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©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


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t’s the beginning of a new school year for thousands of Montessori students around the world. For some, it will be their first experience in a Montessori classroom; for others, it will be a return to the learning environment that they have known for years. Dr. Maria Montessori opened her first school, Casa dei Bambini, in Rome, Italy more than a century ago. After one hundred years, the Montessori approach has proven that it is still vibrant and adaptive to the challenges of the 21st century. As parents and educators, who have spent years around Montessori children, we know that Montessori works! Despite the proof of more than one hundred years of positive results, questions remain: What is Montessori? How is it different than traditional education? Will it work for my child? Isn’t Montessori a very structured environment? Do Montessori classrooms have structure? Normalize my child? Are we crazy to enroll our child in a Montessori school? Is Montessori just for young children? Can our child adjust to a traditional education after years in Montessori? How can we find/create an elementary or secondary Montessori program for our children?

For more than forty years, I’ve tried to help parents sort all this out, so they could reassure themselves that Montessori isn’t going to leave their children academically handicapped and unable to make it in the ‘real’ world. It’s still not easy to put Montessori into context, when the rest of the world seems so completely committed to a very different approach to raising children. Montessori 101 was written to help parents begin to discover and reconfirm what Montessori children know — Montessori works! — Tim Seldin, President The Montessori Foundation co-author of The Montessori Way, The World in the Palm of Her Hand, and Celebrations of Life; author of How to Raise an Amazing Child.

There are more than four thousand Montessori schools in the United States and Canada and thousands more around the world. Montessori schools are found throughout Western Europe, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and much of Asia. The movement is widespread in countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Japan, and it is beginning to expand into Eastern Europe, the republics of the former Soviet Union, and China. There is tremendous diversity within the community of Montessori schools. Despite the impression that all Montessori schools are the same, perhaps a franchise, no two Montessori schools are alike. Across the United States and Canada, we can find Montessori schools in almost every community. They are found in church basements, converted barns, shopping centers, former public schools, and on expansive campuses, with enrollments of hundreds of children and the air of stature and stability. We can find them in suburban and inner-city publicschool systems. Montessori schools are often found in charming homes — the outcome of the individual vision of the owner/director. Many are found in affluent communities, but just as many serve working-class neighborhoods and the poor. We can find Montessori in Head Start programs, child-care centers in our inner cities, migrantworker camps, and on Native American reservations. Some Montessori schools pride themselves on remaining faithful to what they see as Dr. Maria Montessori’s original vision, while others appreciate flexibility and pragmatic adaptation. Each school reflects its own unique blend of facilities, programs, personality, and interpretation of Dr. Montessori’s vision. Most Montessori schools begin with three-year-olds and extend through the elementary grades. Every year, more schools open middleschool and infant-toddler programs, and Montessori high schools are beginning to appear more frequently. Montessori schools offer a wide range of programs. Many are focused on meeting the needs of the working family. Others describe themselves as college-preparatory programs. Public Montessori programs pride themselves on serving all children, while many independent schools work hard to find the perfect match of student, school, and family values. The Montessori Foundation and The International Montessori Council (IMC) celebrate the diversity to be found among Montessori schools. Just as each child is unique, so are the schools.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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■ Montessori students learn through handson experience, investigation, and research. They become actively engaged in their studies, rather than passively waiting to be taught.

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 Montessori schools are not completely different from other schools. Over the last century, Dr. Maria Montessori’s ideas have had a profound and growing influence on education around the world. However, while individual elements of her program are finding their way into more classrooms every year, there is a cumulative impact that we see when schools fully implement the entire Montessori model, which creates something quite distinct. ■ Montessori schools begin with a deep respect for children as unique individuals. They work from a deep concern for their social and emotional development. ■ Montessori schools are warm and supportive communities of students, teachers, and parents. Children don’t get lost in the crowd! ■ Montessori consciously teaches children to be kind and peaceful. ■ Montessori classrooms are bright and exciting environments for learning. ■ Montessori classes bring children together in multi-age groups, rather than classes comprised of just one grade level. Normally, they span three age levels. Children stay with their teachers for three years. This allows teachers to develop close, long-term relationships with their pupils, allows them to know each child’s learning style very well, and encourages a strong sense of community among the children. Every year, more non-Montessori schools adopt this effective strategy. ■ Montessori classrooms are not run by the teachers alone. Students are taught to manage their own community and develop leadership skills and independence. 6

■ Montessori challenges and sets high expectations for all students, not only those considered ‘gifted.’ ■ Students develop self-discipline and an internal sense of purpose and motivation. After graduation from Montessori, these values serve them well in high school, college, and in their lives as adults. ■ Montessori schools normally reflect a highly diverse student body, and their curriculum promotes mutual respect and a global perspective. ■ Montessori assumes that children are born intelligent; they simply learn in different ways and progress at their own pace. The Montessori approach to education is consciously designed to recognize and address different learning styles, helping students learn to study most effectively. Students progress as they master new skills, moving ahead as quickly as they are ready. ■ Montessori students rarely rely on texts and workbooks. Why? Because many of the skills and concepts that children learn are abstract, and texts simply don’t bring them to life. Also, in the case of reading, many reading series fail to collect first-rate and compelling stories and essays; instead, Montessori relies upon hands-on concrete learning materials and the library, where children are introduced to the best in literature and reference materials. ■ Learning is not focused on rote drill and memorization. The goal is to develop students who really understand their schoolwork.

■ Students develop a love for the natural world. Natural science and outdoor education is an important element of our children’s experience. ■ The Montessori curriculum is carefully structured and integrated to demonstrate the connections among the different subject areas. Every class teaches critical thinking, composition, and research. History lessons link architecture, the arts, science, and technology. ■ Students learn to care about others through community service. ■ Montessori teachers facilitate learning, coach students along, and come to know them as friends and mentors. ■ Students learn not to be afraid of making mistakes; they come to see their mistakes as natural steps in the learning process. ■ Montessori students learn to collaborate and work together in learning and on major projects. They strive for their personal best, rather than compete against one another for the highest grade in their class.

“When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up within their souls that led to all their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others and seemed full of good will.” - Maria Montessori ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


To aid life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the basic task of the educator.

Ours was a house for children, rather than a real school. We had prepared a place for children, where a diffused culture could be assimilated, without any need for direct instruction...Yet these children learned to read and write before they were five, and no one had given them any lessons. At that time, it seemed miraculous that children of four and a half should be able to write and that they should have learned without the feeling of having been taught.

We puzzled over it for a long time. Only after repeated experiments did we conclude with certainty that all children are endowed with this capacity to ‘absorb’ culture. If this be true – we then argued – if culture can be acquired without effort, let us provide the children with other elements of culture. And then we saw them ‘absorb’ far more than reading and writing: botany, zoology, mathematics, geography, and all with the same ease, spontaneously and without getting tired. And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child. My experiments, conducted in many different countries, have now been going on for forty years (Ed. note: now more than one hundred years), and as the children grew up, parents kept asking me to extend my methods to the later ages. We then found that individual activity is the one factor that stimulates and produces development, and that this is not more true for the little ones of preschool age than it is for the junior, middle, and upper-school children.” — Dr. Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind

Maria Montessori is as controversial a figure in education today as she was more than a century ago.

aria Montessori is as controversial a figure in EXCERPTED FROM The Montessori Way education today as she was a half century ago. BY TIM SELDIN & PAUL EPSTEIN, PH.D. Alternately heralded as the twentieth century’s AVAILABLE AT WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG leading advocate for early childhood education, or dismissed as outdated and irrelevant, her research and the studies that she inspired helped change the course of education. Those who studied (her ideas and methods) and went on to make their own contributions include Anna Freud, Jean Piaget, Alfred Adler, and Erik Erikson. Many elements of modern education have been adapted from Montessori’s theories. She is credited with the development of the open classroom, individualized education, manipulative learning materials, teaching toys, and programmed instruction. In the last forty-five years, educators in Europe and North America have begun to recognize the consistency between the Montessori approach with what we have learned from research into child development. Maria Montessori was an individual ahead of her time. She was born in 1870, in Ancona, Italy, to an educated but not affluent middle-class family. She grew up in a country considered most conservative in its attitude toward women, yet, even against the considerable opposition of her father and teachers, Montessori pursued a scientific education and was the first woman to become a physician in Italy. As a practicing physician associated with the University of Rome, she was a scientist, not a teacher. It is ironic that she became famous for her contributions in a field that she had rejected as the traditional refuge for women, at a time when few professions were open to them other than homemaking or the convent. The Montessori Method evolved almost by accident, from a small experiment that Dr. Montessori carried out on the side. Her genius stems not from her teaching ability but from her recognition of the importance of what she stumbled upon. As a physician, Dr. Montessori specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry. She taught at the medical school of the University of Rome, and, through its free clinics, she came into frequent contact with the children of the working class and poor. These experiences convinced her that intelligence is not rare and that most newborns come into the world with human potential that will be barely revealed. Her work reinforced her humanistic ideals, and she made time in her busy schedule to support various social-reform movements. Early in her career, she began to accept speaking engagements throughout Europe on behalf of the women’s movement, peace efforts, and child labor-law reform. Montessori became well known and highly

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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regarded throughout Europe, which undoubtedly contributed to the publicity that surrounded her schools. In 1901, Montessori was appointed Director of the new Orthophrenic School attached to the University of Rome, formerly used as the asylum for the ‘deficient and insane’ children of the city, most of whom were probably of diminished mental capacity. She initiated reform in a system that formerly had served merely to confine mentally handicapped youngsters in empty rooms. Recognizing her patients’ need for stimulation, purposeful activity, and selfesteem, Montessori insisted that the staff speak to the inmates with the highest respect. She set up a program to teach her young charges how to care for themselves and their environment. At the same time, she began a meticulous study of all research previously done on the education of the mentally handicapped. Her studies led Montessori to the work of two almost forgotten French physicians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin. Itard is most famous for his work with the Wild Boy of Aveyon, a youth who had been found wandering naked in the forest, having spent ten years living alone. The boy could not speak and lacked almost all of the skills of everyday life. Here apparently was a ‘natural man,’ a human being who had developed without the benefit of culture and socialization with his own kind. Itard hoped from this study to shed some light on the age-old debate about what proportion of human intelligence and personality is hereditary and what proportion stems from learned behavior.

Itard’s experiment was a limited success, for he found the ‘wild boy’ uncooperative and unwilling or unable to learn most things. This led Itard to postulate the existence of developmental periods in normal human growth. During these ‘sensitive periods,’ a child must experience stimulation or grow up forever lacking the adult skills and intellectual concepts that he missed at the stage when they can be readily learned! Although Itard’s efforts to teach the ‘wild boy’ were barely successful, he followed a methodical approach in designing the process, arguing that all education would benefit from the use of careful observation and experimentation. This idea had tremendous appeal to the scientifically trained Montessori and later became the cornerstone of her Method. From Edouard Seguin, Montessori drew further confirmation of Itard’s work, along with a far more specific and organized system for applying it to the everyday education of the handicapped. Today, Seguin is recognized as the father of our modern techniques of special education. From these two predecessors, Montessori developed the idea of a scientific approach to education, based on observation and experimentation. She belongs to the ‘child study’ school of thought, and she pursued her work with the careful training and objectivity of the biologist studying the natural behavior of an animal in the forest. She studied her mentally challenged youngsters, listening and carefully noting everything that they did and said. Slowly, she began to get a sense of who they really were and what methods worked best. Her success was given widespread notice when, two years after she began, many of Montessori’s ‘deficient’ adolescents were able to pass the standard sixth-grade tests of the Italian public schools. Acclaimed for this ‘miracle,’ Montessori responded by suggesting that her results proved only that public schools should be able to get dramatically better results with ‘normal’ children. Unfortunately, the Italian Ministry of Education did not welcome this idea, and she was denied access to schoolaged children. Frustrated in her efforts to carry the experiment on with publicschool students, in 1907, Montessori jumped at the chance to coordinate a day-care center for working-class children, who were too young to attend public school. Montessori child carrying soup in classrom, c. 1912

8

This first Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, was located in the worst slum district of Rome, and the conditions Montessori faced were appalling. Her first class consisted of sixty children from two through five years of age, taught by one untrained caregiver. The children remained at the center from dawn to dusk, while their parents worked. They had to be fed two meals a day, bathed regularly, and given a program of medical care. The children themselves were typical of extreme inner-city poverty conditions. They entered the Children’s House on the first day crying and pushing, exhibiting generally aggressive and impatient behavior. Montessori, not knowing whether her experiment would work under such conditions, began by teaching the older children how to help with the everyday tasks that needed to be done. She also introduced the manipulative perceptual puzzles that she had used with the mentally challenged children. The results surprised her, for unlike the other children, who had to be prodded to use the materials, these little ones were drawn to the work she introduced. Children, who had wandered aimlessly the week before, began to settle down to long periods of constructive activity. They were fascinated with the puzzles and perceptual training devices. But, to Montessori’s amazement, the young children took the greatest delight in learning practical everyday living skills, reinforcing their independence. Each day, they begged her to show them more, even applauding with delight when Montessori taught them the correct use of a handkerchief. Soon the older children were taking care of the school, assisting their teacher with the preparation and serving of meals and the maintenance of a spotless environment. Their behavior as a group changed dramatically, from street urchins running wild to models of grace and courtesy. It was little wonder that the press found such a human-interest story appealing and promptly broadcast it to the world. Montessori education is sometimes criticized for being too structured and academically demanding of young children. Montessori would have laughed at this suggestion. She often said, “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them.” Montessori made a practice of paying close attention to their spontaneous behavior, arguing that only in this way could a teacher know how to teach. Traditionally,

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


schools pay little attention to children as individuals, other than to demand that they adapt to our standards. Montessori argued that the educator’s job is to serve the child, determining what is needed to make the greatest progress. To her, a child who fails in school should not be blamed, any more than a doctor should blame a patient who does not get well fast enough. It is the job of the physician to help us find the way to cure ourselves and the educator’s job to facilitate the natural process of learning. Montessori’s children exploded into academics. Too young to go to public school, they begged to be taught how to read and write. They learned to do so quickly and enthusiastically, using special manipulative materials Dr. Montessori designed for maximum appeal and effectiveness. The children were fascinated by numbers. To meet this interest, the mathematically inclined Montessori developed a series of concrete mathematical learning materials that has never been surpassed. Soon, her four- and five-year-olds were performing four-digit addition and subtraction operations and, in many cases, pushing on even further. Their interests blossomed in other areas as well, compelling an overworked physician to spend night after night designing new materials to keep pace with the children in geometry, geography, history, and natural science. The final proof of the children’s interest came shortly after her first school became famous, when a group of well intentioned women gave them a marvelous collection of lovely and expensive toys. The new gifts held the children’s attention for a few days, but they soon returned to the more interesting learning materials. To Montessori’s surprise, children who had experienced both, preferred work over play most of the time. If she were here today, Montessori would probably add:

Children read and do advanced mathematics in Montessori schools not because we push them, but because this is what they do when given the correct setting and opportunity. To deny them the right to learn because we, as adults, think that they shouldn’t is illogical and typical of the way schools have been run before. Montessori evolved her Method through trial and error, making educated guesses about the underlying meaning of the children’s actions. She was quick to pick up on their cues and con-

