The Cobb School, Montessori

(860) 658-1144

112 Sand Hill Rd

Simsbury CT 06070

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The Cobb School, Montessori

Lower Elementary (6-9 Years)

The Cobb School’s Elementary program is designed to encourage children to wonder, work and explore. Lower Elementary children often work in pairs or small groups on a variety of projects, developing their love of learning and building skills they will one day need to be excellent students and productive members of society.

Our Elementary program is a six year plan of studies following Dr. Maria Montessori’s guidelines for a developmentally relevant syllabus for what she termed the second plane of development. Students in the second plane of development typically can be characterized by their reasoning minds; their ability to abstract and imagine; and their passion for research and hands-on exploration. The Cobb School Elementary Program is designed to encourage children to wonder, work, and explore. The school day and the learning environment are organized and structured carefully to allow for sufficient work time and to provide access to the materials needed for in-depth study and investigation. Students tend to work in small groups in a variety of projects, building skills and achieving the mastery and confidence they will one day need as productive and contributing citizens.

The elementary course of studies includes life and physical sciences, history, geography, physical education, English language, mathematics, geometry, art, music, Spanish, Latin, computer skills, photography, and gardening. Classroom work is enhanced through trips outside the school to local museums, nature centers, libraries, and theaters. The program is strongly committed to giving our students the technological skills they will need in their future education. We focus on all aspects of these skills from the third through sixth grade years. Students have daily supervised access to computers both in the classrooms and in the school library. They learn how to manage their own studies and time, having been given opportunities to make choices and act independently during these important formative years.

The Montessori Elementary curriculum fosters students who have a strong feeling of connectedness to all humanity. They have an appreciation of the contributions of their ancestors and of the diverse cultures and countries of the world. They are well prepared to be contributing global citizens.

Cobb School Montessori Lower Elementary math
Cobb School Montessori Lower Elementary english
Cobb School Montessori Lower Elementary abacus

Lower Elementary Curriculum

The History of Language begins at age six with a “Great Lesson” called “The Story of Communication in Signs”. The lesson takes students through the development of written language from pre-alphabetic signs right up to the printing press. In the Lower Elementary years, the history of spoken language is presented and the story of our Roman alphabet is told. Different ancient alphabets (e.g. hieroglyphs) are studied. There are both instructional and self-teaching materials so students can explore, memorize, and practice writing in different alphabetic forms.

Word Study in Lower Elementary

Students are introduced to the history of words. Syllabication and alphabetizing are introduced at this age. The study of affixes, synonyms, antonyms, possessives, and contractions is undertaken with many hands-on materials to sort and classify. Common abbreviations and specialized vocabulary are encountered through specially prepared materials and through the medium of the various academic subjects, where correct and extensive nomenclature is always taught.

Grammar and Syntax in Lower Elementary

The study of the nine principal parts of speech spans the three Lower Elementary years. Parsing of prepared sentences, one’s own writing, and the writing of given authors is done using card material and colored grammar symbols. Classification of nouns and adjectives and the basic verb tenses are also presented. Students work on the classification of simple sentences and familiarity with the parts of a sentence, such as predicate, subject, direct and indirect objects and adverbial phrases. Sequential Montessori materials are used for these studies.

Writing (Composition) in Lower Elementary

The study of the structure of a paragraph begins in the Lower Elementary program and continues into the early Upper Elementary years. Students have opportunities for a wide variety of creative writing, which includes various forms of poetry, short story, fairy tale, and nature writing. They also write reports in areas such as zoology, geography and history. The mechanics of writing including punctuation and capitalization, and basic spelling rules are a major focus of the Lower Elementary years. The development of beautiful handwriting is emphasized beginning with cursive writing (already begun during the Primary years) and then later with print. Keyboarding skills are begun in the third year of the Lower Elementary program.

