Learn More About Montessori at the Secondary Level

Sedgefield Montessori has kindly offered to share with PRM families a monthly look at various aspects of Montessori at the Secondary level. Here, the Sedgefield staff writes about how seminars are used within the Secondary program:

Seminars are an integral part of the curriculum in all content areas in the Montessori Adolescent Program at Sedgefield. Seminars are based on the Paideia as well as the Socratic seminar style and incorporate several components of the Montessori philosophy. Generally speaking, a seminar is a formal discussion relating to a theme or content topic. Each Cycle of Study (or quarter) is based on a theme. Examples of themes we have used at Sedgefield Montessori include, Foundations, Interactions, Balance, Change, Movement and Human Impact. We also choose seminars that relate to all content areas.

Seminars are a place for students to learn to be active listeners as well as how to communicate effectively. It is common for seminars to stem from an article, but they may also come from a TED Talk, a video clip or a piece of art work. Students will receive the article (or other form) a couple of weeks prior to the actual seminar. The practice of reading and annotating (or viewing/listening and annotating) helps to prepare students for the formal conversation by organizing their thoughts, reactions and opinions.

The formal seminar begins with careful preparation of the physical environment. Students sit in a circle (similar to a conference style business meeting) and come prepared with their annotations. The facilitator begins the seminar with a Writing Question. The purpose of the Writing Question is to relate the seminar to something from student’s personal lives. This helps them make personal connections to the seminar. The formal discussion then begins with the Opening Question. The facilitator calls on the first person to speak and then the rest of the seminar is in the hands of the students. They call on each other based on who wants to contribute to that part of the conversation and are mindful of not calling on only friends. The facilitator keeps track of the flow of the conversation using a seminar map, which is later used in the student reflection piece. The main part of the seminar is guided with Core Questions as students discuss the most important aspects of the piece. Seminars give students a place to practice active listening, how to make eye contact during conversation, referencing the text to support opinions, disagreeing with statements and not people and how to make connections.

The final part of seminar is the Closing Question in which students move around the circle and respond to one final question on the piece. Students then complete a self-reflection rubric with analysis questions. This is an integral part of seminar as it allows students to analyze themselves in a way that will guide them towards being more successful communicators. Seminars also allow adolescents a place to explore their own values on various topics as well as to have their voices “heard” among their peers. This is so critical to the development of the “self” as our young people move towards finding their place in this world!

For more information regarding secondary Montessori programs, please click here.