A Montessori classroom in a Franciscan Convent c. 1912 stantly experimented with the class. For example, Montessori tells of the morning when the teacher arrived late to find that the children had crawled through a window and gone right to work. At the beginning, the learning materials, having cost so much to make, were locked away in a tall cabinet. Only the teacher had a key and would open it and hand the materials to the children upon request. In this instance, the teacher had neglected to lock the cabinet the night before. Finding it open, the children had selected one material apiece and were working quietly. As Montessori arrived, the teacher was scolding the children for taking them out without permission. She recognized that the children’s behavior showed that they were capable of selecting their own work and removed the cabinet and replaced it with low, open shelves on which the activities were always available to the children. Today, this may sound like a minor change, but it contradicted all educational practice and theory of that period. One discovery followed another, giving Montessori an increasingly clear view of the inner mind of the child. She found that little children were capable of long periods of quiet concentration, even though they rarely showed signs of it in everyday settings. Although they were often careless and sloppy, they responded positively to an atmosphere of calm and order. Montessori noticed that the logical extension of the young child’s love for a consistent and often-repeated routine is an environment in which everything has a place. Her children took tremendous delight in carefully carrying their work to and from the shelves, taking great pains not to bump into anything or spill the smallest piece. They walked carefully through the rooms, instead of running wildly, as they did on the streets. Montessori discovered that the environment itself was all important in obtain-

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

ing the results that she had observed. Not wanting to use school desks, she had carpenters build child-sized tables and chairs. She was the first to do so, recognizing the frustration that a little child experiences in an adult-sized world. Eventually she learned to design entire schools around the size of the children. She had miniature pitchers and bowls prepared and found knives that fit a child’s tiny hand. The tables were lightweight, allowing two children to move them alone. The children learned to control their movements, disliking the way the calm was disturbed when they knocked into things. Montessori studied the traffic pattern of the rooms as well, arranging the furnishings and the activity area to minimize congestion and tripping. The children loved to sit on the floor, so she bought little rugs to define their work areas, and the children quickly learned to walk around them. Through the years, Montessori schools carried this environmental engineering throughout the entire building and outside environment, designing child-sized toilets and low sinks, windows low to the ground, low shelves, and miniature hand and garden tools of all sorts. Some of these ideas were eventually adapted by the larger educational community, particularly at the nursery and kindergarten levels. Many of the puzzles and educational devices now in use at the preschool and elementary levels are direct copies of Montessori’s original ideas. However, there is far more of her work that never entered the mainstream, and educators, who are searching for new, more effective answers, are finding the accumulated experience of the Montessori community to be of great interest. Maria Montessori’s first Children’s House received overnight attention, and thousands of visitors came away amazed and enthusiastic. Worldwide interest surged, as she duplicated her first school in other settings, with the same results. 9


Montessori captured the interest and imagination of national leaders and scientists, mothers and teachers, labor leaders and factory owners. As an internationally respected scientist, Montessori had a rare credibility in a field, where many others had promoted opinions, philosophies, and models that have not been readily duplicated. The Montessori Method offered a systematic approach that translated very well to new settings. In the first thirty-five years of the twentieth century, the Montessori Method seemed to offer something for everyone. Conservatives appreciated the calm, responsible behavior of the little children, along with their love for work. Liberals applauded the freedom and spontaneity. Many political leaders saw it as a practical way to reform the outmoded school systems of Europe and North America, as well as an approach that they hoped would lead to a more productive and law-abiding populace. Scientists of all disciplines heralded its imperical foundation, along with the accelerated achievement of the little children. Montessori rode a wave of enthusiastic support that should have changed the face of education far more dramatically than it has. Montessori’s prime productive period lasted from the opening of the first Children’s House in 1907 until the1930s. During this time, she continued her study of children and developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level as well. Montessori schools were set up throughout Europe and North America, and Dr. Montessori gave up her medical practice to devote all of her energies to advocating the rights and intellectual potential of all children. During her lifetime, Dr. Montessori was acknowledged as one of the world’s leading educators. Modern education moved beyond Montessori, adapting only those elements of her work that fit into existing theories and methods. Ironically, the Montessori approach cannot be implemented as a series of piecemeal reforms. It requires a complete restructuring of the school and the teacher’s role. Only recently, as our understanding of child development has grown, have we rediscovered how clear and sensible was her insight. Today, there is a growing consensus among psychologists and developmental educators that many of her ideas were decades ahead of their time. As the movement gains support and continues to spread into the American public school sector, one can readily say that Montessori, begun more than one hundred years ago, is a remarkably modern approach. 10

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


M
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y Maren
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 Schmidt Each year, during the start of school, teachers and administrators try to explain to new parents the essence of the term Montessori. In this article, we’ll try to explain what Montessori is and is not, dispelling, we hope, a few misperceptions about Montessori education in the process. What Montessori Is In its simplest form, Montessori is the philosophy of child and human development as presented by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who lived from 1870 to 1952. In the early 1900s, Dr. Montessori built her work with mentally challenged children on the research and studies of Jean Itard (1774-1838), best known for his work with the “Wild Boy of Aveyron” and Edward Seguin (1821-1882), who expanded Itard’s work with deaf children. In 1907, Dr. Montessori began using her teaching materials with normal children in a Rome tenement and discovered what she called “the Secret of Childhood.” The Secret? Children love to be involved in self-directed purposeful activities. When given a prepared environment of meaningful projects, along with the time to do those tasks at his or her own pace, a child will choose to engage in activities that will create learning in personal and powerful ways. Over the past one hundred years Montessori classrooms all over the world have proven that, when correctly implemented, Dr. Montessori’s philosophy works for children of all socio-economic circumstances and all levels of ability. In a properly prepared Montessori classroom, research shows that children learn faster and more easily than in traditional schools. However, the implementation of

Montessori philosophy is a school’s biggest challenge. There are many factors to consider when putting theory into practice, for example: the individual children in the classroom, their ages and emotional well-being; parent support and understanding of Montessori philosophy; and the training and experience of teachers, assistants, and administrators. These are only a few of the elements that create a Montessori school. Because of this, Montessori schools come in all shapes and sizes including the small in-home class for a few children to schools with hundreds of students, from newborns through high school. While schools come in many shapes and sizes, all successful Montessori classrooms require three key elements: 1. Well-trained adults; 2. Specially prepared environments; and 3. Children’s free choice of activity within a three-hour work cycle. Finding the right school for your family – whether it’s Montessori, public, parochial, alternative, traditional or home school – requires a bit of investigative work and an understanding of the needs and concerns you have for your family. Being clear about what Montessori education is and what it is not can help you make an informed decision.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

What Montessori Is Not In my twenty-five years in Montessori education – as a parent, school employee, volunteer, trainee, teacher, school founder, and school director – time after time, I’ve come to fresh and deeper understandings of Montessori philosophy and the process of human development and education. My first encounter with Montessori was less than positive. As a college student, I frequently visited my family after my four younger siblings’ school day had ended. Our family tradition was to have a snack together after school. Friends and neighbors were always welcomed. The neighbor girls, ages four, five and six, frequently joined the group. They would barge into my parents’ home and head straight for the refrigerator. No knock on the door, no hello. They inhaled huge amounts of food with neither manners nor thanks. Their lack of decorum appalled me. The neighbor girls’ grandmother chatted with me about how wonderful the girls’ Montessori school was and how much the girls learned there. I attributed the girls’ little savage conduct to their Montessori school. If a school would put up with that kind of behavior, I figured it couldn’t be any good. A few years passed, and I had children of my own. Our friends and coworkers recommended the local Montessori school to my husband and me. Because of my experiences with the neighbor’s children, I responded negatively to my friends’ suggestions. I began to notice, though, that our friends’ children were well mannered, articulate, and a joy to be around. Hum? So what was up with Montessori? My mother helped clear up my misperceptions. The neighbor’s girls, even though they lived in an expensive home, were suffering the effects of a newly divorced and stressed mother attending law school. The girls were starved for food, attention, and adult guidance. Their behavior was a reflection, not of their Montessori schooling, but of the turmoil in their home. This experience showed me that what we may think are the effects, negative or positive, of a Montessori school, may be something quite different. Let me use my twenty-five years of Montessori experience to help dispel a few misconceptions about Montessori schools, some of which I’ve held myself. ❦❦❦ 11


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Many Montessori schools in the United States are private schools, begun in the early to mid-1960s, a time when most public education didn’t offer kindergarten and only 5 percent of children went to preschool, compared with the 67 percent reported in the 2000 census. When many Montessori schools were established, private preschools might have been an option only for those in urban well-to-do areas, thus giving the impression that only wealthy families could afford Montessori schools.The first schools that Montessori established were in the slums of Rome, for children left at home while parents were out working, and certainly not for rich kids. Today, in the United States, there are over 300 public Montessori schools and 100 charter schools that offer taxpayer-financed schooling, along with thousands of private, not-for-profit Montessori programs that use charitable donations to offer low-cost tuition. Montessori education, through these low-cost options, is available to families interested in quality education. Many private, high-dollar schools offer scholarships, and some states offer childcare credits and assistance to low-income families.

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Montessori is for all children. Since Montessori preschools begin working with three-year-olds in a prepared learning environment, Montessori students learn to read, write, and understand the world around them in ways that they can easily express. To the casual observer, Montessori students may appear advanced for their age, leading to the assumption that the schools cater to gifted children. In reality, a Montessori school offers children of differing abilities ways to express their unique personalities, through activities using hands-on materials, language, numbers, art, music, movement and more. Montessori schooling helps each child develop individuality in a way that accentuates his or her innate intelligence. Montessori schools can help make all kids ‘gifted’ kids.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


It is true that Dr. Montessori began her work with children who were institutionalized, due to physical or mental impairments. When using her methods and materials with normal children, Montessori discovered that children learned more quickly using her teaching methods. There are some Montessori schools and programs that cater specifically to children who have learning challenges. In many Montessori schools, however, children with special needs are included, when those requirements can be met with existing school resources.

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 . Like many preschools, some Montessori programs may be sponsored by a church or synagogue, but most Montessori schools are established as independent entities. Conversely, a school might be housed in a church building and not have any religious affiliation. Since Montessori refers to a philosophy, and not an organization, schools are free to have relationships with other organizations, including churches. Some of the first Montessori programs were sponsored by Catholic or other religious organizations. Dr. Montessori was Catholic and worked on developing religious, educational, hands-on learning experiences for young children. The Montessori movement, however, has no religious affiliations. Montessori schools all over the world reflect the specific values and beliefs of the staff members and families that form each school community. Around the world, there are Montessori schools that are part of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other religious communities.

Myth
 #5

In
 Montessori c
la 
 s 
 s 
 r 
 o 
 o 
 m 
 s 
 ,
 children
 run around
 and
 do whatever
 they w
an 
 t 
 .


When looking at a Montessori classroom you may see 25 or more children involved in individual or small group activities. It is possible that each child will be doing something different. At first glance, a classroom can look like a hive of bumblebees. If you take the time to follow the activities of two children, over the course of a three-hour work period, you should observe a series of self-directed activities. The children aren’t running wild. They are each involved in self-selected w o r k, designed to build concentration and support independent learning. Choosing what you do is not the same as doing whatever you want. A well-known anecdote, about Montessori students doing what they like, comes from E.M. Standing’s book, Maria Montessori – Her Life and Work:

“A rather captious and skeptical visitor to a Montessori class once buttonholed one of the children – a little girl of seven – and asked: ‘Is it true that in this school you are allowed to do anything you like?’ ‘I don’t know about that,’ replied the little maiden cautiously, ‘but I do know that we like what we do!’”

Myth
 #6

Montessorians
 are a
 selective
 clique. One definition of a clique is: an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose. Many Montessori teachers could be accused of this because of their intense desire to be of service in the life of a child, coupled with the teacher’s knowledge of child development. And while many schools have tight-knit communities, they are not exclusive. You should look for a school where you and your family feel welcomed. For many years, Montessori training programs were only available in a few larger cities. Becoming certified required prospective teachers to be determined and dedicated, as relocating for a year of study was often required. Now Montessori teacher’s training is mainstream and more accessible, with colleges and universities offering graduate programs in Montessori education, in conjunction with Montessori training

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

13


centers. Loyola College in Maryland, New York University, and Xavier University are only a few of the many institutions of higher learning that include Montessori teacher’s training. Dr. Montessori’s books, full of Italian scientific and psychological terminology, translated into the British English of the early 1990s, can be difficult for the modern reader to follow. To parents the use of Montessori-specific terms and quotes may at times take on esoteric tones of an elusive inner circle. The enthusiasm and dedication evident in the work of many Montessorians might be misinterpreted as excluding to uninitiated newcomers. My experience with Montessori teachers and administrators has been that they are eager to share their knowledge with others. Just ask.

A
 Montessori classroom
 is
 too
 u
ns 
 t 
 r 
 u 
 c 
 t 
 u 
 r 
 e 
 d 
 for
 my
 child.

The Montessori classroom is very structured, but that structure is quite different from a traditional preschool. Montessori observed that children naturally tend to use self-selected, purposeful activities to develop themselves. The Montessori classroom, with its prepared activities and trained adults, is structured to promote this natural process of human development. Students new to the Montessori classroom, who may or may not have been in a traditionally structured school, learn to select their own work and complete it with order, concentration, and attention to detail. Montessorians refer to children, who work in this independent, self-disciplined way as ‘normalized,’ or using the natural and normal tendencies of human development. Many traditional preschools work on a schedule where the entire classroom is involved in an activity for fifteen minutes, then moves on to the next activity. This structure is based on the belief that young children have a short attention span of less than twenty minutes per activity.

Myth
 #7 Montessori
 classrooms
 are
 too
 structured.

Parents sometimes see the Montessori concept of work as play as overly structured. The activities in the classroom are referred to as work, and the children are directed to choose their work. However, the children’s work is very satisfying to them, and they make no distinction between work and play. Children almost always find Montessori activities both interesting and fun. Each Montessori classroom is lined with low shelves filled with materials. The teacher, or guide, shows the chil-

14

Myth
 #8

dren how to use the materials by giving individual lessons. The child is shown a specific way to use the materials but is allowed to explore them by using them in a variety of ways, with the only limitations being that materials may not be abused or used to harm others. For example, the Red Rods, which are a set of ten painted wooden rods up to a meter long and about an inch thick, are designed to help the child learn to perceive length in ten centimeter increments. The Red Rods aren’t to be used

as Jedi light sabers. Obviously, sword fights with the Red Rods are a danger to other children, as well as damaging to the rods, which cost over $200.00 a set. In cases where materials are being abused or used in a way that may hurt others, the child is stopped and gently and kindly redirected to other work. Unfortunately, some parents see this limitation on the use of the material as ‘too structured,’ since it may not allow for fantasy play.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. ~ Mark Twain

A typical morning might look something like this:

Traditional Preschool Schedule 8:30 to 8:45 8:45 to 9:00 9:00 to 9:15 9:15 to 9:30 9:30 to 9:45 9:45 to 10:15 10:15 to 10:30 10:30 to 10:45 10:45 to 11:00 11:00 to 11:15 11:15 to 11:30

Morning circle and singing Work with Play Dough™ Letter of the day work Crayon work Snack Outside time Story time Work with puzzles Practice counting to 20 Craft project: cut out a paper flower Circle time to dismissal

The above schedule reflects structure created by and dependent upon the teacher.

In the Montessori classroom each child creates his or her own cycle of work based on individual interests. This cycle of self-directed activity lengthens the child’s attention span. The teacher, instead of directing a group of children in one activity, quietly moves from child to child, giving individual lessons with materials. The teacher or assistant may lead a few small-group activities, such as reading a book out loud, cooking, or gardening with two to six children. The Montessori classroom is a vibrant and dynamic learning environment, where structure is created by each

Montessori Preschool Schedule 8:30 8:35 to 9:00 9:00 to 9:15 9:15 to 10:00 10:00 to 10:15 10:15 to 10:30 10:30 to 11:15 11:15 to 11:30

Arrive, hang up coat, and greet teacher Choose puzzle. Work and rework three times. Return puzzle to shelf. Choose sandpaper numbers. Trace sandpaper numbers. Return numbers to shelf. Prepare individual snack. Eat snack with friend. Choose and work with scissor cutting lesson. Choose and work with knobbed cylinders. Clean up time and group time with singing.

child selecting his or her activity, doing it, and returning the activity to the shelf. After the successful completion of a task, there is a period of self-satisfaction and reflection, then the child chooses the next activity. Montessorians call this rhythm of activity a work cycle. Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to the habit of a work cycle as creating an upward spiral of growth and change. Covey describes a spiraling process of learn – commit – do that empowers us to move toward continuous improvement, both as children and adults.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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Myth
 #9

M
on 
 t 
 e 
 s 
 s 
 o 
 r 
 i
 schools
 don’t
 allow
 for
 play.