Reading in Lower Elementary

Students read from selected fiction in school on a daily basis. Nightly reading at home is also required. Students may borrow books from the school library. Teachers read aloud to the class on a daily basis. The work students do in the various subject areas involves the reading of words, phrases and sentences using the specific scientific nomenclature of the subject. There are many reading exercises connected to the grammar and syntax activities. Students are introduced to interpretive reading exercises. These exercises involve dramatic interpretation of a piece of literature. During the later portion of third year Lower Elementary students begin to read and discuss the Junior Great Books classic stories, which then continues into the Upper Elementary years.

Reference and Study Skills in Lower Elementary

Students develop book skills such as use of a table of contents, and index. Dictionary skills are taught including the use of guidewords, and parts of speech. These skills and the use of reference books such as atlases and encyclopedias are presented by both classroom teachers and the school librarian. Study skills including note taking, paraphrasing, and summarizing begin in the Lower Elementary program and are further developed at the Upper Elementary level.

Listening and Speaking Skills during the six Elementary Years

Daily sharing of ideas, reading aloud, recitation and retelling of a story or lesson aid the development of both listening and speaking skills. The goal is to become proficient enough at retelling a story or presenting a study so that one fully engages the listening audience. Fluency, voice projection, and good articulation are encouraged. Students practice how to present in front of an audience, how to introduce oneself, face the audience, project the voice, express thanks, and so on. Many opportunities exist to gradually develop these skills over the six elementary years.

The History of Mathematics during the six Elementary years

The “Great Lesson” of humankind’s invention of numeration and measurement systems is a key that opens the door of the imagination to the world of mathematics and geometry. At the Lower Elementary level, students often investigate the number systems of civilizations as diverse as that of the Egyptians, the Romans, and the Mayans. Ancient measurements such as the cubit and the span are presented and used. Upper Elementary students research mathematics, geometry, and invention in the Hellenic world (with a particular focus on ancient Alexandria) and elsewhere.

The Decimal System: The Four Operations of Arithmetic in Lower Elementary

Students use a variety of Montessori math materials to learn the processes of the four operations of arithmetic. Many of the materials used at the Primary level are still used in addition to new more advanced manipulatives. Students typically work with large numbers and are taught correct mathematical nomenclature from the beginning. There are also, in addition to these “process” materials, other materials to aid the memorization of math facts for all four operations. Reading and writing numbers up to one million is a Lower Elementary activity. Interesting variations are explored such as the use of parentheses, distributive property, and geometric aspects of multiplication. Word and money problems and the associated problem-solving skills are also presented.

Multiples and Factors during the six Elementary years

Lower Elementary students begin the study of multiples and begin finding the least common multiple and greatest common factor. The rules for divisibility are introduced. At the Upper Elementary level, they further explore divisibility and the concepts of least common multiple, greatest common factor, prime numbers and prime factorization.

Geometry in Lower Elementary

Students explore the qualities of the triangle, square, and circle as fundamental constructors and measurers in the world of geometry. They build, using Montessori materials, all the various kinds of lines, angles, triangles, quadrilaterals and polygons. They learn how to use a protractor. The key concepts of congruence, similarity and equivalence are investigated using concrete geometric shapes and students are introduced to the notions of area and volume. They continue to build on the geometry nomenclature first introduced at the Primary level.

Fractions, Decimals, Percents and Money in Lower Elementary

Students use materials to find equivalent fractions, work with improper fractions, and explore the four operations, including addition and subtraction with unlike denominators. They are introduced to the concept of a decimal fraction. The history of money is presented and simple operations with the units of US currency are begun.

Powers of Numbers and Roots of Numbers in Lower Elementary

Students work with the squares and cubes of numbers from early on at the Lower Elementary level. The students learn both arithmetical and algebraic squaring of binomials and trinomials. This is done using a wide variety of materials familiar since the Primary years.

Measurement in Lower Elementary

The divisions of the clock and the calendar are a major part of the Lower Elementary curriculum. This work is reinforced through the History curriculum, which also introduces historical time periods. Many tools of measurement are used, and students learn the basic standard and metric measures.

Statistics and Graphs during the six Elementary years

Data collecting and organization begins at the Lower Elementary level with surveys and learning to find the mean. Students learn how to represent data using a variety of graphs. At the Upper Elementary level, students learn other central tendency measures such as mode and median, and the interpretation and reading of all kinds of graphs.

