Spotlight on Language & Reading The Story of Human Beings introduces the Montessori elementary History curriculum and tells the tale of how humans came to exist on Earth. Human beings differ from other living creatures because they were endowed with three special gifts that set them apart from other living creatures. People have hands with which to use tools because they learned to walk upright. They have hearts with which to love and feel compassion even for unknown people. They have minds with which to think and to create that which has not yet been imagined. Language, both written and spoken, is the human trait that brings humanity’s unique gifts to life. Language allows us to communicate and receive messages that express compassion and creativity. The written word combines the work of the hand, the heart and the imagination most eloquently. Through the art of writing, which heralded the onset of human history, we can communicate through space and time! We can know the lives of those who came long before us and share our thoughts instantaneously with people across the Earth. Children grow in their capacity to communicate and the Montessori environments are especially prepared to support different stages of development. Toddlers miraculously and effortlessly acquire their native spoken language – both receptive and expressive – during their first few years of life. Their work is really that of forming a personal identity separate from caregivers and family. We take note when a child in the Toddler environment begins to use the personal pronoun ‘I’. In the Children’s House the focus becomes the acquisition of one’s native culture and language is once again the key. We introduce the arts of reading and writing to children at this level and share the magic of communicating without even saying a word! Once children move into the Elementary the focus becomes finding one’s place in society and issues of justice and morality. Language takes on the added dimension of becoming a tool for appreciation. We can hear the voices of humans who lived long ago and be grateful for their contributions to our lives. The adolescents in Middle School have become skillful in their use of and interpretation of language. The students are engaged in discovering how will they can make a difference in the world and find purpose in society. Language is purposeful communication, an expression of self and a tool for intellectual exploration. Language is a time machine for the imagination, relatively simple but infinitely productive. David Bickerton Elements of a Model Writing Program • • • • • Students write often. Students get meaningful feedback. Students write for an audience. Students prewrite, draft, revise, edit and publish. Mistakes are treated as opportunities to improve. 45