Montessorians refer to the child’s activities in the classroom as work. The children also refer to what they do in the classroom as their work. When your three-year-old comes home from school talking about the work he did today, he can sound way too serious for a kid you just picked up at preschool. What adults often forget is that children have a deep desire to contribute meaningfully, which we deny when we

regard everything they do as ‘just’ play. With our adult eyes, we can observe the child’s ‘joyful work’ and expressions of deep satisfaction as the child experiences “work as play.” Consider this. You start a new job. You arrive the first day, full of enthusiasm, and ready to contribute to the success of your work group. You’re met at the door by your new boss and told, “Go outside and play. We’ll let you know when it’s time for lunch and time to go home.” Ouch! But that’s exactly what we do to our children when we dismiss their desires to contribute to their own well-being and to the common good of home or school. Montessori schools create environments, where children enjoy working on activities with grace and dignity. Montessori children often describe feelings of satisfaction and exhilaration upon completing tasks that we might have considered as only ‘play.’

Myth
 #10

M
on 
 t 
 e 
 s 
 s 
 o 
 r 
 i
 doesn’t
 allow
 for c
re 
 a 
 t 
 i
 v 
 i
 t 
 y 
 .


Creativity means “to bring something into existence.” First we have an idea. Then we use our imagination, thoughts, and skills to bring these ideas into being. The Montessori classroom nourishes the creative skills of writing, drawing, painting, using scissors, modeling clay, gluing, etc. to enable children to express their thoughts and ideas in genuine and unique ways. When I was in kindergarten, we were all given a coloring sheet of a caboose. I colored my caboose green. My teacher told me that cabooses were red. As I looked around, all the other children’s cabooses were red. My classmates laughed at my green caboose. I felt the tears in my chest. Twenty-four years later, I saw another green caboose, attached to the end of a Burlington-Northern train. “Yes!” I wanted to shout back to my kindergarten class. “There are green cabooses.” What does a green caboose have to do with creativity? I wasn’t trying to be creative with my green caboose. I was trying to express myself, because I had seen a green caboose. Montessori classrooms allow for safe self-expression through art, music, movement, and manipulation of materials and can be one of the most creative and satisfying environments for a child to learn to experiment and express his or her innerself. 16

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

©T


Myth
 #11

Kids
 can’t
 be kids
 at M
on 
 t 
 e 
 s 
 s 
 o 
 r 
 i
 .
 Somehow, our expectations as parents, having witnessed temper tantrums in restaurants and stores, create a view of children as naturally loud, prone to violent behavior, disrespectful of others, clumsy, and worse. In a well-run Montessori classroom, though, one might be prone to think that kids aren’t being kids. When you see twenty-five to thirty children acting purposefully, walking

calmly, talking in low voices to each other, carrying glass objects, reading and working with numbers in the thousands, you might think the only way this behavior can occur is by children being regimented into it. I remember observing Dana, then fifteen-months-old, moving serenely around her infant Montessori classroom. She sure didn’t act that way at home. As I observed Dana’s infant-toddler class in action, I saw the power of this child-friendly environment. As the children moved from activity to activity, day by day their skills and confidence grew. Lessons in grace and courtesy helped the children with social skills, as please, thank you, and would you please became some of these toddlers’ first words. When Dana was three, one of her favorite activities was the green bean cutting lesson. After carefully washing her hands, she would take several green beans out of the refrigerator, wash them, cut them into bite-sized pieces with a small knife, and arrange them on a child-sized tray. She carried the tray around the classroom, asking her classmates, “Would you like a green bean?” As they looked up from their work, the other children would reply, Yes, please, or No, thank you. Dana, now in her mid-twenties, still remembers that work with deep satisfaction. Children show us, when given a prepared environment, a knowledgeable adult, and a three-hour work cycle, the natural state of the child is to be a happy, considerate, and contented person. A kid is most like a kid when he or she is engaged in the work of the Montessori classroom.

Myth
 #12

If
 Montessori
 is so
 great,
 why aren’t
 former students
 better known?


Most of us associate our career success with our colleges. Not too many people come out and say, “When I was three years old I went to Hometown Montessori School, and that made all the difference.” Here are a few well-known people who remember their Montessori school connections and consider their experiences there vital. Julia Child, the cook and writer, who taught Americans to love, prepare and pronounce French dishes, attended Montessori school. Peter Drucker, the business guru, who has been said to be one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, was a Montessori student. Alice Waters, the chef of Chez Panisse fame and creator of The Edible Schoolyard project, was a Montessori teacher. Anne Frank’s famous diary was a natural extension of Anne’s Montessori elementary school experience. Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, corresponded with Maria Montessori about teaching methods. Larry Page and Sergei Brin, founders of Google, Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon, and Steve Case of America Online all credit Montessori schooling to their creative success. Montessori schools are focused on helping children become self-directed individuals, who can, and do, make a difference in their families, in their communities and in their world – famous or not. And that’s not a myth.

Maren Schmidt is an award-winning teacher and author. Over the past 25 years, Maren has been a Montessori parent, teacher, school founder and director. She holds elementary teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale and a M.Ed. from Loyola College (MD). This article is excerpted from an upcoming book for Montessori parents she is currently co-authoring with her daughter, Dana Schmidt, a Montessori student from age one to fourteen. Dana is a graduate of Dartmouth College and resides in San Francisco. Read Maren’s weekly newspaper column at www.KidsTalkNews.com ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org 22

17


Montessori Vocabulary Made Clear

by Maren S. Schmidt & Dana C. Schmidt

very discipline has its specific jargon. Lawyers, doctors, car mechanics, computer technicians, nurses, gardeners, and gymnasts, each have vocabulary that is unique to their area of expertise. So it is with Montessori education. Here is a handy reference for the language that is used in Montessori writings and discussions, which, we hope, will help you understand what goes on in your child’s Montessori classroom. 18

Adolescence Apparatus Auto-Education Casa Casa Dei Bambini Children’s House Cosmic Education Didactic Materials Directress Elementary Community Elementary Environment Environment Erdkinder Four Planes of Development Freedom within Limits Freedom and Responsibility Going Out Guide Guido Human Tendencies Horme Infant/Toddler Inner Teacher Lower Elementary

Mneme Montessori Materials Nido Normalization Normalizing Events Parent Education Pedagogical Principles Practical Life Prepared Environment Primary Community Primary Environment Psychological Characteristics Respect for the Child Responsibility Self-Construction Sensitive periods Sensorial Materials Structure Three-Hour Work Cycle Toddler Upper Elementary Whole Child Work Cycle

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Adolescence Adolescence refers to the ages of twelve to eighteen years. There are two sub-stages of development during this period (ages twelve to fifteen and fifteen to eighteen), with each substage having different learning requirements and environments, distinct from elementary and each other.

Instead, the term cosmic education, or connecting the child to the idea of the cosmos, was used. Back in the 1970s and 80s, the term seemed a bit ‘out there’ for mainstream use. Now there is more of a cultural awareness that everything is, indeed, connected to everything else, and the term cosmic education seems to better communicate the idea of giving the child a vision of the cosmos.

Apparatus

Didactic Materials

The word apparatus is used interchangeably with the terms Montessori materials, or didactic materials.

See Montessori Materials. Directress

Auto-Education

See Montessori Teacher.

Sorry, gentlemen, this has nothing to do with cars. The idea of auto-education is linked with the concept of self-construction in Montessori philosophy, and some people view it as the same idea. There is a nuance though that with auto-education a person consciously takes responsibility for his or her learning. Self-construction has a connotation of activities, or work, being unconsciously performed by children to build foundational skills before the age of six years.

Elementary Community The elementary community is comprised of all the children, teachers, parents, and adults in a school’s elementary classrooms or environments. As community relationships are established, other people involved in strategic relationships with the school, such as museum docents, librarians, storekeepers, and master gardeners are considered part of the community. Elementary Environment

Casa or Casa Dei Bambini Casa Dei Bambini is not the name of a popular Mexican Restaurant. Casa, or house in Italian, refers to the environment for children ages three to six years. Dr. Montessori referred to the first schools as Casa Dei Bambini, or Children’s Houses. Many schools use the term Casa, or Children’s House, to refer to the classroom for children ages three to six years. Some schools may also refer to this age group as the preschool or primary group.

The elementary environment is designed for children ages six to twelve years. There may be a lower elementary, made up of six- to nineyear-olds, and an upper elementary, comprised of nine- to twelve-year-olds. Elementary classrooms for six- to twelve-year-olds are also found. The elementary environment includes an outdoor component but also expands to encompass the children going out to explore their local community’s museums, libraries, and other facilities outside the school campus.

Children’s House

Environment

See above.

The term environment in Montessori terms is used to describe a prepared environment that meets the learning needs of the age group it serves. You will hear the words environment and classroom used interchangeably. A Montessori classroom, or environment, does not look anything like a traditional classroom, though. A primary environment for three- to six-yearsolds is different than an elementary environment, which differs from an adolescent environment.

Cosmic Education Dr. Montessori saw the use of the imagination as the key to learning for children ages six to twelve . Montessori urged us to give the child a “vision of the universe,” because within this view, there would be something that would fire each individual child’s imagination, and, therefore, set the child on a path of true learning. As children pursue areas of interest, all subjects of learning are touched upon, due to the interconnectedness of everything in the cosmos. Dr. Montessori may have preferred to use the term universal education, but that phrase was already in use in the United States at the time, relating to educator John Dewey’s idea of free public education for everyone.

Erdkinder Dr. Montessori envisioned an Erdkinder (German for child of the earth) environment for the young adolescent, ages twelve to fifteen years, to fulfill a developmental need to con-

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

nect and form a society of his or her time and place. This vision of Erdkinder encompasses the idea of a working farm and much more. For the past ten years, the farm-school concept, or Erdkinder, is being successfully implemented in the United States. Four Planes of Development Dr. Montessori saw human beings going through four planes, or stages, of development, with each plane having unique characteristics and opportunities for learning. First Plane: Second Plane: Third Plane: Fourth Plane:

From birth to 6 years From 6 to 12 years From 12 to 18 years From 18 to 24 years

Freedom and Responsibility The idea that freedom follows responsibility is an important concept in Montessori philosophy. We give opportunities to “respond with ability,” and corresponding freedoms are given. For example, if you remember to bring your coat, then you will be given the freedom to go outside when it is cold. If you act responsibly in the elementary classroom, then you can be granted the freedom to go outside of the classroom into the larger community. See going out. Freedom within Limits The concept of allowing freedom within limits is a crucial idea in Montessori philosophy. To the casual observer, or new teacher, freedom may appear to allow a child to do anything he or she would like. Freedom is limited by the level of ability and responsibility a child has. We give the child the freedom to move freely about the classroom. This freedom may be taken away, if the child uses the freedom to go around hitting other children, disrupting other’s work, damaging materials, or otherwise not choosing a purposeful activity that will lead to a normalizing event. The child is free to act within the limits of purposeful activity. Going Out The idea of going out is very different than the typical field trip that traditional elementary students take. Students in a Montessori elementary classroom will go out in small groups of two to perhaps six students into the community to gather information or experiences in areas of interest. For example, some schools are able to let students walk a few blocks to the city library. Other schools allow students to take public transportation 19


to go to museums, or college campuses to visit with experts in their field of study. Others have a system of parent volunteers that drive and chaperone going-out students. A going-out program is possible due to the child developing freedom and responsibility over a period of many years. Students must earn the right to go out. Guide See Montessori Teacher Guido See Montessori Teacher Horme Not ham in a can. Dr. Montessori used this psychological term from Sir Percy Nunn. Horme means life force. (From the Greek, horme, meaning impetus or impulse.) If the life force is allowed to develop smoothly, without obstacles impairing its force, normalization occurs. When the horme is blocked, we see deviations in the life force, and the process of normalization does not occur. If the hormic force is strong and deviated, we may see a child with powerful emotional and physical outbursts. If the horme is weak in a child, we may observe boredom, laziness, and the need to be constantly entertained. Human Tendencies Dr. Montessori saw that there were certain characteristics that make us human. Depending on our individual natures, sensitive periods of learning, or different psychological characteristics, the following activities define us as human: Activity Becoming Belonging Exploration Orientation Order Communication Imagination Exactness Repetition Perfection Human beings need to be involved in meaningful activities. They need to feel a sense of becoming. Humans need to belong. They need to explore the world around them and create an orientation for that exploration. People have a need to create order and make sense out of the chaos around them. We need to communicate with others. We 20

use our imaginations. We work at exactness. We learn using repetition. We yearn for perfection. Montessori pedagogical principles use and are based on the knowledge of the human tendencies. Infant/Toddler Infant/toddler refers to the age span from birth to around age three. The infant/toddler communities are divided into two areas – the Nido, for ages two to fourteen months and the Young Children’s Communities for children ages fourteen to thirty-six months. Not every Montessori school offers an infant/toddler program. Many infant/toddler programs are self-contained and feed into schools that have students ages three to six years. Inner Teacher The child’s self-construction is aided by what Montessorians call the inner teacher, or the child’s unconscious urge to connect to certain activities. The outward manifestations of the child’s inner teacher are the child’s interest and attention. We encourage interest through the prepared environment and an enlightened awareness of our role in the work of the child. For example, we observe a child’s interest in music by observing his or her choice of playing the bells in the Montessori classroom. The child’s inner teacher is urging the child to learn to play songs. A trained Montessori teacher in a prepared environment helps guide the child to activities, thus aiding the child’s self-construction. Lower Elementary The elementary age group in many schools is divided into two classes: the lower and upper elementary. The lower elementary is for those children who show psychological characteristics of being in the second of the four planes of development. Ages given for each plane of development are approximate and are used as guidelines to aid observation of the child’s choices for work, in order to know when the child is ready to enter a new learning environment. Montessori teachers are trained to offer key lessons to direct and encourage growth in the child’s observable areas of interest. A child who is past his or her sixth birthday may, or may not, exhibit the psychological characteristics of the child in the second plane of development. Until these characteristics are observed, the child is best served

by remaining in the primary environment of the Casa. Mneme Mneme was the Greek Muse for memory. Dr. Montessori used this psychological term to express the idea of memory being created and retained in the child by sensorial experiences. The idea of neuro-muscular memory follows this concept. Montessori Materials Montessori materials were designed or incorporated into the work with the children by Dr. Montessori, her son Mario and original Montessori adherents. Dr. Montessori used materials made by Itard and Seguin, notably the Moveable Alphabet and the Command Cards from Itard and the Teens Board and Tens Board from Seguin. Other materials are designed to reveal certain concepts to the child through hands-on, uninterrupted exploration, after an introductory lesson from the Montessori teacher. For example, the Pink Tower contains multiple concepts, including height, volume and sequence, squares of numbers and cubes of numbers, among other abstractions. There are dozens of pieces of Montessoridesigned materials that help the child in educating the senses of hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting. Other Montessori materials aid the child in acquiring skills in math, reading, writing, geography, social studies, science, music, and more. Montessori Teacher A Montessori teacher has Montessori training in the age level at which he or she is teaching. There is training for Assistants to Infancy for working with children from birth to age three; Primary training for working with children ages three to six; and Elementary training for working with ages six to twelve. Adolescent training for working with twelveto eighteen-year-olds is now being developed. Most adolescent teachers have elementary training, with additional adolescent training. A Montessori teacher is trained to observe children in a specific age group and introduce them to developmentally challenging activities, based on those observations. A Montessori elementary teacher, for example, is trained to work with six- to twelve-year-olds and may only have fundamental, versus specific, knowledge of the work with the younger and older children. Primary teachers, likewise, have general knowledge of the work of the elementary-aged child but may

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


not be trained to observe and give lessons to the elementary-aged child. Many Montessorians prefer to use the term guide or director/directress instead of teacher to describe their work with the child. Dr. Montessori used the term guido in her writings. The Montessori teacher’s job is to help direct or guide the child to purposeful activity. The Montessori guide is focused on directing the successful learning and developmental progress of the child, instead of being focused on teaching. This fundamental view of how to interact with the child is one of the major principles of Montessori philosophy. The adult’s job is to prepare an environment in order to guide and direct the child to purposeful activity. When I first became a Montessori certified teacher, I proudly introduced myself as a Montessori guide at dinner parities, and people asked me to lead float trips down the Buffalo River. Even though the word guide communicates more effectively to me about what role the adult plays in a Montessori classroom, I realize that most folks might think guide means river rat. The job of a Montessori guide is to help children learn. As a college professor of mine said, “I’m a Ph.D. in chemistry. My job is to present information. Your job is to learn it.” Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many teachers over the years that see their job as presenting information, with no concern if a student actually learns that information. The word guide to me connotes that you are committed to helping someone reach a destination. I would rather be guided than taught. With a guide, I’ll end up where I want to be. Most Montessori schools use the word teacher, in a desire to communicate effectively with parents, whose experience has primarily been with teachers. Montessori teachers are guides, and that is very good for your child. Nido Nido is nest in Italian, and the Nido is a Montessori environment designed for the infant between the ages of two to fourteen months. When the child begins to walk, he or she enters a new environment of the Young Children’s Community.