Pre-Algebra and Order of Operations during the six Elementary years

During the Lower Elementary years, students explore the commutative, associative, and distributive properties using various math materials. They work with positive and negative numbers using special materials. At the Upper Elementary level, they begin to work with integers and are introduced to the concept of “order of operations”. They learn all pre-algebra skills, and students who demonstrate readiness will begin to work in an Algebra I text.

Students are given key lessons on the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. These lessons are followed by experiments, classification exercises, and nomenclature work related to each of these areas of study. Students work with Montessori pin maps to explore further the countries, flags, and capitals of the world. They draw outline maps that isolate various physical features and economic resources. They also study time zones. The study of the interdependencies of human beings in society is begun. For example, students learn to trace an item of food from its original source through various stages of production, the flow of goods to the market, and the many people who participate in the process.

Elementary History: Overview

History is the central organizing discipline during the Montessori elementary years. Every subject is encountered in relation to its historical origins and evolution. We strive through a sequence of inspiring tales to help students see where they fit into the great chain of history from the beginning of time. In particular, our interdisciplinary approach to the history of the universe, planet earth, and the contributions of the great civilizations gives our students a deep awareness of the grandeur of the human endeavor. Humans are seen as adaptive, inventive, and resourceful. A sense of gratitude for the contributions of all our ancestors is fostered.

We appeal to the emerging reasoning mind and powerful imagination of this developmental plane by telling great stories framed in the form of fables, but with rich scientific and historical content. Students use concrete organizational frameworks as an aid to understanding relationships and sequences over time. These include timelines of the development of life on Earth and the progress of the early humans and their civilizations, as well as charts illustrating key scientific or historical principles. We also use core classification materials that guide the research of any culture or civilization in any time or place. These materials focus on how different people throughout history fulfilled their fundamental needs. These would include their types of food, shelter, clothing, artistic expression, religion, government, and education.

Lower Elementary History

Students are introduced to five Great Lessons: the Great Story of the Origin of the Universe and the Earth; the Story of the Coming of Life on Earth; the Story of Early Humans; the Story of Communication and Signs ( the History of Language); and the Story of Mathematics. These Great Lessons open their minds to all areas of study and are followed by key presentations that inspire them to research, to conduct scientific experiments, and to create artistic representations of various aspects of our historical past. Parallel to this work, six, seven and eight year olds begin to use materials to develop the understanding of the concept of time along with the initial introduction to the historical underpinnings and etymology of the words of the days of the week, months of the year, and seasons.

Students also learn about decades and centuries leading to working with the BC/AD Centuries Timeline. Six to nine year olds will typically study the lives of prehistoric creatures, prehistoric humans, and the early river civilizations, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus, and Huang-Ho, from a “Fundamental Needs of Humans” framework. Both library and classroom books and Internet resources are used in addition to prepared Montessori manipulative materials.

We tell and read aloud many stories of mythological heroes and heroines (e.g. Odysseus and Pandora) and great historical figures (e.g. Alexander the Great and Harriet Tubman). In American History, the students hear stories about Native Americans, the Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War, and the formation of the United States. We read biographies of famous people, such as Benjamin Franklin or Sacajawea. In relation to the yearly school calendar, students hear seasonal stories (e.g. George Washington and Christopher Columbus). We honor our diverse population and respect the need for multicultural curricular content. We recognize and celebrate observances and holidays both in the USA and around the world. Among these would be Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Dewali, Christmas, and Hanukkah.

Science in the Elementary: Introduction

During the elementary years, every aspect of science is introduced through stories of discovery and with reference to the etymology of the scientific words (i.e., Gk. bios – life; logos – speech – literally “to talk about life”). Various scientific disciplines emerge from and relate back to the Great Lessons of the origin of the universe and the earth, the story of life on earth, and the ingenuity of humans throughout history. The adventure of scientific discoveries is seen as part of a Great Story reaching back to the beginning of time and the student is empowered through activity and research to see himself as an actor in this story.

