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To influence society we must turn our attention to children.

Out of this truth comes the importance of nursery schools, for it is the little ones who are building our future, and they can work only on the materials we give them
—Maria Montessori


Montessori Education

Montessori education is a system for the education of children from birth through age 18. It is based upon principles developed by Dr. Maria Montessori throughout her life. The focus of this system is the development of materials, educational techniques and observations which support the natural development of children. The teacher in a Montessori classroom serves less as an "instructor" and more as a guide or facilitator. Children are encouraged to "learn how to learn," thus gaining independence and self-confidence. Because the method is based upon developmentally appropriate activities, the child often learns through the process of education - by doing. The Montessori school is designed to accommodate various stages of development in children which occur in roughly 3-year cycles. From birth to 3 years of age the child is absorbing directly from the environment, almost as a sponge. It is during this phase that many language and motor skills are acquired without formal instruction.


During the second phase from 3 to 6 years of age, the child reaches a different stage in which repetition and manipulation of the environment are critical to the development of concentration, coordination, independence and a sense of order. The child learns skills for everyday living, sorting, grading, classifying - all which lead to the development of writing, reading and a mathematical mind.


When the child reaches the next phase of development, ages 6 to 9, the imagination is the key to learning. At this age there is an increasing awareness of the world and an interest in its wonders. The classroom can now excite the child by using this increased imagination to explore the universe. During this phase the child is presented with "the big picture," an overview of the inter-relatedness of things. The curriculum works from the large concept to the more refined. Concepts are introduced through hands-on materials which encourage and engage the child and assist in an understanding of concepts before they are committed to memory.


Because the child goes through these various stages, Montessori classrooms are organized into 3-year age groupings. This allows a greater flexibility in meeting each child's individual needs and permits the child to develop with fewer social transitions. The environment becomes the "teacher," with the child as the initiator of his/her own education.


Special training is required for becoming a Montessori teacher. Montessori teacher education is available in almost 100 institutions located in the U.S. and an additional number in other countries of the world, in both special-purpose institutions and college/university settings. An organization formed in 1991, the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE), offers an accreditation process for Montessori teacher preparation courses and is supported by nine Montessori professional organizations and a group of independent training programs.


Montessori school activities promote the development of a child's social skills, emotional growth and body-mind coordination as well as cognitive preparations for future intellectual activities.

The main premises of Montessori education are:

 Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who differ from each other.

 The child possesses an unusual sensitivity and intellectual ability, unlike those of the adult, to absorb and learn from his environment, both in quality and quantity.

 The first six years of life are the most important years of a child's growth when unconscious learning gradually emerges to the conscious level.


The approach: Montessori programs aim to help children reach their full potential in all

areas of life. Specially trained teachers, who facilitate, guide and help (but do not impose their own will), allow the child to experience the joy of learning, the time to enjoy the process, and ensure the development of self-esteem. The system simply provides the experiences from which children create their own knowledge. The child and teacher form a relationship based on trust and respect to foster self-confidence and a willingness to try new things.


Materials:        Dr Montessori's observations of the kind of things children enjoy and return to repeatedly, aided in her design of several multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials to facilitate learning.


Positive attitude towards school: Most learning activities are individualized, so that a child engages in a learning task that appeals to her and builds a positive attitude toward learning.


Developing self-confidence: Tasks are designed so that each new step is built upon what the child has already mastered. This removes the negative experience of frequent failure, contributing to the child's healthy emotional development.


A habit of concentration: The ability to listen attentively to what is said or demonstrated presupposes effective learning. Through a series of absorbing experiences, the child forms habits of extended attention, increasing her ability to concentrate.


An abiding curiosity: Opportunities are offered for the child to discover qualities, dimensions and relationships amidst a variety of stimulating learning situations thereby developing curiosity, an essential element in creative learning.


Teach by teaching, not by correcting: At no level of learning are papers returned to a child with angry red marks and corrections. Instead, the child's effort and work are respected. There is neither punishment nor reward because Dr Montessori observed that small children expect neither. Their reward is in the happy completion of a job itself and the natural respect that it commands.


Initiative and persistence: The child is surrounded with materials and activities geared to her inner needs so that she becomes accustomed to engaging in activities on her own, resulting in a habit of initiative.

Montessori Concepts  (from wikipedia)


  1. Inner guidance of nature. All children have inherent inner directives from nature that guide their true normal development.