The understanding of normalization doesn’t require a leap of faith; it occurs in those moments when you feel most alive and more you than any other time. When we do what we love, and love doing it because we have the skill and self-discipline to do the activity well, those are the blissful moments of being human. The activity we love might be anything – chopping wood, singing, dancing, writing, conversing with others, cooking. In a Montessori school, we are trying to help the child attain a natural or normal developmental process, which is referred to as normalization. This process of human development, or normalization, is evident in an observable cycle of activities, call normalizing events. Normalizing Events In her book, The Secret of Childhood, Montessori told us of her discovery that in their natural state, children love to work, which means to be involved in meaningful and purposeful activity. When we are able to give the child (or an adult, if only our bosses understood!) a prepared environment and uninterrupted time to work, the child experiences a normalizing event. Children love to be busy, so we prepare their environment with activities that foster a love of work, concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of joyful accomplishment. There are three steps to a normalizing event:

Normalization The natural, or normal state, for a human being is characterized by four attributes: 1. A love of work or activity 2. Concentration on an activity 3. Self-discipline 4. Sociability or joyful work.

1. Choose an activity. 2. Complete the activity and return the materials to original order. 3. Sense of satisfaction. Normalizing activities in a prepared environment, with an uninterrupted three-hour work cycle, creates what Stephen Covey, in

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls a success cycle. To Montessorians, this process is normalization. When was your last normalizing event? How did it make you feel? Parent Education Parent education in Montessori terms is a series of ongoing lectures, discussions, and demonstrations, designed for parents to help bridge the child’s world of school and home. Montessorians want to work with the whole child – body, heart, mind and spirit – and know that what happens at school affects home life, and what happens at home affects school life. Parent education strives to create important home/school and parent/teacher relationships in order to create an optimum environment for the whole child. Pedagogical Principles Pedagogy refers to more than just teaching. Montessori pedagogical principles apply to teaching, as well as learning. Montessori teachers teach in order to promote learning, to fire the child’s imagination and to feed the child’s heart and spirit. Each piece of material, with its corresponding lessons, has been developed to include the following teaching and learning principles: Use knowledge of human tendencies Awareness of psychological characteristics Prepared environment Limitation of material Teacher as link between child and the environment 21


the foundation for later work, with reading and math materials for the four- and five-year-old. Prepared Environment

Freedom of choice and development of responsibility Auto-education or self-construction Whole to the parts; concrete to abstract

We live in a world of prepared environments. Stores, theatres, and restaurants are examples of places that have been prepared to meet the specific needs of the user. A restaurant is prepared to serve our need for food, our need to socialize, etc. Wait staff, chefs, wine stewards, are ready to serve us. Tables and chairs are for our comfort and aesthetic appeal. Pictures, flowers, plants, and candles provide decoration. A good restaurant anticipates our needs. Wait staff offers us drinks and appetizers to get us comfortable. Menu selections are clearly given to us. The restaurant is designed to serve our dining needs, be it fast food or a five-star experience. The prepared environments in a Montessori school are created to meet the developmental needs of children, based on observable behaviors, in many ways, like a restaurant is prepared to serve its customers. There are four basic Montessori environments:

Isolation of difficulty Repetition through variety Indirect preparation Techniques that lead to mental and physical independence. Practical Life The prepared environment of the primary classroom contains activities that help the child learn dozens of practical self-care skills, such as hand washing, dusting, sweeping, clothes washing, and more. Children, around the age of three years, are extremely interested in these activities. Working with the practical life exercises, children learn to work independently in the classroom and develop the concentration necessary to be successful with later work that is more academic in nature. Practical life activities form 22

Primary Environment The primary environment is the prepared environment or classroom for children ages three to six years. The environment usually contains an outdoor component as part of the classroom experience. Psychological Characteristics For the child from the age of six to twelve years, we refer to the identifying features of that time as psychological characteristics. The child now prefers to do activities with friends, instead of working alone. To learn, the elementary-age child needs repetition of concepts through a variety of work. For the child in the second plane of development, learning must use the imagination, involve a sense of humor, involve going outside of the familiar school and home, use logic and reason, and exercise the developing sense of right and wrong. Montessori teachers look for these psychological characteristics in a six-yearold child to see if the child is ready to move into an elementary environment. Respect for the Child

The working of the hand and the mind Observation of the child at work

Primary classes in a traditional setting may refer to grades one to six, or grades one to three, in many parts of the country. Montessorians see the years from three to six being the time of a person’s greatest learning and view this period as the primary, or foundation, years of schooling. To Montessorians, there is nothing ‘pre-school’ about this time of children’s learning. It is the real thing.

The infant/toddler environment from birth to age three. The primary environment for ages three to six years. The elementary environment for ages six to twelve years. The adolescent environments for ages twelve to fifteen and fifteen to eighteen years. Each Montessori environment is prepared by Montessori-trained people who understand the developmental needs of that age group.

Montessorians focus on the child’s needs and the child’s work of creating a unique person. We recognize that the child has a formidable task. We work to be a help to the life of the child, respecting both the person that is not yet there and the one in front of us. Responsibility The concept of freedom and responsibility is a key concept in working with children using Montessori’s philosophy. Freedom follows responsibility.

Primary Community Self-Construction Children age three to six years and adults (including parents) in the primary environment comprise the primary community. If a school has multiple primary classrooms, the term may refer to all the people involved in that age group.

The Montessori idea is that the child constructs the adult he or she will become by the self-selected activities that the child engages in with concentration, self-discipline, and joyfulness.

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This concept of self-construction is perhaps more readily seen with a child’s learning to walk and talk. In normal circumstances, we don’t have to teach a child how to walk or talk. The child self-constructs as long as the environment is conducive to that building of the person. For example, if a child is confined and not allowed movement, walking will not develop. If a child doesn’t hear spoken language, speech will not appear. In a Montessori classroom, we strive to create a place where children have the freedom to enhance their abilities through selfselected activities. It occurs in much the same way that they learned to walk and talk but at a different level, involving reading and writing, mathematics, music, science, geography, and practical living activities. Sensitive Periods Before the age of six, human beings are in a unique period of learning and development. At this time in our lives, certain information is absorbed by our personalities without conscious effort. Young children learn to walk, talk and do hundreds of things without formal instruction or being aware of learning. Montessori described these stages as sensitive periods of development, using a term from biologists. Sensitive periods are characterized by the following five observable behaviors. Children seem to be drawn to certain work and we see the following:

in his or her developing powers of vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The sensorial materials engage the hand and the mind to create powerful learning experiences for your child. These experiences become indirect preparation for later academic and artistic skills, and create ‘touchstones’ in the mind for skills such as perfect pitch, color memory, figure memory, and other nonverbal accomplishments. Visual discrimination of length, width, height, and color are addressed through the work with the Pink Tower, Brown Stair, Red Rods, Color Tablets, Cylinder Blocks and Knobless Cylinders. The Geometric Cabinet, Geometric Solids, Constructive Triangles, Binomial and Trinomial Cubes help the child learn different shapes. Touch is fine tuned with Rough and Smooth Boards, Fabric Boxes, Mystery Bag, Thermic Bottles, Thermic Tablets, Baric Tablets, and Pressure Cylinders. Hearing is refined in the work with the Sound Cylinders and the Bell Material, along with teacher-initiated sound games. Tasting activities and the smelling bottles help your child distinguish a variety of tastes and aromas. Each material is designed to help your child’s mind focus on a quality, such as color, and distinguish objects by their attributes, which may include color, size, shape, weight, sound, smell, taste, temperature, or other qualities.

A well-defined activity with a beginning, middle, and end.

Structure

The activity is irresistible for the child, once he or she starts it.

Some parents complain that Montessori classrooms are too structured. Others say there is not enough structure. Traditional preschools are structured around the group changing activities every fifteen or twenty minutes. Snack and recess occur at predictable times each day. For many parents, children being told what to do and being constantly scheduled and entertained by teachers is construed as structure. These parents, therefore, may see a Montessori classroom as not having enough structure. The structure of a Montessori classroom is built on allowing the children free-choice activities in a prepared environment, within an uninterrupted three-hour work cycle. Individual work is not interrupted by snack time, song time, or circle time. The child creates an inner structure by having ‘normalizing events’ based on personal interests. The child entering a Montessori classroom from a traditionally structured preschool may feel anxious, if not told by the teacher what to do every fifteen minutes. It

The same activity is returned to again and again. A passionate interest develops. A restful and tranquil state comes at the finish of the activity. Once the sensitive period is over, children are not drawn to certain activities as before. Three-year olds love to wash their hands, because they are in a sensitive period for that activity; whereas, ten-year-olds are not. There are five sensitive periods of development from birth to age six: Language, Order, Refinement of the Senses, Movement. and Social Relations. In the older child, these unique learning periods are called psychological characteristics. Sensorial Materials Montessori sensorial materials are self-correcting, hands-on materials that aid your child

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

usually takes six to eight weeks for most children to begin to build the inner structure that will give them confidence in the Montessori classroom. During this period, parents may, again, feel that a Montessori classroom is not structured enough. Another parent of a newcomer may think there is too much structure in the classroom, when children are asked to use the materials in specific ways. As long as the materials are not being abused or used in a dangerous manner, the children are free to explore the materials after they have had an introductory lesson. To the parent of a child, who is accustomed to playing with everything at home, without having to consider the effects on other people and surroundings, the Montessori classroom may appear too structured. An ‘invisible’ structure provided by the process of normalization allows your child to create an internal organization. This selfconstruction will aid the development of self-discipline that will last a lifetime. Three-Hour Work Cycle When given a regular three-hour period, children (and adults) learn to tap into a success cycle. After accomplishing a series of short and familiar tasks in a 90-minute time frame, a child will often choose a task that is challenging and represents ‘true learning.’ At this 90-minute mark, there is a period of restlessness that lasts about 10 minutes, until the choice for the challenging activity is made. The new activity may last for sixty to ninety minutes. At the end of a work cycle, it is not unusual to see a child in quiet satisfaction, smiling both outwardly and inwardly. Toddler Toddler refers to the children who have begun to walk and are in the Young Children’s Communities for children ages fourteen to thirty-six months. Upper Elementary The upper elementary is for children about ages nine to twelve years of age. See elementary environment. Whole Child In the process of aiding development, Montessorians focus on the growth of the whole child, not just academics. The paradox of focusing on the development of the whole child, through the process of normalization, is that academic interest and skills 23


bloom, as the child develops a habit of learn-commit-do, or a success cycle. As Montessorians and adults, our challenge is to lead the whole person – body, mind, heart, and spirit. Our challenge is that we must model the self-discipline, the vision, the passion and the conscience that is at the heart of true learning and self-discovery for our children. As Montessorians and adults, we walk with our children on a path of trust, helping them to understand how to live their lives, how to develop their talents, how to share their love, and how to do what’s right. Corrections on our path should strive to be of loving intention to serve the needs of the whole child. Work Cycle The development of a work cycle is an important component in the idea of normalization for the child. In our Montessori schools, every day we should try to protect a three-hour work period from interruption. A basic work cycle involves choosing an activity, doing that activity, returning the activity to order, and then experiencing a sense of satisfaction. That defines one unit or cycle of work. This sense of satisfaction, which may last a few seconds to a few minutes, helps motivate the child (and adult) to choose the next activity, thus creating another cycle of work. As the child matures, his or her work cycle will grow until the child is able to maintain a three-hour level of activity. True learning occurs during the last 90 minutes of the three-hour work cycle, when a child, after experiencing satisfaction with previous work, will choose a new and challenging activity to master. This all begins with the child choosing, doing, returning to order, feeling satisfaction, then choosing again. Each activity contributes to an upward spiral of successful learning within the child. Five-year-olds in a Montessori classroom usually begin to establish a second three-hour work cycle in the afternoon. Summary We hope this vocabulary guide will help you feel comfortable with the Montessori lingo in your child’s school. Also, if there is some idea or concept you don’t understand, please contact your child’s teacher or school administrator. They are in a sensitive period for helping parents. ❦❦❦ 24

Practical
 Life
 ❋ Sensorial
 ❋ Grace
 & C
ou
 r
 t
 e
 s
 y
 by Tim Seldin, President The Montessori Foundation

& Joyce St. Giermaine, Editor Tomorrow’s Child

efore children enter a Montessori classroom on the first day of school each year, Montessori teachers have spent many hours preparing the environment. Materials that were carefully stored in boxes during vacation time are brought out and unwrapped. Wooden shelves that were stacked in the far corner of the room to allow for a thorough cleaning of the carpet are pulled into position. Plants and classroom pets that spent their vacation at the teacher’s home are brought in from the car. A similar scene is repeated in Montessori schools around the

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


The different faces of Montessori’s prepared environment. Left: A 3-6 Early Childhood Classroom; Above: the Elementary classroom; and Below: an Upper Elementary classroom at work. Photographed at three different schools for three different ages, these classrooms share commonalities. They are bright, airy, and peaceful environments, filled with exciting ‘work’ for Montessori children.

world. Slowly, the transformation occurs, and when it is complete, each classroom will have its own unique vibration, reflecting the energy and interests of the teachers. There is, however, an underlying secret: all Montessori classrooms are prepared according to a very specific master plan. The placement of materials is not random; the use of light and arrangement of seating areas is deliberate. It is a master plan that is one hundred years old, seen through new eyes at the beginning of each school year.

In Part One of “The Guided Tour,” we will focus primarily on the prepared Practical Life and Sensorial environments of the Early Childhood classroom, because this is where it all begins, and because the materials and activities are so plentiful and exciting to young children ... and a source of mystery to most parents. In Part Two, we will see how Montessori students move

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

from the concrete (the Early Childhood classroom) to the abstract (the Elementary classroom) in the areas of Language, Math, and Science. 25


There are three key ideas that are central to the mission as a Montessori school:

A Philosophy Of Curriculum Guide The following Guide was prepared by Tim Seldin, President of The Montessori Foundation during his years as Headmaster of The Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Montessori schools are designed to prepare children both for university and for life.