Lower Elementary Physical Science


Students learn how the galaxies are formed and about types of galaxies, as well as how our solar system and planet were formed. They study the relationship of the sun and earth and moon, using various Montessori charts and materials. They learn about the movements of the earth, the seasons, solstices, and equinoxes.

Earth Science

Students learn about the layers of the earth and the formation of land masses, and conduct experiments in order to understand the processes of weathering, erosion, and mountain formation. They are introduced to the science of geology, the classification of rocks, and the formation of fossils. All of their Earth Science work is interrelated to their studies in history, geography, and biology. Students make basic weather observations and learn to identify cloud types.

Chemistry and Physics

The primary focus of this area of science during the Lower Elementary years is the study of the three states of matter and the properties of each. Experiments creating mixtures and solutions introduce some fundamental concepts and nomenclature in chemistry. Energetic forces such as magnetism, gravity are introduced. All of these concepts are explored through simple and safe experiments in order that students can gain an impression of various principles of matter and energy. They also study simple technology as part of their history studies. As part of their study of primitive technology, students will often construct models of historic devices such as a catapult, a bow, or a Roman arch.

Lower Elementary Life Science

Taxonomy during the six Elementary years

Students enter the Montessori Lower Elementary classes from our Primary program with knowledge of significant Life Science classified nomenclature, particularly in the areas of botany and zoology. We build on the great developing interest in living things by opening the students’ minds to the whole span of the Time Line of Life on the Earth. From this historical perspective, we introduce them right away to the Five Kingdoms of Life. This grand scheme of biological classification is explored in a systematic and rigorous fashion over the six years of our Elementary program, culminating in the Chinese Box material, which classifies the major life forms on earth.


Students learn about the five main classes of vertebrates and various orders within these five classes. They learn how to do research about these creatures – their anatomies, characteristics, and how they live. They also learn the major phyla of invertebrates and work with prepared materials and many books about these creatures and their importance in the earth’s ecology. Students learn about the basic needs of animals and about the habitats and biomes in which they live. They compare by looking at the similarities and differences across the groups and noting various aspects of external and internal anatomy, including body covering, circulation, and respiration. All Elementary classes maintain bird feeders, for which the children are responsible. Some classes have fish, reptiles or invertebrates cared for by the students.


This is an important age for the study of the life functions of plants. We use impressionistic charts and plant experiments in order to help students gain an understanding of how plants meet their needs for water, nutrition, and sunlight. Care of indoor and outdoor plants, with attention to specific needs, is a daily responsibility. Students study the uses of plants for food and shelter by different cultures throughout history and throughout the world today. Looking at the Time Line of Life, students learn when the evergreens, grasses, and flowering plants appeared on the Earth. They begin to learn to use field guides to identify local flora, and continue to build their vocabulary by learning more details of botanical nomenclature.

Human Biology

Students study the anatomy of the human skeletal, circulatory, and digestive systems. They also study particular details of human anatomy, such as types of teeth, the parts of the eye, and the parts of the ear. Basic practices for good health, such as hand washing, how to safely sneeze or cough, and the importance of daily exercise, are both taught and encouraged on a regular basis. Students are introduced to the fundamentals of good nutrition and the food pyramid. We help them to understand the nutritional reasoning behind our school’s guidelines for healthy snacks and lunches.

Basic Tools of Science

Over the course of the six Elementary years of Montessori education, students learn how to observe from nature and from experiment, gather data, and record their observations. They learn how to use various measuring tools, such as scales and thermometers. They are taught how to use a hand lens and microscope, including how to prepare a microscope slide. Older students are introduced to the basics of writing a lab report and such skills as recording data on a table and using scientific notation. Books are always available in both the classroom and school libraries, as well as ready Internet access in the classroom and library.

Elementary Spanish Curriculum: Introduction

Spanish is taught in both the Lower and Upper Elementary. Total physical response (TPR) activities help to reinforce vocabulary comprehension. Students learn to follow simple directions. Activities include acting out infinitives with partners who will guess the verb, role-playing to improvise conversation, recorded tapes to study pronunciation and food preparation to practice and create enthusiasm with the language. Students are encouraged to work as a team to read the recipes and follow directions in Spanish. The “Symtalk Card” method involves students in building sentences using these specially designed cards. This practice also helps them develop and improve their writing and reading skills.

