Language Development With The Farm Game
Here at White Bear Montessori, and in all authentic Montessori schools, the Farm Game is one of the most sought after and longed for presentations in the Children’s House environment. If you watch even the youngest children enter the room, they seem drawn to it by magnetism. I certainly can’t blame them. Of all the materials in the Children’s House, this presentation looks the most like toys they are familiar with. I’m sure some of them have many of these very pieces at home! In our environment the Farm Game includes a barn, of course, but it also has a farmhouse for the farmer to live in, a mud puddle for rolling, a pond for swimming, grass for grazing, and nearly 50 farm animals of different colors, sizes and types. Our youngest children, ages two or three, would love to set up and play with the plethora of animals. For our older children, the Farm Game provides so much more learning.
The Language Area Of The Children's House Environment
The Farm Game is in the language area, specifically in the area for function of words. The materials give the child a sensorial impression of the function of words and the structure and patterns they have in our English language (Grammar! Oh my!). In other words, we are exposing them to grammar in a tangible, meaningful way. Nouns, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, verbs and adverbs all exist in the Farm Game. I know, I know. You’re thinking: “Hang on. I remember learning that stuff in school, and it was HARD. And BORING. And there were no farm animals.” I’m certain I’m not the only one who owes her grasp of adjectives to the hours I spent playing Mad Libs with my friends. It may be well and true that grammar was boring or challenging for you, but the way that we present these concepts to young children is engaging, interactive, age-appropriate and FUN! (I swear.)
To give the child an opportunity to read known words
To help the child understand the position and function of an adjective
To prepare the child for total reading and creative writing
As a guide, this is one of my favorite presentations to give. The child is always so excited to hear me ask if I can show him or her the Farm Game. It’s as if that one question marks the end of a three-year-long wait! Even better, the presentation itself is playful and fun. Here’s a glimpse of how the presentation might go between me and a child.
When a child is a fairly fluent reader, usually a five- or six-year-old, I invite her to set up the Farm Game however she would like. In my room we have a table specifically devoted to the Farm Game, so there plenty of space to spread it out.
Once she has the table how she wants it, we will both move to another table that has strips of writing paper, pencils, and our box of symbols. I tell her that I am thinking of something on the farm. “I will write you a label. I want you to read the label, and then go get the animal and bring it back to me.” She reads my label that says the cow.
She goes to the table, chooses a cow (there are several!), and brings it back to me. No matter which cow she brings me, I say, “That’s a lovely cow, but it’s not quite the one I was thinking of. Let me write you another word that will be a clue to help you find exactly the one I want.” I write the adjective brown.
The child's paper now reads: the cow brown. I ask her, “Does that make sense?” She says no, with a giggle, so we cut the slip apart to put the words in the correct order. She makes her label read: the brown cow. She returns to the table and exchanges her first cow for the brown one.
When she gives me the brown cow, I exclaim, “That’s EXACTLY the cow I was thinking about!”
Here’s where she gets to think deeply about WORDS. I ask her which of the words on her label told her WHAT object I wanted her to bring. She thinks about it, and decides it was the word cow. That’s the noun! Now we get to play with symbols. I show her the black triangle symbol. The black triangle is the symbol for the words that tell you what something is. We place it above the word cow.
Next I ask her to show me the word that told her WHICH KIND of cow to bring me. She decides it was the word brown. That’s the adjective! The medium royal blue triangle from our box of symbols is for the word that tells which kind of item to bring, so Hannah puts it above the word brown.
Finally, I ask her, “Which word told you if it was just any cow, or a particular cow?” She says it is the word the. That’s the article! We use our last symbol, the small, light blue triangle, and put it above the word the. The light blue triangle is the symbol for words that tell us if it is a certain thing, or just any old thing.
Now we will write labels for all kinds of farm animals. She will transpose (switch around) the words to see if they still make sense (which always makes the children giggle), and use the symbols to identify each word’s part of speech. Hannah is already mastering the differences between a noun (black triangle), an adjective (medium royal blue triangle), and the article (small light blue triangle). I love to see the adjectives they come up with.
Children Use The Farm Game To Further Develop Their Language
After a child has been introduced to this presentation with a guide, it is not unusual for two friends to do with work independently, using the prepared labels that are on the shelf. These labels have pre-written phrases that correspond to all of the animals and things in the Farm Game. Yes, really! Every single chicken, pig, horse and sheep has its own unique label. The playful dog, the grazing cow, the fluffy sheep; they’re all accounted for. As you can see in the picture below, this child decided to label every single animal and thing in the Farm Game!
This is the initial work the children do with the Farm Game. Later on they can use this material to work with verbs, conjunctions and prepositions. Don’t you wish you had learned grammar this way? (Mad Libs could only help a little.) This presentation is not just bearable, but it is something the children look forward to, understand, and ENJOY!
We understand that is it hard to see the benefit of a Montessori education from pictures and an article. If you would like to come visit White Bear Montessori to see language development with the Farm Game, or any other materials developed by Dr. Montessori, please schedule a visit to see the difference for yourself.