It is not the adult who shapes the child; it is the child who, through his experiences, creates an adult human being.

Teaching is not something that one can do to another, we can only facilitate the natural process of learning.

There is a clear connection between one’s sense of self, of being fully alive and open to new ideas and experience, and ability to learn.

Recognizing this, we are engaged in a process of facilitating the development of self-actualized renaissance men and women. Such people are ‘teacher-proof.’ They have learned how to learn and see school as a center of an enjoyable, life-

long experience. Children with values such as these will normally go on to college, perhaps after first taking a year off for work or travel, as the natural extension of their previous education. There is a great debate over the appropriate balance between Montessori’s objective of cultivating the child’s spontaneous interest in learning, and the expectations of parents and society. Normally, a school is perceived as the transmitter of culture from one generation to the next ,through a formal curriculum. This is certainly an important part of the mission. However, as a Montessori school, we are equally committed to the development of responsible members of the human family and the protection of the child’s fragile spark of curiosity and creativity.

The spiral of the Montessori c u rriculum has no end,, and the depth to which any topic can be pursued is limited only by a student’s interests and ability. Most children know far more about the world before they start school than they will show a few years later, when they have learned to be passive learners, who don’t trust their senses, intellect, and imagination. Therefore, our greatest task is to help our students to rediscover their brain’s ability to think, intuit, discover; and to develop a sense of independence, sequence, and order—to learn how to learn. At the same time, as an independent school, parents come to us and pay a great deal of money in tuition for services available from the public schools, for which they have already paid through their taxes. They come to us seeking quality programs and services! Their highest priorities are: 1. academic excellence 2. character development 26

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Clearly, they expect their children to be well prepared for college, but, beyond this, they are looking for a school experience that will offer something special. They want a school experience that is intellectually exciting and that will develop a wide-range of talents and interests. The delivery of these services is difficult to document from the school’s end, and, from the parent’s end, even more difficult to evaluate. Thus, parents expect to be kept abreast of the programs that address these goals and their children’s progress in each program. As a result, we work carefully to maintain this delicate balance.

al world and the human experience that interconnects the traditionally separate subject disciplines. Units of study cut across the curriculum, weaving together, as one example, the land, flora and fauna, folk tales, art, dance, poetry, architecture, history, everyday life, and cooking of a country under study. The curriculum has no outer limits except for humanity’s knowledge and imagination. At the same time, our core curriculum has been carefully structured to establish benchmarks for achievement by most students by the end of each level. At its finest, Montessori is an incredibly elaborate model of education. We don’t advocate

using all these tricks and devices simply to make the school day pass more pleasantly or to prepare students for their standardized tests at the end of the year. The real aim of education, as we see it, is to prepare children to live lives filled with personal satisfaction, as responsible, concerned citizens of the Earth. An important element in achieving that goal is the development of knowledge and understanding about the world: civilization. However, along with this must come self knowledge, selfrespect, compassion, and a mind and heart open to new ideas and information. Our goal is to help children to learn how to learn. ❦❦❦

T
he
 M
at
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 r
 i
 a
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 s
 Are
 Not
 the ‘
Me
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 o
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 ’


ost newcomers to Montessori are awestruck at the array of colorful materials, purposefully arranged throughout the classroom. It is an amazing sight for adults and children. The materials almost call out to be picked-up, handled, and treated with respect. The materials, however, are not the ‘Method.’ The ‘M’ in Method is capitalized, at least in my mind, for a reason. Think of Montessori as a five-star restaurant, recognized for the best cuisine for miles around. You make a reservation, and the day arrives when you are finally seated at a beautiful table: linen tablecloth and napkins, fresh-cut flowers, exquisite water goblets, and silverware that is just the right weight to rest comfortably in your hand.There is soft music playing in the background, the lighting is just right. The restaurant is warm and

The curriculum can be thought of as having two aspects: 1. The school’s basic expectations for what will be first introduced, worked on, or reviewed and targeted for mastery by 85 percent to 90 percent of all students at each age/grade level. 2. The lessons that arise out of the children’s natural curiosity. While we follow a planned syllabus, to give us cohesion and structure, we should never be satisfied with a year spent giving students set lessons from a prescribed syllabus. By providing children with all sorts of books, pictures, specimens, and artifacts, we can almost guarantee that we will encourage their curiosity and expand their scope of learning. By this, we mean to suggest that, instead of moving through the set curriculum more quickly, we allow children to explore additional related topics that capture their interest. Montessori curriculum is designed to intrigue children and develop a lifelong love of learning. No topic is presented just once and forgotten; lessons are introduced quite concretely in the early years and are reintroduced later at increasing degrees of complexity and abstraction. Students gain experience and develop skills at one level of understanding, which prepares them for more complex lessons at the next level. The spiral of the Montessori curriculum has no end, and the depth to which any topic can be pursued is limited only by a student’s interests and ability. At the same time, our expectations are quite high; challenging each student to his/her fullest individual potential, establishing a clear standard of achievement and quality of thought and work. We encourage accelerated students to expand their studies horizontally, researching topics at greater depth and a more sophisticated level of thought and analysis. Our course of study is consciously multidisciplinary. It is an examination of the natur-

Editor’s Note: This introductory section has been written by me: a Montessori mom, and long-time editor of Tomorrow’s Child ... but not a trained Montessorian. These are my observations, based on how I have come to understand the role of the Montessori materials over the years. – Joyce St. Giermaine

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inviting, the waitstaff is calm and respectful and happy to attend to your every need. In the food-service industry, we would call this ‘ambience.’ In Montessori, we would call it a ‘prepared environment.’ When the food is served, it is everything you expected and more. You leave the restaurant feeling satisfied and happy; you made a good choice. For a minute, let’s consider how you would feel if the food were not particularly good. No amount of ambience will make up for a mediocre meal, especially if you are paying top dollar for it. Now, let’s consider how you would feel about receiving the same great meal at a small restaurant, with plastic cutlery, rock music blaring in the background, and a predominantly take-out clientele. It would certainly be a different experience, and you might actually be in the mood for something loud and fun, but maybe not every day or for a special occasion. You might be willing to overlook the lack of ambience if the food is good. If the food isn’t good, you probably won’t return. Not all Montessori schools can be compared to an expensive five-star restaurant, nor should they. Montessori education takes place in the most prestigious locales throughout the world; it is also found in migrant-worker camps and impoverished countries, where parents and teachers make their own materials from whatever is available to them in their region. Montessori materials are ‘tools’ that Dr. Montessori developed to complement and expand the principles of her Method. Although there is something called a ‘control of error’ incorporated into the design of each material, the materials, themselves, are not a substitute for the lessons they represent. Going back to our restaurant analogy: ambiance, excellent food, and great service need to go together to produce a quality product. Montessori materials are deceptively ‘simple’ in appearance, but they are surprisingly complex in design and purpose. Think of the puzzle boxes you may have had as a child. There were star-shaped holes, round holes, and square holes, along with correspondingly shaped pegs. Most of us quickly concluded that the square pegs just didn’t work in the round holes. Some of us took a bit longer, and even if we continued to disagree on a philosophical level that round and square should be interchangeable, we eventually realized that it was a waste of time to continue to try to force something to fit, where it clearly didn’t belong. That’s control of error. But what else did it teach us? Did we learn that the shapes were geometric figures? Did we learn the names of each shape? Did we discover on our own that one shape weighed more or less than the other? Could we close our eyes and recognize each shape by touch 28

alone? Could we use our finger to draw the shape in sand? Could we sound out the letter ‘s’ in star? What else is round? A plate, the earth, a goldfish bowl? And so on. The possibilities are endless. That is the Method. Take a look at the Knobbed Cylinders on page 42. Notice the concentration and excitement on the little boy’s face. To the casual observer, she is having fun with a puzzle. To a Montessori teacher, he is learning to understand the concepts of length, circumference, weight, and depth. And he’s enjoying the satisfaction of his ‘work.’ At The Montessori Foundation, we get many phone calls from well-intentioned parents and ‘traditional’ educators, who want to incorporate Montessori into their school or home environment. Often, they just want to know where they can obtain Montessori materials. This comes from the erroneous belief that it is the materials that define the methodology. Despite the elegant simplicity of the materials, there is more than one hundred years of pedagogy and implementation behind their design, and Montessori teachers are specifically trained to incorporate each material into the bigger picture of what we call the Montessori Method. At this point, our phone callers usually ask to buy the Montessori ‘manual’ to explain how to use the materials. They become frustrated and disappointed that such a book is not available, probably thinking that it’s a big secret that we are keeping to ourselves to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Not so. A good Montessori teacher, we explain, spends years of classroom study, along with classroom internship, working with children under the guidance of master Montessori teachers, to become qualified to provide lessons incorporating the Montessori materials. On page 32, look for an article by Robin Howe on table washing in the Practical Life section. Here’s an example of ‘materials’ that everyone has in their home. It looks like a simple exercise, but, as you will see, it is not just about playing in water. It teaches responsibility for the environment, develops fine- and gross-motor skills, and creates an orderly sequence of steps, enhancing the child’s ability to focus and remain on task. As you read through the descriptions of the materials in this issue, please remember that every exercise and material has a specific purpose, usually involving many steps, along with a built-in control of error. It is the coming together of methodology and materials that is behind the genius of the Montessori Method. Although the teachers are never intended to be the focal point in a Montessori classroom, it is the teachers, with their knowledge of the intended learning objectives of each lesson, the proper use of the corresponding materials, and their ability to “follow the child,” who are committed to providing the environment and guidance to implement the methodology that allows children to learn new skills, incorporate new information, and maximize their years in Montessori.

“The essence of independence is t something for one’s self.” – Mari

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


eveloping new skills that will enable us to live full and productive lives is something that all of us encounter throughout the years. It’s not just a process for the very young. Think about the last time you started a new job, took up a new hobby, moved to a new city, upgraded your computer’s software, or faced the need to re-learn old skills, as you recovered from an injury or illness. Life is familiar in the sense that you see others around you functioning, but you are not quite up to speed. You are not yet competent with the new set of circumstances, but you very much want to be! Competence, independence, willingness to embrace the challenges of change are, quite possibly, the most important building blocks of the Montessori Method. These skills will enable children to thrive – and not just survive – in their lives. We can help our children learn to read, do math, and understand science, but how can we prepare them for the changes, life experiences, and new technology they will face throughout their lifetime, when we can’t even begin to imagine what the future will hold? And so, in Montessori, we provide opportunities to help our children learn these skills at the most basic level: Practical Life.

nce is to be able to do

– Maria Montessori

Knots Happen Shoelaces learn to be tied; however, knots do happen. Liquids get spilled during pouring. Spooning exercises might run amok at the beginning with beans or marbles strewn on the floor. But that’s OK in a Montessori classroom. It’s not failure; it’s an opportunity to practice and refine skills, while taking responsibility for restoring order and caring for the classroom environment.

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Montessori provides a safe environment to experiment and learn without fear of embarrassment or reprimand. The ‘oops factor’ is an expected, and necessary, part of the process. As adults, we know how tempting it is to play it safe and only do what we know how to do well. It takes courage and self-confidence to risk the awkwardness of trying something new: whether it’s pouring water from a child-sized pitcher or learning to play tennis as an adult. One outcome of Montessori education for children, who are now adults, is their ongoing willingness to adapt to change, while pursuing new ideas and new ventures. They understand that it is not always possible to be the best at everything when they first begin, but, when they are able to measure their efforts against their own sense of self, instead of looking for validation from others, there is a greater internal satisfaction and joy in their progress and accomplishment.

The Three Rules of W o r k 1.

Out of clutter, find simplicity.

2.

From discord, find harmony.

3.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. — Attributed to Albert Einstein

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Independence does not come automatically as we grow older; it is learned. Sweeping and cleaning help children develop eye-hand coordination and motor skills. Special child-sized tools are important factors to make success possible. Imagine trying to learn to bowl with a bowling ball that is too heavy. It’s the same for children. The Montessori curriculum and prepared environment encourages success and the selfconfidence that follows. With the development of skills, children increasingly become responsible for their environment, which is why Dr. Montessori called it a children’s ‘house’ or ‘community.’ It is this combination of skills and responsibility that characterizes Montessori children throughout their time in Montessori and throughout life.

Spooning E

The spooning exercises require not only motor skills, but concentration, on the part of young children. A variety of spooning materials are used.

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ng Exercises Children love the challenge of using a spoon to transfer materials from one container to another. Take a closer look at the containers in the photos and the manner in which the exercises are presented. There is an elegance to even the simplest Montessori exercises. Containers are selected for form as well as function.

Pouring

The water exercises might very well become your child’s favorite ‘work.’ Using child-sized pitchers and containers, children master precision as they transfer liquids from one container to another. Notice the little trays that define (and confine) the critical components of the exercise, including a little sponge for cleanup. This is clearly an exercise that your children will love to demonstrate at home. Add sieves and turkey basters to expand the exercise. A little food coloring added to the water enhances the experience. Editor’s Note: Be on the look-out for spontaneous opportunities for your children to demonstrate their newly developed pouring skills, opportunities that may not have the built-in success rate they experience in their Montessori classroom. For example: When you are in a restaurant that provides your table with an adult-sized pitcher of water, along with empty glasses, you may want to pay extra attention, and possibly make adjustments, to your dining environment – sooner rather than later. In law, we’d call this situation an ‘attractive nuisance.’ In weather jargon, it would be ‘the perfect storm.’ I remember all too well looking away from my Montessori child for a nanosecond, which was all it took for him to grab the pitcher with both hands. I turned back just in time to see an entire pitcher of ice water, along with the plastic glass that was its intended destination, land in my lap. I don’t remember screaming or reprimanding (at least I hope I didn’t). Anyway, a word to the wise: Montessori children love to demonstrate their work!