Lower Elementary Spanish

During the Lower Elementary years, the main goal is to create enthusiasm about speaking and learning Spanish. Each session begins with counting in Spanish. The consistency of this activity allows students to focus, and they know it is time to quietly gather on the rug for their group lesson. They practice their group greetings –“Buenos días” “¿Como estan?” – to encourage interaction in a natural way. During this period, they are also acknowledged individually. Many songs, rhymes and games are used. New vocabulary and expressions are presented in categories such as colors, foods, school, etc. By using a wide variety of resources in a creative way, we generate the interest and desire to communicate in the language. At the end of the Lower Elementary program, students have acquired a basic level of conversation, vocabulary, and an introduction to the present tense of some verbs.

Lower and Upper Elementary Music

Elementary students engage in a rich and creative music program. They sing, read music, and compose using the Montessori tone bars. Each Elementary classroom has a set of tone bars and the accompanying materials for the reading and writing of music. The specialist music curriculum utilizes the strengths of various music education approaches. Musical concepts are explored through movement/dance, singing and playing instruments. The core philosophy of the music curriculum is derived from the Orff-Schulwerk approach. The elemental aspects of music are explored through the natural behavior of children. Literacy in music is further supported by the Kodaly approach to music education in which students make visual and aural connections to music. Development of the ear is further enhanced by Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory, an approach emphasizing audiation (thinking music in the mind with understanding). These various approaches complement each other and provide a strong fabric for musical learning and understanding. We have a music program with a strong global aspect in its curriculum and repertoire.

Using teaching methods from various cultures as well as music from around the world, students are part of a holistic musical experience without borders. The synthesis of known best practices all center around experiencing and exploring musical concepts and expression by creating, performing and responding to music – the essential artistic processes. The structure of the music program involves weekly lessons with a music specialist. Lower Elementary students meet once each week. First year students meet as their own group, while second and third year students have music class together. The Upper Elementary students have two classes per week. One class is a general music class emphasizing creative movement and expression and singing. The second Upper Elementary music class is dedicated to instrumental ensemble work.

General Music Class

All general music classes involve a combination of movement and music. Students sing, dance and play as they explore various concepts. Key to their musical experience is the idea of creative expression. Students explore, imitate, improvise and compose. Student-created poems and songs are incorporated into lessons. Multicultural games, songs and dances provide a global repertoire. Integration is woven by connecting the music curriculum to classroom content – from history and literature to art and Spanish language. Students move, sing, listen and play in each class session. They create music and movement, respond to music and movement linguistically and kinesthetically and perform movement and music (vocally and on instruments).

Instrumental Ensemble

This ensemble rotates throughout the academic year. Students work in Orff Ensembles made up of xylophones and other barred instruments. The Orff Ensemble uses a multicultural approach. At times, it represents traditional western style music, at other times it acts as an Indonesian Gamelan Ensemble or an African Marimba group. The instrumental ensemble at times functions as a drumming ensemble. In particular, students work as a Japanese Taiko group, playing traditional Taiko drums. In all classes, students are able to explore and create.


As an annual tradition, all elementary students participate in a student opera. The composer (or a director he personally chooses) and a choreographer, come for a week’s residency, ending with a grand theatrical performance off-site at a local theater. This performance acts as an opportunity for integration, as the general music curriculum and classroom curriculum is adjusted to reflect the culture and key aspects of the chosen opera. Extended Day children also participate by singing opening songs on stage.