  1. Freedom for self-directed learning. The Montessori method respects individual liberty of children to choose their own activities. This freedom allows children to follow their inner guidance for self-directed learning.


  1. Planes of development. The natural development of children proceeds through several distinct planes of development, each one having its own unique conditions and sensitive periods for acquiring basic faculties in the developmental process. The first plane (ages 0–6) involves basic personality formation and learning through physical senses. During this plane, children experience sensitive periods for acquiring language and developing basic mental order. The second plane of development (6–12) involves learning through abstract reasoning, developing through a sensitivity for imagination and social interaction with others. The third plane (12–18) is the period of adolescent growth, involving the significant biological changes of puberty, moving towards learning a valuation of the human personality, especially as related to experiences in the surrounding community. The fourth plane (18+), involves a completion of all remaining development in the process of maturing in adult society.


  1. Prepared environment. The right precise conditions around children allow for and support their true natural development. For young children, the environment must be prepared in this way by providing a range of physical objects that are organized and made available for free, independent use, to stimulate their natural instincts and interests for self-directed learning.


  1. Observation and indirect teaching. The teacher's role is to observe children engaged in activities that follow their own natural interests. This indirect teaching to control the environment, not the child, contrasts sharply with the ordinary teacher's role of implementing a pre-determined curriculum. For example, a Montessori method class has the teacher resolving misbehavior by refocusing the child to some positive activity, rather than engaging in the ordinary system of rewards and punishments.


  1. Normalization. During the 0–6 plane of development, children have the ability to shift their fundamental being from the ordinary condition of disorder, inattention, and attachment to fantasy to a state of perfect normal being, showing such external behavior as spontaneous self-discipline, independence, love of order, and complete harmony and peace with others in the social situation. This psychological shift to normal being occurs through deep concentration on some physical activity of the child's own free choice.


  1. Absorbent mind. The young child (0–6) has an absorbent mind which naturally incorporates experiences in the environment directly into its whole basic character and personality for life. This mental faculty, which is unique to young children, allows them to learn many concepts in an effortless, spontaneous manner. It also allows them to undergo the key phenomenon of normalization to return to their true natural development. After the age of about six, this absorbent mental faculty disappears.


  1. Work, not play. Children have an instinctive tendency to develop through spontaneous experiences on the environment, which Dr. Montessori referred to as 'work'. In this sense, the children's normal activity is attached to reality in the present moment, rather than idle play through such means as toys and fantasy.


  1. Multi-age grouping. Children learn from each other in a spontaneous manner that supports their independent self-directed activity. The ordinary Montessori classroom therefore consists of a mixed-aged group, such as 2–6 (primary level) or 6–12 (elementary level).


Montessori materials and curriculum

The Montessori method involves a curriculum of learning that comes from the child's own natural inner guidance and expresses itself in outward behavior as the child's various individual interests are at work. Supporting this inner plan of nature, the method provides a range of materials to stimulate the child's interest through self-directed activity. In the first plane of development (0–6), these materials are generally organized into five basic categories: practical life, sensorial, math, language, and culture. Other categories include geography ( a child's perception of herself in space), history (a child's perception of herself in time), and science (interactions with the natural world).


Practical life

Practical life materials and exercises respond to the young child's natural interests to develop physical coordination, care of self and care of the environment. Specific materials, for example, provide opportunities for self-help dressing activities, using various devices to practice buttoning, bow tying, and lacing. Other practical life materials include pouring, scooping and sorting activities, as well as washing a table and food preparation to develop hand-eye coordination. These activities also provide a useful opportunity for children to concentrate bringing about their normalization. Other practical life activities include lessons in polite manners, such as folding hands, sitting in a chair, walking in line.



The sensorial materials provide a range of activities and exercises for children to experience the natural order of the physical environment, including such attributes as size, color, shape and dimension. Many of these materials were originally suggested and developed by Seguin in his prior research with scientific education.

Examples of these materials are pink tower (series of ten sequential cubes, varying in volume); knobbed cylinders (wooden blocks with 10 depressions to fit variable sized cylinders); broad stairs (ten wooden blocks, sequentially varying in two dimensions); color tablets (colored objects for matching pairs or grading shapes of color).