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Why do Montessori students spend so much time washing tables? Step 1: Invitation to a Lesson

Anatomy of a Lesson Step 2: Apron

Step 4: Preparing Materials

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Step 3: Collecting Materials for Lesson

Step 5: Getting Water

ronically, I missed the session of my Montessori teacher training when we were given the lesson on how to wash tables. I remember doing it as a Montessori child. How hard could it be? I was just getting out of my first career in the restaurant business, and someone was going to teach me how to wash a table? I had washed and set tables for the rich and famous. I had cleaned more tables than everyone in that class combined. I was, in fact, relieved to miss this day. The summer training session ended, with my teacher-trainer reminding me that I still needed to have a lesson on table washing. A month later, about three weeks into the school year at Island Village Montessori School in Venice, FL, where I was doing my internship, my head teacher, Ms. Wilfriede, a wonderful, experienced Montessorian, invited me to join her while she gave a review lesson to one of the returning students on table washing. Great, I thought! This was my opportunity to receive the lesson, seemingly without missing a beat. About twenty minutes later, I found myself sitting

ŠTomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


there observing a four-year-old finish up his work, while I, the ‘non-lesson-needing expert,’ watched dumfounded. I once thought that table washing was one of the most remedial tasks that a Montessori student would ever have to learn. As a result of watching this lesson, and essentially being humbled by a four-year -old (also an experience that has since occurred on many occasions), I have come to realize how important and difficult this work is. I have now learned how to give this lesson, and it never ceases to amaze me that it is so complicated. More amazing is the way that my students seem to pick it up so quickly and how I still, after many lessons, have to focus in order to perform it correctly. For these reasons, I would like to share the lesson, as well as some observations, on how children respond to this exercise. It is my hope that others will gain a better appreciation for the complexity of this lesson and will, as a result, appreciate its importance and contribution as a part of the Montessori curriculum. When working with any water exercise, the first step is to have the child put on an apron. Students are already familiar with where aprons are kept in the classroom, as well as how to put one on. Next, the teacher asks the student to accompany him or her to where the table-washing kit is located on the shelf. The child is either shown or asked to identify the table-washing kit and is then asked to take it to the side of the table that will be washed, placing the kit on the floor next to the table. Included in the table washing kit are the soap in the soap dish, a soap brush, a pitcher for gathering the water, a drying cloth, and a hand towel that will serve as a mat for the materials. Generally, the materials are kept in the basin that will be used for the water. With the hand towel in place on the floor, the materials are arranged along the top of the hand towel in the order of: soap, brush, and drying towel from left to right, with the water pitcher and the basin along the bottom. (This lesson may vary slightly depending on the classroom and the teacher.) After all the materials are placed on the towel, water is brought to the table using the water pitcher. Children have to fetch the water, which exercises body control as they navigate through the classroom, returning carefully with a pitcher filled with water (about two-thirds full). Then the water is poured from the pitcher to the basin. The pouring of water from a pitcher is an extension of work that the student has already mastered in earlier Practical Life lessons. Next, the sponge is wet and pressure is applied to release excess water. Again, both the wetting of the sponge, as well and the squeezing of the sponge are skills that children already possess, as a result of previous lessons in Practical Life. Using the damp sponge, from left to right, top to bottom, the table is wet. The sponge is then

Step 6: Pouring Water

Step 7: Wringing out Sponge

Step 9: Rinsing Sponge

Step 8: Wiping

Step 10: Preparing Scrub Brush

Step 11: Scrubbing

Step 12: Drying Ta b l e

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

Step 13: Removing Used Water 33


Step 14: Pouring Used Water into Bucket

Step 15: Returning Table Washing Materials to Proper Place on Shelf

Step 16: Thanks – I can do it by myself!

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returned to the mat at the top left corner of the towel. Next, the child wets the brush in the water of the basin and gently shakes off excess water. With soap in left hand and brush in right hand, the student lightly soaps the brush and then returns the soap to the soap dish along the top of the mat. Starting at the top left of the table, moving in a circular motion, from left to right, he applies soap to the table. After the first horizontal row is complete, the brush is rinsed and the soaping process is repeated, until the table is sufficiently soaped. There should be small, but visible, suds on the surface of the table. After rinsing the brush and shaking off excess water, the brush is returned to the towel, which serves as a mat, absorbing any excess water. The sponge is wet once again. As an extension of this Practical Life exercise, the student might be asked to count how many compresses the sponge gets and then count the number of squeezes in order to expel excess water. Wiping from top to bottom, starting from the left to right, the child makes three rows down, focusing on the suds that have gathered on the bottom of the sponge. The child rinses the sponge after each set of three vertical rows and continues until the table is free of soap suds. After the surface is completely clear, the child checks the edge for suds and wipes it accordingly. The table is now clean, and the smaller towel is used to dry the table. The movement, from left to right, with small circular motions, is repeated, using the towel, until table is dry. The towel is folded and replaced to the right of the brush along the top of the mat. At this point, the table is clean, and the basin is filled with soapy water. The student then takes the basin and disposes of the soapy water. The process of disposing of the water is also a very important part of the lesson. The child, again, has to navigate through the classroom, focusing on his movement and the balance of the basin as to not spill the water. This is great practice for walking slowly and being patient. In this classroom, the child uses a bucket to dump the water. Once the water is dumped, the basin is returned to the bottom of the mat. Then, using the pitcher, more water is brought and poured into the basin. Using his fingertips, the child sloshes the water around releasing soap scum from edges of the basin. Again, the basin is emptied into the bucket and then returned to mat. Using the small drying towel, the basin is dried. With the towel in hand, the soap dish, pitcher and, if necessary, the brush dish are dried and then put back into the basin, which is already dry. The wet towel is hung to dry on the drying rack or laundry

line, and the table-washing kit is returned to its original place on the Practical Life shelf. Remembering each step is daunting for an adult, which is why I find it amazing that children are so quickly able to learn this work, often after only one lesson. This lesson is important for many reasons. As mentioned during the lesson description, the child has to practice patience, while exercising fine-motor skills, as well as balance. Furthermore, his ability to sequence is challenged, as the proper completion of the work is dependent upon his ability to follow the proper steps. Another important aspect of this lesson, perhaps overlooked much of the time, is the time that the student spends working with the teacher. This is one of the longest lessons and can often take up to fifteen minutes. During this process, children must listen carefully and ask questions, which helps them develop important language skills. I hope that my description of this exercise offers some insight into the Montessori classroom and instills a sense of respect and feeling of awe for the children. Similar to the mistake I made, many people may assume that these lessons with simple names must, indeed, be simple, causing us to wonder how they could be so important. Indeed, I have come to realize that they are important, not only as a part of children’s Montessori academic curriculum but also their development as people.

Daniel Robinson (Robin) Howe, III was a Montessori student from age two through the eighth grade. He has a BA from Dickinson College, an MA f rom USF and is pursuing his Montessori training through the International Montessori Council (IMC) and the Palm Harbor Teacher Education Center (Palm Harbor, FL). Many thanks to Brennan in Ms. Wilfriede’s class at Island Village Montessori School in Venice, FL.

Exercise Completed

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Caring for Their Environment Montessori children learn to treat their classrooms as their ‘home away from home.’ They take pride in caring for the cleaning and beautifying of their environment. It is not happenstance that Dr. Montessori referred to the Montessori classroom as a casa – Italian for ‘home.’ The little girl above is arranging flowers to be placed in vases distributed throughout the classroom.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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Independence comes from learning to control their bodies and to care for themselves & others Children work with several different Dressing Frames, each of which teaches a specific skill: buttoning, tying, snapping, zipping. Why then, do Montessori teachers ask parents to send their young children to school in comfortable, easy-to-manage clothing, such as pull-on pants and T-shirts? Before they have mastered the skills to button, zip, and tie, they need to be independent—successful in caring for themselves, especially when it comes to visiting the bathroom. It won’t take long before they can do everything the big kids can do. Soon, they will stop you when it comes time to put on their coats, eager to show you how they do it in class. It’s a sight to behold!

In Montessori, children learn to listen to their bodies. When they are hungry, they prepare a snack, cleaning up after themselves when they are finished. You will often see young students cutting fresh fruit for themselves and their friends.

Left: Walking the line, heel to toe, helps children develop balance and control of their bodies, allowing them to move carefully and gracefully around the room. Once they have developed basic line-walking skills, children are then challenged to carry items that should not be dropped, such as Montessori materials, small flags, or a tray of cups. 36

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue 2008 • www.montessori.org


Safety first: Notice the goggles and how the child has been taught to keep his non-hammering hand out of the way. Plus, the nails have already been started!

Using an old-fashioned washboard and the classroom sink, children wash the cotton napkins they have used at lunch, place them on a drying rack, and then iron them with a small, child-sized, low- temperature iron. The napkins are then folded and ready for the next day.

Montessori children are provided opportunities to sew, crochet, string beads and do needlepoint. Not only are they learning a Practical Life skill, they are also developing their fine-motor dexterity.

ŠTomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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earning how to work and play together with others, in a peaceful and caring community, is perhaps the most critical life skill that Montessori teaches. Learning how to greet someone graciously is one of the first acts of courtesy learned in the Montessori classroom. Everyday kindness and courtesy are vital Practical Life skills. Lessons in Grace and Courtesy teach everyday social customs, such as how to enter a room, not to disturb another’s work, how to ask if you may join in an activity, how to decline an invitation graciously, table manners, and how to offer an apology. Even the youngest child is treated by her teachers and classmates with dignity and respect, and the everyday example of the older children behaving graciously reinforces the lessons in kindness. Montessori students come to understand and accept that we all have responsibilities to other people. They learn how to handle new situations that they will face as they become increasingly independent. They develop a clear sense of values and social conscience and absorb everyday ethics and interpersonal skills from the earliest years. The Silence Game helps children develop a much higher level of self-discipline, along with a greater awareness of the sounds around us that most people take for granted. In this group activity, the teacher will get the children’s attention, either by ringing a small bell or by hanging up a sign with the command Silence. The children stop where they are or gather on the line, close their eyes, and try to remain perfectly still. The children sit still, with their eyes shut, and wait to hear the teacher whisper their name. When they hear it ever so softly spoken, they silently rise and join the teacher. Sometimes the teachers will vary the Silence Game by challenging the children to carry bells across the room without allowing them to ring, or they may

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Lessons in Grace, Courtesy & Community Service use the calm atmosphere to introduce the children to guided visualization. At first, the younger children may not be able to hold the silence for more than twenty or thirty seconds, but gradually their ability to relax, listen, and appreciate the perfectly calm environment increases. In many classes, the Silence Game is an important daily ritual. Montessori schools are almost always closeknit communities of people, living and learning together in an atmosphere of warmth, safety, kindness, and mutual respect. Teachers become mentors and friends. Students learn to value the different backgrounds and interests of their classmates.

The Silence Game

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Teaching Peace & Compassion The Peace Table (below) plays an im- that ever again, if you want to be my friend!” portant role in Montessori classrooms. Two Now that she has stated her case and opened children having a disagreement will normally the door for further discussion, she withdraws decide to retreat to the Peace Table to solve their her hand from the table and from her heart problem. Sometimes, children may not re- and gives Lisa a chance to respond. member, and the suggestion might come from Lisa proceeds that same way. She places a the teacher. When classmates observe an on- hand on the table and one on her heart, looks going disagreement, somebody might bring Eleanor in the eye, and responds: them a peace rose with the reminder to solve “Eleanor, I feel unhappy that you are angry. their problem at the Peace Table. I did not mean to hurt your feelings. However, Once arrived at the table, the child who feels Lily is a good friend of mine also, and the game wronged places her hand on the table, indi- we played can be played by only two children. cating that she wants to have her say without If I had been playing it with you, nobody else interruption. The other hand she places on her heart, indicating that she speaks the truth, from the heart. She then looks the other in the eye, speaks her name, “Lisa,” and proceeds to state how she feels, “Lisa, I feel very angry ...” and continues to state why she feels that way, “... because you didn’t let me play with you and Lily!” She states how she wants to resolve the conflict: The Peace Table “And I don’t want you to do ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

could have joined us either. So, you see, it’s just one of those things. I want to remain your friend.” With that, Lisa is finished and withdraws her hands. Now it is Eleanor’s turn to agree or disagree. In any case, they continue the dialogue until they reach some kind of agreement, even if that means that they disagree. At least they are talking, without yelling, screaming, and blaming. They want to solve the problem. When they have reached an agreement, they ring the bell to let the others know. In case they cannot come to a positive conclusion, they may ask for a mediator. This may be one of the older children, who has been trained to be impartial and to listen well. However, if the problem or conflict is too involved, then one of them may ask for a poww o w. During a pow-wow, the entire class, or a large part of the class, sits in a circle, listens to first one, then the other person’s side of the story. The class members contribute what they can, either as facts of what they have seen or heard, as ethics (right and wrong), or in perspective to class rules, upon which all have agreed previously. It is wise for the teacher to observe and monitor the entire process from the sidelines. The core experience the students gain from these procedures is that it is necessary to solve disturbances honestly and with good will to maintain a harmonious and cooperative atmosphere in the community.

Community service is an important element in Elementary and Secondary Montessori programs. Even very young children can learn to share with friends and help their classroom community.

Community Service 39


A

child interacts with the physical world through her senses. From birth, she will look, listen, touch, taste, pick up, manipulate, and smell almost anything that comes into her grasp. At first, everything goes into the mouth. Gradually, she begins to explore each object’s weight, texture, and temperature. She may watch something that catches her attention, such as a butterfly, with infinite patience. The Sensorial curriculum is designed to help children focus their attention more carefully on the physical world, exploring with each of their senses the subtle variations in the properties of objects. At first, children may simply be asked to sort among a prepared series of objects that vary by only one aspect, such as height, length, or width. Other exercises challenge them to find identical pairs or focus on very different physical properties, such as aroma, taste, weight, shades of color, temperature, or sound. These exercises are essentially puzzles, and they tend to fascinate children, because they are just difficult enough to represent a meaningful challenge. Each has a built-in control of error that allows children who are observant to check their own work. The Sensorial exercises include lessons in vocabulary, as the children master the names of everything from sophisticated plane and solid geometric figures to the parts of familiar plants and animals. As the Inuit people of the Arctic demonstrate to us with their many different words for snow, we observe that as the children learn the correct names for things, the objects themselves take on meaning and reality as the children learn to recognize and name them. Why is it so important to educate the young child’s senses? We certainly don’t believe that we can improve a child’s hearing or sight through training. However, we can help children to pay attention, to focus their awareness, and to learn how to observe and consider what comes into their experience. In a way, the Sensorial curriculum accomplishes something like a course in wine tasting or music appreciation; one learns to taste, smell, or hear what is experienced with a much deeper awareness and appreciation. These exercises can help children understand and appreciate their world more fully. The Montessori Bells (left) extend the child’s ability to distinguish sounds into the area of musical pitch. They are a lovely set of bells fixed to little wooden bases. Each bell is tuned to either a whole or a half note on the standard musical scale. The entire set comprises one entire octave, including sharps and flats. The set includes one set of bells with tan bases for both half and whole notes, and a second set in which the bases of the bells that sound the whole notes are painted white, and those for the sharps and flats are painted black. At first the children learn how to strike the bells with a small mallet to produce a clear note and dampen them with a little felt covered rod. Then the teacher will set out two or three pairs of bells from the two sets. The children match the pairs that produce identical notes. When they can do this easily, additional pairs are added until they can match entire sets. A more difficult exercise challenges the children to grade the bells of just one set by pitch, from the lowest to highest notes. As they become more familiar with the bells, children will commonly learn how to play and compose little melodies.

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©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


The Pink Tower (left) is one of the Sensorial materials that children enjoy working with early in their Montessori experience. The Pink Tower, or Tower of Cubes, is composed of a graduated series of ten wooden cubes. The largest cube has a square section of 10 centimeters per side and is 10 centimeters high. Thus, it measures 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters. The square section and height of each of the succeeding cubes decreases by 1 centimeter, down to the smallest cube, which measures 1 x 1 x 1 centimeter. Children carefully carry the Tower, cube by cube, to the little rug that defines their work area. They carry each cube comfortably at waist height, as they take the cubes and place them in random order upon the carpet. As they manipulate the cubes and carry them across the room, children get a very strong impression of size and weight. When all the cubes have been carried to the rug, a child looks for the largest one and begins to build the Tower, one cube at a time. At each step, he looks through the cubes that have not yet been added to the Tower to find the largest. As each is placed on the Tower, the child controls his movements to place the cube gently down right in the center of the larger cube on which it is rested. Once the Tower has been constructed, the child carefully takes it down and either begins again or returns the cubes, one by one, to their proper place on the shelf. Some people have heard that in Montessori, children are taught that there is only one way to work with each material. In truth, the children explore and discover all sorts of creative ways to work with them. For example, students will construct the Tower horizontally, or line up two edges to create a vertical stairway. The children will also build the Pink Tower in various combinations with the Brown Stair along with some of the other Sensorial materials.

