positive reactions building up. Eventually, they are very happy with the opportunities that the child has. Any child who says the numbers 1-100 before the age of four is only saying it by rote; she does not understand the concept of numbers. In a Montessori, we are laying the foundation for many concepts, through the senses, through motor movements, etc. We may not see so much outward output academically, but the child is being equipped for life. There is nothing more that a parent can ask for.
“We also wanted to understand the Playway Method which is slowly gaining popularity in India. And the best person to explain it to us was Susila Sampathkumar, a teacher with Vidya Mandir School in Chennai. There, she uses the principles of the Playway method to teach students in the primary section.”
What methods does the Playway system use to help young children develop?
The Playway system is about learning by doing; we emphasise what the child can feel and do. Learning is focused on drilling the concepts into the child’s mind, and is through play, games and activities. We do not focus too much on writing, but more on painting, lacing and drawing. Learning happens beyond the traditional teaching methods, through story-telling and puzzles. As they grow up, they are involved in debates, discussions, making models, and dramatisation. The atmosphere in a Playway classroom is warm and friendly, and free from fear. Children should not be admonished. They learn better through the Playway method.
Which traits or areas does the system lay emphasis on developing?
We focus on comprehension and application, not just learning and reproducing. Right from LKG, we start logical sequencing; we emphasise thinking skills, where the children have to wear their thinking hats. The entire syllabus is activity-based. Each concept has an activity that engages every child. We don’t believe in the lecture method.
What sets the Playway system apart from other curricula for early learning?
In Playway, freedom is allowed only to a certain extent; it is not as free as the Montessori. If I have planned an activity for a day, I would require my children to do it. All children do the same activity at the same time. Today chalk and talk does not work with children – they need some fun in learning. It augments their interest. So we make the environment warm and friendly. Also a lot of hidden learning is happening – cooperation, adjustment, patience. For older children, we organise group discussions, where they learn to listen, appreciate and respect what others are saying. We train the children before we conduct any activities in class. This helps them develop confidence, and independence develops in higher classes. We allow them to blossom at their own pace. We never say that the child’s work is wrong – we will correct mistakes but be accepting of them.