Elementary Art: Overview

All elementary classrooms have a range of materials available to the students. Many art projects take place in the classrooms. The students may also illustrate and create clay or other artistic expressions as part of their research projects. Our elementary art specialist is an artist-in-residence and as such works at the school five full days a week. This allows students extensive studio access during their classroom work periods. The art process is a rewarding experience that allows each student the freedom to explore and experiment with various media and techniques. It is through this process of self-exploration that they begin to make connections between the artistic world and their natural environment. Students begin with the basic elements of art (line, shape, color, texture, space, value, and form) and progress to the more complex throughout the elementary program. These basic elements are the building blocks of art and are incorporated into every lesson. Over time, students begin to make connections between them and begin to develop their own visual vocabulary. Each lesson is given a name, and demonstrations are used to ensure the use of materials in a safe and responsible manner. Once the art lesson has been demonstrated, students are allowed the freedom to create and express themselves in an individual way.

Framed reproductions of famous artist’s works are hung while the artist’s style is being studied. This provides inspiration and further reinforces the various innovations, concepts, styles and techniques used by artists throughout history. Over time, students begin to question what they see and create their own art-related projects. By sharing these experiences, they increase their understanding and appreciation of art.

Art classes are structured to allow students of different ages and abilities to interact in a safe and productive manner. Students with a more advanced skill level are encouraged to act as mentors and assist others. As a result, a sense of community develops among caring, confident, and compassionate peers.

Lower Elementary Art

Students are introduced to a broad range of materials and tools. Some of the materials include crayons, watercolors, colored pencils, oil pastels, markers, charcoal, tempera paint, and modeling clay. Using these materials, various processes are explored to demonstrate the potential of each medium. Some of the processes explored are pencil and charcoal drawings, texture rubbings, various folding techniques, cutting and gluing to create composition, mixed media collage, printmaking to explore positive and negative space, painting techniques such as brush painting and sponge painting, and clay modeling and sculpture to explore 3-dimensional design.

Students also participate in many cultural, seasonal, and holiday art projects. Some of these include fall leaf rubbings, clay jack-o-lanterns, snow sculptures, Egyptian and African mask making, origami paper sculptures, Chinese brush painting, Valentine’s Day card making, and our annual Opera set designs based on a specific time and place in history. After the completion of the Lower Elementary cycle, students will have acquired a strong appreciation for art and a general understanding of artistic processes and techniques.

Elementary Physical Education: Overview

Physical education lessons are designed to be student-centered and self-directed. As a guide, the physical education specialist provides the initial task and then assists students as needed. They are trusted to act responsibly and encouraged to work at their own rate and ability level. The physical education environment allows students of different ages and abilities to interact in a safe and productive manner. The result is a class of focused individuals working towards mastery of a particular skill or movement. Each class is structured to allow full participation of every student, with the emphasis placed on a particular movement or skill. At the end of the activity, students are given a few minutes for cool down time and stretching. The goal is to develop responsible, contributing citizens who possess good character and a strong sense of self-worth. Skills and themes are chosen to help students better understand the key concepts and movements involved in physical activity and various sports.

The physical education specialist introduces specific skills related to motor coordination. The youngest students work to master the skills while the older students use the skills learned in previous lessons to play a game or sport. When working with younger students, the skill is isolated within an activity so they can develop the proper mechanics and coordination of movements. If the theme is, for example, soccer, younger students practice skills to perfect eye-foot coordination, while older students learn the rules specific to the game of soccer.

Lower Elementary Program

The core themes of the program are consideration, respect for others, appropriate trust, and working together. These concepts are achieved by allowing students to experience a wide variety of activities in which the students are working together to establish community. At this level, each skill is presented in isolation, which allows students to develop the proper mechanics and practice of that specific skill. Specific skills and movements include locomotor skills, dribbling, throwing and catching, jump rope, ball handling skills, balancing, volleying, dodging, transferring weight, and striking with rackets, paddles, and hockey sticks. Practice of these isolated skills is distributed throughout the year.

Aside from learning various skills and movement concepts, students are introduced to various health and fitness concepts. The focus is to introduce the students to key physical fitness concepts, awareness of the various components, and enjoyment of the activity. The basic rules of soccer, baseball and hockey are taught. Students also begin to understand the role of nutrition and physical activity in overall health.

Circus Smirkus

Each year, Cobb School students experience the magic and joy of the circus acts with a one week Circus Smirkus Residency program.

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