The Brown Stair

also known as

the Broad Stair

The Brown Stair, which is sometimes called the Broad Stair, is made up of ten rectangular prisms, with bases that have exactly the same graduated measurements as the cubes of the Pink Tower, but which are uniformly 20 centimeters long. The child is challenged to scatter them around her rug and then sort them by size to place all ten prisms in proper order from thickest to thinnest. This results in a graduated series of rectangular prisms that resembles a little stairway. Because the squared sides of each prism correspond to the dimensions of the cubes of the Pink Tower, the two materials are often used together for all sorts of exploration and designs. ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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Cylinder
 Block

Red Rods

The Red Rods (above) are a series of ten rods (thin rectangular prisms) of which the height and width are uniform; however, they range in length from 1 decimeter (10 centimeters) to a full meter (10 decimeters or 100 centimeters). The child scatters the rods around her rug and looks for the longest. As each is arranged next to the others in a series, the child discovers the regular progression of length. The teachers introduce vocabulary: short, shorter, shortest; long, longer, longest. The Red Rods are exactly the same dimensions as the Red and Blue Rods in the Math area, which help children learn to count by showing the growth of quantity as length, distinguished by alternating patterns of red and blue to represent each number.

The Cylinder Blocks (below) are a set of four naturally finished (unpainted) rectangular blocks of wood, into which have been cut ten cylindrical holes. Each hole is filled with a matching wooden cylindrical inset, fitted with a little knob on the top to make it easy for a child’s small hand to grasp and lift it out of its perfectly fitted hole. Each set of cylinders is constructed to vary in a regular sequence by either diameter, length, or both. The children remove each cylinder in turn, carefully tracing its length and circumference and the depth and circumference of each hole with one finger. Once all ten cylinders have been removed and placed on the rug, the children take each in turn and find the hole

Knobbed Cylinders

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into which it fits perfectly, with the top of the cylinder flush with the top of the cylinder block. If they’ve made a mistake, the children can normally see it for themselves because all ten cylinders will not fit correctly. The children quickly begin to challenge themselves by attempting to ‘see’ which hole is likely to fit the cylinder in their hand rather than trying to fit each into one hole after the other. After a while, they will begin to do the same exercise with their eyes blindfolded, relying on touch alone. When they are ready for a greater challenge, the children will mix the cylinders from two, three, or all four blocks together and try to fit them all into the corresponding holes.

The Knobless Cylinders (opposite page, top left) correspond to the four Knobbed Cylinder Blocks. With this material, each of these sets is painted red, yellow, blue, or green. With no cylindrical holes, the children depend upon sight or touch alone to arrange the cylinders. Children will sometimes work with both the Knobless Cylinders and the more familiar Knobbed Cylinders from the Cylinder Blocks together (left), finding the match between each brightly painted and unpainted cylinder in turn. By working with all four sets of Knobless Cylinders together, children discover all sorts of geometric patterns and progressions within the material.

Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


o
ck 
 s 


Rough and Smooth Boards

Knobless Cylinders

The Sandpaper Tablets (below) are a set of wooden tablets covered with several different grades of sandpaper. The challenge is to identify pairs that have the same degree of roughness, working by touch alone. An extension of these activities is commonly created by assembling a collection of pairs of cloth swatches cut from many different materials, each with its own texture. Again, working with eyes blindfolded, the children attempt to find the pairs by touch. Like all Montessori exercises, there is a built-in control of error. In this case, the children learn to check their work by removing the blindfold and seeing if they have identified the correct pair.

Sandpaper Tablets Photo courtesy of Nienhuis

Another exercise begins with the Rough and Smooth Boards (shown above), which have a surface that alternates between the roughness of sandpaper and a smooth finished surface. The children wash their hands in warm water before beginning to make them more sensitive.

The Color Tablets help the child learn to distinguish among primary and secondary colors and tones, while mastering the words used to describe each color and shade. There are three separate boxes of Color Tablets. All of the tablets have the same shape and differ only in color. The first box of Color Tablets contains six tablets, two each of yellow, red, and blue. The children simply match the pairs and learn the spoken names of the colors. The second box of Color Tablets contains eleven pairs of secondary colors and tones, which the children match and name. The third box of Color Tablets contains seven different shades of nine different colors, which the children learn to sort in order from lightest to darkest shade. When all of the tablets are laid out in an array it creates a lovely display of color. There are many ways in which the children and teachers can make the color tablets more challenging. For example, the children will try to find the tablet that is closest in color to something in the environment. Another challenge is to give the child a color tablet from the third box and ask him to go to the box and, by memory alone, bring back the tablet that is just one shade lighter or darker.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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One of the children’s favorite activities is the Mystery Bag or Box (shown left). Normally, it is simply a cloth bag or box with a hole for their hands in which they touch and manipulate objects that they cannot see. One activity is to place things that are familiar to the children inside and challenge them to identify them by touch alone.

The Geometric Solids

The Geometry Cabinet is essentially a set of puzzles made in the shapes of the essential plane geometric figures. It consists of six drawers, each of which is fitted with several wooden frames, inset with a geometric form. In addition to the familiar circle, square, and rectangle, the child is introduced to a much broader array of complex figures, from the right scalene triangle to the decagon; and from ellipse to the curvilinear triangle through the quatrefoil. In addition to removing the pieces and replacing them in their frames, children sequence some shapes by size and classify other shapes by type. They also learn how to match them against three sets of printed cards that represent the same figures in increasing degrees of abstraction. The first set represents each shape completely colored in on the card in the same size as the piece from the cabinet. The children simply cover each card with the matching puzzle piece. In the second set, the geometric shapes are printed as outlines drawn with broad lines that leave the inner area white. In the third set, the figures are simply traced with thin lines. As children gradually begin to recognize the more abstract representations of the three-dimensional objects, they are preparing themselves to recognize the little lines and squiggles of the written word. Gradually, children learn the names of each of the geometric shapes. Once children begin to read and can verbally identify the shapes, they begin to label them with pre-printed name cards. Eventually, the children will be able to prepare their own cards from scratch. 44

The logical basis for the Geometry Cabinet is the set of Geometric Solids (pictured above right and directly below). The children learn the names of these beautiful wooden forms, identifying them at first by sight and eventually when blindfolded. The set includes a sphere, cube, rectangular prism, a square-based and broad pyramid, triangular pyramid, ovoid, ellipsoid, and a cone. The children quickly begin to look for each geometric form in their environment. They also begin to discover the relationship between the two-dimensional figures and the solid forms: a circle is related to a sphere, a square to a cube, etc. As they begin to read, children will learn to match Geometric Solids to a set of prepared label cards. Eventually, they will be able to prepare their own. This early introduction to geometry continues in the Elementary Montessori program. After years of handson experience with geometric figures and other mathematical exercises, children normally find it very easy to grasp m o r e a dvanced concepts, from the definitions of geometric terms to the calculation of area, volume, and circumference.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


The importance of puzzles in the Montessori approach Every one who has worked with young children, whether as parent or teacher, knows how much they enjoy wooden puzzles; however, most of us take puzzles more or less for granted and fail to appreciate their hidden potential as an educational tool. The puzzles that we commonly give to young children depict little animals or cute scenes. Dr. Montessori came to recognize that the attraction of fitting the pieces of a puzzle into the insets on their frames lies in the process of manipulating an object in all directions, and finally discovering the one and only correct way that it will fit. There is more to all this than simply the satisfaction of solving a puzzle. Somehow, we find that young children experience things that they can touch and manipulate quite differently from a picture of something printed on a piece of paper. In short, the positive and negative insets of a puzzle are much more real and interesting to a child than a simple two-dimensional picture. In the Montessori classroom, puzzles are not only used to help children learn to manipulate objects and assemble a complex whole from several parts, they are used to introduce children to a tremendous range of concepts and vocabulary, from geometric shapes to the countries of the world and the parts of a flower.

The Binomial and Trinomial Cubes These cubes are two of the most fascinating materials in the Montessori curriculum. At one level, they are simply a complex puzzle in which the child is challenged to rebuild the cubes and rectangular prisms contained in the box back into the form of a larger cube. Color-coding on the outside of the box and the sides of certain pieces helps the child detect the pattern. The material is also an exercise in algebra and geometry, representing in concrete form the cube of a binomial (a+b)3 (above left) and a trinomial (a+b+c)3 (below left) where a=3 cm., b=4 cm., and c=5 cm.

Editorial Note: The materials described on these two pages may not seem to the layperson to be Sensorial in nature, as much as algebraic or geometric. They are, however, included in the Sensorial curriculum, because this is where they are introduced to Montessori students in the early years. The Constructive Triangles allow children to explore the geometric possibilities inherent within several different types of triangles. The material consists of six boxes, each of which contains a set of brightly colored, flat wooden triangles, which can be manipulated like a puzzle to explore congruency and equivalence. For example, two right triangles joined together along the hypotenuse form a rectangle. To help the young child recognize the essential relationships, most of the triangles have a line drawn along those edges that join together to form new figures, such as rectangles, squares, trapezoids, and polygons. Working with the Constructive Triangles, children explore how various triangles can form regular polygons in geometry. The young child at left is working with the Continent Puzzle.

ŠTomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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A
 Guided
 Tour
 of
 the Early
 Childhood
 & E
le 
 m 
 e 
 n 
 t 
 a 
 r 
 y 
 M
on 
 t 
 e 
 s 
 s 
 o 
 r 
 i 
 Classrooms:
 
 Part
 Two

Reading,
 Composition
 &
 Literature
 Math
 Science
 Geography
 History
 Cultural
 Studies
 The
 Arts
 Health
 & We
ll
 n
 e
 s
 s
 ●

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n Part Two of our Guided Tour, we will see how Montessori students move from the concrete (the Early Childhood classroom) to the abstract (the Elementary classroom) in the areas of Language, Math, History, Geography, Cultural Studies, and Science. Not all Montessori schools offer elementary programs, but in the following pages, you will see how the Montessori curriculum in the older classrooms builds on the foundation of the primary level. Tomorr o w’s Child has also explored, throughout the years, how Montessori is used in infant/toddler and secondary programs. It is also being adapted for use with Alzheimer’s patients.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


T

he process of learning how to read should be as painless and simple as learning how to speak. Montessori begins by placing the youngest students in classes where the older students are already reading. All children want is to “do what the big kids can do,” and as the intriguing work that absorbs the older students involves reading, there is a natural lure for the young child.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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Beginning at age two or three, Montessori children are introduced to a few letters at a time until they have mastered the entire alphabet. They trace each letter as it would be written, using two fingers of their dominant hand. As they trace the letter’s shape, they receive three distinct impressions: they see the shape of the letter, they feel its shape and how it is written, and they hear the teacher pronounce its sound.

The Sandpaper Letters (left) are a set of prepared wooden tablets in which each letter is printed in white sandpaper, glued down against a smooth colored background. Montessori’s research confirmed what observant parents have always known: Children learn best by touch and manipulation, not by repeating what they are told. Her manipulative approach to teaching children to read phonetically is nothing short of simple brilliance and should have long ago become a basic element in every early childhood classroom around the world.

Sandpaper Letters Children move from the Sandpaper Letters (above) to tracing them in fine sand (above right and below). The teacher and child will begin to identify words that begin with the kuh sound: cat, candle, can, and cap. Seeing the tablets for the letters c, a, and t laid out before her, a child will pronounce each in turn — kuh, aah, tuh: cat! To help children distinguish between them, consonants are printed against pink or red backgrounds and vowels against blue. Many Montessori classrooms use Sandpaper Letters that don’t follow the traditional circleand-line approach of teaching a young child the alphabet. Both cursive alphabets and D’Nelian letters (a modified form of italic printing that facilitates the jump to cursive) are available and used with excellent results. Montessori found that children in her schools were capable of encoding words months before they developed the eye-hand coordination needed to control a pencil. By using specially prepared moveable alphabets, Montessori separated the process of beginning to write from its dependency on the child’s ability to write with paper and Tracing Letters in Sand pencil. 48

The Writing Road to Reading To help children develop the eye-hand coordination needed to correctly grasp and write with a pencil, Montessori introduced them to a set of metal frames and insets made in the form of geometric shapes. When the geometric inset is removed, the children trace the figure left within the frame onto a sheet of paper. Then they use colored pencils to shade in the outlines that they’ve traced, using careful horizontal strokes. Gradually, children become more skilled at keeping the strokes even and staying within the lines. As they get older, children begin to superimpose several insets over each other, creating complex designs which, when colored in, resemble stained glass. Montessori children will often prepare beautiful little books of their metal Metal Insets inset work.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Composing words (articles and nouns) with the Moveable Alphabet Montessori teaches basic skills phonetically, encouraging children to compose their own stories using the Moveable Alphabet. Reading skills normally develop so smoothly in Montessori classrooms that students tend to exhibit a sudden “explosion into reading,” which leaves the children and their families beaming with pride. Another unusual result of the Montessori approach is that young children will often be able to write (encoding language by spelling phonetic words out one sound at a time), weeks or months before they will be able to read comfortably (decoding printed words). Once children have begun to recognize several letters and their sounds with the Sandpaper Letters, they are introduced to the Moveable Alphabet, a large box with compartments containing plastic letters, organized much like an old-fashioned printer’s box of metal type. The children compose words by selecting a small object or picture and then laying out the word one letter at a time. As with the Sandpaper Letters, they sound out words one letter at a time, selecting the letter that makes that sound. The phonetic approach, which has mysteriously fallen out of favor in many schools, has long been recognized by educators as the single most effective way to teach most children how to read and write. However, we have to remember that, unlike Italian and Spanish, English is not a completely phonetic language. Just consider the several different sounds made by the letters ough. There is the sound off as in cough, or ufff as in rough or enough, or the sound oooh as in the word through, or the sound ah as in thought. Altogether, there are some ninety-six different phonograms (combinations of letters that form distinct sounds) in the English language (such as ph, ee, ai, oo, etc.). It is not surprising that in the early years, as young children are beginning to compose words, phrases, sentences, and stories, their spelling can sometimes get a bit creative. For example, the word phone is frequently spelled fon. Montessori teachers deliberately avoid correcting children’s spelling during these early years, preferring to encourage them to become more confident in their ability to sound words out rather than risk that they will shut down from frequent correction. The process of composing words with the Moveable Alphabet continues for many years, gradually moving from three-letter words to four- and five-letter words with consonant blends (fl, tr, st), double vowels (oo, ee), silent e’s, and so on.

NOTE: Many parents find it curious that Montessori children are not taught the names of letters; instead, they learn the sounds that we pronounce as we phonetically sound out words one letter at a time. For a long time, children may not know the names of letters at all, but will call them by the sounds they make: buh, cuh, aah, etc. This eliminates one of the most unnecessary and confusing steps in learning to read: “The letter A stands for apple. The sound it makes is aah.” As children begin to work with the Sandpaper Letters, teachers will lead them through a wide range of pre-reading exercises designed to help them recognize the beginning, and later the ending and middle sounds in short phonetic words. One common example would be a basket containing three Sandpaper Letters, such as c, b, and f. In addition, the basket will contain small inexpensive objects that are models of things beginning with these letters. The basket described above might contain little plastic objects representing a cat, cap, can, bug, bag, bat, fish, fig, and fan (no consonant blends). In another exercise, we will substitute little cards with pictures instead of the small objects. Cards with the names of familiar objects are commonly found in most kindergartens. However, in Montessori, children take this much further, learning the names of and placing the appropriate labels on a bewildering array of geometric shapes, leaf forms, the parts of flowers, countries of the world, land and water forms, and much, much more. Montessori children are known for their incredible vocabularies. Where else would you find four-year-olds who can identify an isosceles triangle, rectangular prism, the stamen of a flower, or the continent of Asia on a map? When will children start to read? There is typically a quick jump from reading and writing single words to sentences and stories. For some children, this “explosion into reading” will happen when they’re four, for others when they’re five, and some will start to read at six. A few will read even earlier, and some others will taken even longer. Most will be reading very comfortably when they enter first grade, but children are different, and as with every other developmental milestone, it’s useless to fret. Again, the children are surrounded by older children who can read, and the most intriguing things to do in the classroom depend on one’s ability to read. This creates a natural interest and desire to catch up to the ‘big kids’ and join the ranks of readers. As soon as children, no matter how young they are, show the slightest interest, we begin to teach them how to read. And when they are ready, the children pull it all together and are able to read and write on their own.