In this area, materials are provided to show such basic concepts as numeration, place value, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. For numeration, there is a set of ten rods, with segments colored red and blue and "spindle boxes”, which consist of placing sets of objects in groups, 1–10, into separate compartments. For learning the numeral symbols, there is a set of sandpaper numerals, 1–9. For learning addition, subtraction, and place value, materials provide decimal representation of 1, 10, 100, etc., in various shapes made of beads, plastic, or wood. Beyond the basic math materials, there are materials to show the concept of fraction, geometrical relationships and algebra, such as the binomial and trinomial theorems.



In the first plane of development (0–6), the Montessori language materials provide experiences to develop use of a writing instrument and the basic skills of reading a written language. For writing skill development, the metal insets provide essential exercises to guide the child's hand in following different outline shapes while using a pencil or pen. For reading, a set of individual letters, commonly known as sandpaper letters, provide the basic means for associating the individual letter symbols with their corresponding phonetic sounds. Displaying several letters, a lesson, known as the Seguin three-period lesson (see below), guides children to learn the letter sounds, which finally blend together to make certain simple phonetic words like "up” and "cat”. The aim of these nomenclature lessons is to show the child that letters make sounds, which can be blended together to make words. For children over six, Montessori language materials have been developed to help children learn grammar, including parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, articles, prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, and interjections.


Cultural subjects

The Montessori classroom may also include other materials and resources to learn cultural subjects, such as geography (map puzzles, globes, cultural suitcases containing country-specific materials), and science, such as biology in naming and organizing plants and animals. Music and art are also commonly involved with children in various ways. After the age of approximately six, learning resources include reading books and more abstract materials for learning a broad range of advanced subject matter.


Elementary (6–12) Curriculum

During the second plane (6–12) of development, the curriculum takes on a more conventional appearance of books and writing activities, since children now function more through abstract reasoning and are no longer as sensitive to the physical environment. The contextual format for this more advanced curriculum is described as cosmic education, a concept that was first explained in England in 1935. Cosmic education is the total interrelated functioning of the whole universe, which allows elementary children to store and organize a great amount of knowledge from among a wide range of different subject matter areas and disciplines.



In the Montessori method, a lesson is an experimental interaction with children to support their true normal development. With materials, these lessons primarily aim to present their basic use to children according to their own individual interests. These lessons are therefore given in such a way that the teacher's personal involvement is reduced to the least amount possible, so as not to interfere with the child's own free learning directly through the materials themselves.


For many presentations, a three-step process, described originally by Seguin, is used in the Montessori method for showing the relationship between objects and names. This is called the three-period lesson. With this nomenclature lesson, two or three materials are selected from what the children are working with.


  1. Period 1 consists of providing the child with the name of the material. In the case of letter sounds, the teacher will have the child trace the letter and say, "This is /u/. This is /p/." This provides the children with the name of what they are learning.


  1. Period 2 is to help the child recognize the different objects. Most of the time with the three-period lesson is in period 2. Some things the teacher might say are, "Show me the /u/. Show me the /p/” or "Point to the /u/. Point to the /p/.” After spending some time in the second period, the child may move on to period 3.


  1. Period 3 involves checking to see if the child not only recognizes the name of the material, but is able to tell you what it is. The teacher will point to the "u" sandpaper letter and ask the student, "What is this?" If the child replies with, "uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu", the child fully understands it. With letters, the lesson finally ends with the child blending the letters to make a simple word, such as "up.”



The Montessori method is readily employed with children at home. With young children, the practical life materials and exercises are provided through everyday household activities and chores, such as setting the table for meals, food preparation, and folding clothes for laundry. Parents follow the method by using slow, simple movements in showing how to do these chores, as well as by establishing routines for children to conduct their own activities with as much independence and self-direction as possible.


Music in Montessori Environment

Maria Montessori discovered that musical education would greatly benefit children during their developmental years. Infant brains are sensitive and responsive to musical sounds, preferring them over other types of sounds. A child’s musical receptiveness remains especially strong through the preschool years until about the age of six. That is why parents speak to their infants in a high-pitched, "sing-song” type of voice. Educators, scientist, researchers and doctors are confirming that musical training can significantly enhance child development. Several studies indicate that exposure to music (listening, learning and playing) does have beneficial effects for preschoolers. Active musical training can improve their problem-solving skills, physical coordination, poise, concentration, memory, visual, aural and language skills, self discipline. It fosters self confidence and improves the ability to learn. The Montessori environment provides experiential learning with a set of bells, tone blocks and movable note blocks.




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