Over $1,500/month

Teaching how to focus and tune out distractions at Brighton Montessori

Senior teacher Pauline Yong guiding an N2 pupil at Brighton Montessori as he uses the Seguin board to learn about the ones and tens of two-digit numbers. The children move from doing something concrete with counting beads to the abstract of recognisi
Senior teacher Pauline Yong guiding an N2 pupil at Brighton Montessori as he uses the Seguin board to learn about the ones and tens of two-digit numbers. The children move from doing something concrete with counting beads to the abstract of recognising the numeric symbols, says Ms Yong.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Childcare centres can charge anything from around $600 to more than $2,000 a month. Do the programmes differ greatly depending on cost fees? Priscilla Goy recently spent three hours each in Nursery 2 classes at four centres to find out.

The walls have large posters of children in Brighton Montessori uniforms, but are otherwise quite bare.

Resource materials, such as coloured beads and number boards, are neatly kept on shelves and look new. Some are kept in labelled plastic containers; others are in light brown, wooden boxes.

The materials are Montessori's, and the bare walls are part of the Montessori approach too, said principal Hairumbiyah Ghabi, better known as Ms Biyah.

 
 
 

The Montessori education method for children was founded in 1907 by Italian early childhood pioneer Maria Montessori. It uses a tailored approach to develop a person's unique abilities.

Part of the Montessori approach involves dividing classes into small groups for activities. There is more individualised learning when teachers guide children in using the Montessori materials.

On the somewhat sterile look of the centre, Ms Biyah said: "We want the children to be focused. If the environment is too cluttered, they get distracted."

Generally, the younger children are in rooms within the centre, with N2 and K2 pupils in open areas.

The rest of the centre has a more open concept, with classes being separated by shelf partitions.

The N2 class that The Straits Times visited was supposed to have 26 children, though about 10 of them were not around - some had gone overseas for a holiday and others were foreigners who had gone back to their countries for a visit.

  • BRIGHTON MONTESSORI

  • WHERE: The Grassroots' Club in Ang Mo Kio

    FEES: $1,605/month for full-day childcare, after GST

    RUN BY: A commercial operator

    STAFF: 21 teachers, including 13 with a diploma in early childhood education

    CAPACITY: 144 childcare places

There were three teachers who taught in English and one in Mandarin, with the N2 class divided into three groups.

Senior teacher Pauline Yong, who was teaching seven children, focused on two children who each used a Montessori material called a Seguin board. This is a board with numbers on it to teach children the concept of tens and ones for two-digit numbers.

For "11", for instance, they would count 11 beads, place them near the top of the board, and slot a piece with "1" on it in the ones place at the top of the board.

"They move from doing something concrete with counting beads to the abstract of recognising the numeric symbols," said Ms Yong.

The other five children were independently, quietly tracing the letter "p" on worksheets, to revise the alphabet letters they had learnt.

All through the visit, even if a nearby class was loudly reciting Chinese words or singing, the N2 group focused on the task in front of them.

"They know our system. They know I'm with the children using the Montessori materials and they'll have their turn later. When they're focused, they can also tune out noise from other classes," said Ms Yong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Teaching how to focus and tune out distractions'. Print Edition | Subscribe