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Teaching Children the Consonant Blends and Phonograms of the English Language Montessori uses two sets of small Moveable Alphabets, each made of a different color, to help the children master consonant blends, such as fl, st, ch, cl, cr, or tr. A consonant blend requires the child to blend two distinct letter sounds together into one, as we do when we say flag or train. fl ag fl at fl eet fl ee fl ing fl ower The child lays out several copies of the consonant blend with one color of the Moveable Alphabet. Then she completes the words by adding the remaining letters in the Moveable Alphabet printed in the second color. An example might be tr...ip, tr...ade, tr...ain, and tr...iangle. Phonograms are the combinations of letters in the English language that form new sounds on their own, such as ee, ai, oa, oo, and o u. Some phonograms, such as ow, can make more than one sound. For example, ow has one sound in tow and still another in down. The children construct words containing phonograms using two Moveable Alphabets just as they do the Consonant Blends. Montessori teachers will normally prepare little booklets, each of which contains many examples of one particular Consonant Blend or Phonogram.

The Verb Command Cards One of the early reading exercises introduced to Montessori children once they have begun to read are the Verb Command Cards. This is a set of red cards on which a single one-word command (a verb) is printed. Typically, two or three children will do this work together as a little game. They pick a card, read it, and perform the command: hop, smile, yawn, sleep, clap, sit, stand, wave, eat, drink,

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The Study of Grammar & Sentence Analysis We begin to teachthe functions of grammar and sentence structure to children as young as age five and six, just as they are first learning how to put words together to express themselves. This leads them to master these vital skills. Before long, they learn to write naturally and well. Montessori Grammar Materials

(Above) This eight-year-old is analyzing the grammatical structure of a complex sentence using the grammar symbols and the grammar boxes.

Montessori children use geometric symbols to represent the parts of speech, as in the simple article, adjective, noun, verb, and adverb sentence pictured below. Montessori created a set of symbols to represent each part of speech, which helps the children learn them easily during a time in their lives when it is a delight rather than a chore. For example, the symbol for a noun is a large black triangle. Because they are related to the “noun family,” the symbols for an article and an adjective are also triangles. To distinguish them from the noun, which they modify, the symbol for an adjective is a dark blue triangle about one-third smaller than the larger symbol for the noun, and the symbol for an article is a much smaller light blue triangle. The children will often call the noun a “naming word,” an adjective a “describing word,” a verb a “doing word,” and so on. The symbol for a verb is a large red circle (implying a ball, or movement, since verbs describe action), and the symbol for an adverb is a smaller orange circle, showing that it is related to the verb.

Puzzle Words: Some words, most of which have come to English from other languages, just don’t follow the familiar rules. Examples of Puzzle Words are: the, was, you, they, and their. They have to be learned by memory. This young lady is diagramming a simple sentence with the first sentence-analysis materials.

and so on. Once they can read these one-word command cards, later sets will use complete sentences to command them to, “Bring me the smallest cube from the Pink Tower,” or, “Waddle across the room like a duck.” Command Cards are used with older children to suggest specific challenges in every area of the curriculum. For example, in Geography, a Command Card might challenge the child to look in the atlas to find the location of the largest inland lake on the Earth.

The Verb Command Cards have a simple one-word command (verb) printed on them. (Above) This little boy has just read the word wave and is acting out the command.

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During the elementary years, Montessori focuses on the development of strong writing skills and library research. The curriculum does not depend on textbooks, as much as on primary and secondary resource materials found in classroom library collections, media centers, public libraries, and on the Internet. Elementary Montessori students commonly use reference materials and public records to seek out additional information when they are doing research. Students write every day, learning to organize increasingly complex ideas and information into well-written stories, poems, reports, plays, and student publications. They begin a systematic study of the English language: vocabulary, spelling rules, and linguistics. Montessori schools commonly teach elementary and middle school students how to use the computer to write, illustrate, and lay out their work. Literature

(Above) Montessori students often make dioramas of books they have read to help make the story come alive. Look at the detail in this young lady’s effort.

The key to the Montessori language arts curriculum is the quality of the material children are given to read. Very young students are introduced to first-rate children’s literature and fascinating reference materials on science, history, geography, and the arts. In an increasing number of Montessori schools, students begin the Junior Great Books Program in kindergarten, and literary studies continue every year thereafter.

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Montessori Math Moves from the Concrete To the Abstract The Red and Blue Rods

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tudents who learn math by rote often have no real understanding or ability to put their skills to use in everyday life. Learning comes much more easily when they work with concrete educational materials that graphically show what is taking place in a given mathematical process. ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


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ontessori students use handson learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and concrete. They can literally see and explore what is going on. This approach to teaching mathematics, based on the research of Drs. Maria and Mario Montessori, offers a clear and logical strategy for helping students understand and develop a sound foundation in mathematics and geometry.

The Montessori Math curriculum is based on the European tradition of Unified Math, which has only recently begun to be incorporated into the American math curriculum. Unified Math introduces elementary students to the study of the fundamentals of algebra, geometry, logic, and statistics along with the principles of arithmetic. This study continues over the years, weaving together subjects that traditional schools normally ignore until the secondary grades. The concrete Montessori Math materials are perhaps the best known and most imitated elements of Dr. Montessori’s work. These elegant and simply lovely materials hold a fascination for most children and adults alike. They proceed through several levels of abstraction, beginning with concepts and skills that are the most basic foundations of mathematics, presented in the most concrete representation, up through the advanced concepts of secondary mathematics, which are represented in increasing levels of abstraction, until the student grasps them conceptually.

The Red and Blue Rods (shown on opposite page) are the child’s introduction to mathematics. These rods have the same dimensions as the Red Rods found in the Sensorial area. Here, however, the rods are painted in alternating patterns of red and blue to distinguish their length in segments of one tenth of a meter (a decimeter). The first rod is one decimeter long and is just painted red. The second is two decimeters long, and is divided into two segments, one red and one blue. This continues through all ten rods. As with the Red Rods, the children arrange the Red and Blue Number Rods into a stair from largest to smallest. Then they count each alternating colored segment. One of the insights that children begin to get from working with the rods is the nature of addition. For example, when the children place the “one” number rod at the end of the “two” rod, they create a new rod that is the same length as the “three” rod just above. They explore similar relationships with all of the numbers 1 to 10. For example, they discover that the “four” and the “six” together are the same length as the “ten.” Montessori found that young children find it difficult in the beginning to grasp the concept of numbers by counting separate objects. While they can learn to “count” by rote, reciting the sequence of numbers from one to ten, most cannot easily grasp the difference between one quantity and another when looking at more than three or four objects. It’s almost as if they are thinking: “One, two, three... Many!” This is easily avoided by allowing children to visualize the concept of numbers and quantity by using this series of segmented rods of increasing length in the beginning, rather than trying to teach them to count sets of separate objects. The children also use the sandpaper numeral cards to label each number rod. These tablets are designed and used in the same way as the Sandpaper Letters described in the section on Language Arts.

The Spindle Boxes (right) provide a nicely structured way for young children to make the next step in understanding the concepts of numbers and quantity. The material is made up of two wooden boxes, which together are divided into ten compartments. The compartments are labeled with the numerals from zero through nine. In a separate box or basket are forty-five wooden spindles used for counting. The exercise calls for the child to count the correct number of spindles to go in each compartment: one, two, three ... all the way to nine. Naturally, the compartment labeled “zero” is left empty, teaching the child at a very early age the concept of zero as an empty set. If the child has counted correctly, there will not be any spindles left over when she fills up the compartment labeled “nine.” One lovely variation of this activity challenges the young child to create a distinct set for each number, while practicing bow-tying skills by tying a green ribbon (green symbolizes the concept of units - whole numbers less than ten) around the clustered spindles. Then this bundle is placed in the correct compartment.

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The Golden Beads: An Introduction to the Decimal System

The Numeral Cards and Counters (Right) After considerable experience with the more structured introductions to number and quantity created by the Red and Blue Number Rods and the Spindle Boxes, children are finally ready to tackle the task of associating cards on which the numerals have been printed with objects to count. They begin by arranging the numeral cards in order from one to ten. Then they begin to count out the appropriate number of counters, placing them in parallel rows of two after the number one. Even numbers end with an even number of counters in the bottom row; odd numbers only have one. This begins to focus their attention on the concept of odd and even numbers. The Numeral Cards and Golden Beads (Below) This special set of numeral cards is used to help the children learn to read numerals up to 9,999. Used to label the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands in which the Golden Beads are laid out, they help children begin to understand the concept of the hierarchy of the decimal quantities and how we borrow and carry from the next column in mathematical operations. The large size of the cards and the color coding used to represent units, tens, hundreds, and thousands makes it easy for children to understand how large quantities are constructed from right to left, read from left to right, and worked within vertical columns. The children shown below are using the Golden Beads and Numeral Cards to add two quantities : 4,877 + 2,469 = 7,346.

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Dr. Montessori developed a wonderful educational material called the Golden Beads to illustrate concretely the nature of place value in the decimal system and its basic operations. The name comes from the beautiful color used for the enamel finish on this set of small glass beads. A single bead by itself represents a unit of one. Thus, the number 5 would be represented by a collection of five “unit” beads. Ten “unit” beads strung together on a length of wire represents a unit of ten. Three “10” bars collected together actually consists of thirty “unit” beads, or three “10s.” The children quickly discover that ten “unit” beads are exactly the same as one “10” bar. They also begin to count not only the individual “unit” beads but by units of ten: 10, 20, 30 ... 100. Ten “10” bead bars naturally equal the quantity of one hundred. Units of one hundred are made up of ten “10” bead bars laid side by side and wired together to form a square. Ten “100” squares stacked one on top of the other form a cube containing one thousand “unit” beads. They are permanently wired together to form the thousand cube. Using these concrete materials, even very young children can build and work with great numbers. In a typical early lesson with the Golden Beads, the teacher might challenge the child to, “Bring me three ‘1,000s,’ five ‘100s,’ six ‘10s,’ and one ‘unit.’” While they will also work with prepared problem cards, children often enjoy thinking up numbers for themselves.

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The Teens & Tens Boards (right)

The Short Bead Stair (above) Using the Golden Bead material, the child sees the numbers one through nine represented as individual units. But, as we mentioned earlier, although the child can count the beads one at a time, it takes many years before most children can recognize and really understand the idea of number except by one-to-one correspondence. To help the child truly begin to grasp the idea of quantities from one through nine, Dr. Montessori prepared a set of colored glass beads, in which each quantity is represented by the appropriate number of individual beads wired together as a bar with a specific, easily recognizable color. In this material, a “1” is represented by a single red bead; a “2” by two green beads strung together; the “3” by three pink beads, and so on up through the ten Golden Beads that represent a unit of ten. The children work with the Short Bead Stair for many years, using the material to add and subtract, carry, borrow, explore multiples, and for many other arithmetic processes. For example, to multiply 9 x 8, the children would lay out eight “9” bars or nine “8” bars. By counting the result, they can check their work.

This material is made up of two different sets of boards that children use to explore the nature of quantities and numbers greater than nine. Each set consists of two boards, which are laid in a vertical row. The two boards are divided into nine sections, each of which is fitted with a thin frame into which the children can slide wooden cards on which the numbers 1 through 9 have been printed. Numbers have also been printed on the surface of the board, spaced so that when the cards are slid into the frame they will cover up one of the two digits. On the Teens Boards, the number 10 is printed in the nine spaces created by the frames. The children arrange the number cards from 1 to 9 in order, and slide them into the frames, creating the numbers 11, 12, 13... and so on through 19. Using the “Ten Bead Bars” and the Short Bead Stair material described earlier, the children lay out the numbers 11 through 19 concretely. For example, the number eighteen would be formed by placing one ten bar in the tens column and one brown eight bar in the unit column. This gives them a very clear picture of how the teens are formed and written: ten and one is eleven, ten and two is twelve, etc. On the Tens Boards, the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40 through 90 are printed in the nine spaces created by the frames. They use the individual number cards to form numbers in the tens, such as 53, 24, 79, etc. and use the Golden Bead tens and unit beads to build their concrete representations along side.

The Hundred Board (right) The Hundred Board challenges the young child who can count aloud from one to one hundred to lay out the numerals in the same sequence. The Board is a square divided into ten rows with ten small squares along each row. The children work with a set of one hundred wooden tiles that are labeled from one through one hundred. Students spread the tiles out on the rug, arrange them in numerical order, and place them, one tile at a time, on the Hundred Board, working from the upper left-hand corner along each row to the right, down to next row, and so on until complete. When they are comfortable with this, they attempt the same exercise by filling in the squares on a blank chart drawn to duplicate the surface of the Hundred Board.

Skip counting by tens.

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The Bank Game

The Square & Cube Chains Following the same concept, the Square and Cube Chains introduce the child to the concept of skip counting by ones, twos, threes, fours, etc. through tens. Each chain is constructed by connecting multiples of the Short Bead Stair, using the same color scheme that the children learned before: red “units,” green “2” bead bars, pink “3” bead bars, etc. The material also introduces the children to the concept of the squares and cubes of the numbers one through ten. There are two chains for each number: one set representing the squares of the numbers one through ten, and the other representing the cubes. Thus, the square of five is shown as a chain of five “5” bead bars (5 squared = 25) and the cube as a chain of twenty-five “5” bead bars (5 cubed=125). The material also includes a set of bead bars connected to show the squares and cubes of the numbers as actual squares and cubes. The children use the bead chains to skip count, working with number arrows similar to those used with the Hundreds and Thousand Chains. 56

The “bank” is a name given to a collection of Golden Bead materials, which includes enough “units,” “10” bars, “100” squares, and “1,000” cubes to allow several children to create large numbers. In one of the first exercises, the children explore the equivalencies of the decimal system. They learn that ten “units” can be exchanged at the bank for a “10” bar, and that a “10” bar can be exchanged for ten “units.” They also find that ten “10s” can be exchanged for a “100” square, ten “100s” for one “1,000,” and that each can, in turn, be broken down into its equivalent in the smaller quantity. Using the Golden Bead material, the children can build two or more large numbers and add them together. By going through the steps of addition in this very concrete manner, the children have a clear impression about what addition means. They also come to understand the process of exchanging, as they count the new quantities in each of the columns and trade in groups of ten “units” for one “10” bar, which they place in the “10s” columns; ten “10” bars for one “100”; and ten “100s” for one “1,000.” Once they understand how to add with the Golden Beads, Montessori children begin to use them to multiply, subtract, and divide. For example, to divide the quantity 3,333 by three, a child would set out three wooden skittles, and, beginning with the largest quantity, in this case the “1,000” cubes, he gives one “1,000” to each skittle. He continues on with the “100s,” “10s,” and “units.” If the child were challenged to divide this same quantity by four, he would begin by exchanging the three “1,000s” for thirty “100s” squares, add them to the stack of three “100s,” and then he would distribute them equally. After placing eight “100s” beneath each of the four skittles, he exchanges the remaining one “100” for ten “10” bars. This process of exchanging continues until the final answer is derived: eight “100s,” three “10s,” three “units,” with a remainder of one “unit.”

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


The Fraction Circles (below) & The Fraction Skittles (above)

The Short Multiplication (above) and Division Boards (below) offer other pathways to abstraction with these two operations. Using the Multiplication Board (shown above), children lay out individual unit beads on a board organized into nine rows of nine shallow holes. They lay out the beads in rows. For example, 4 x 8 would be eight columns of four beads per column. The Division Board (below) is similar, except that here each vertical column of shallow holes represents one equal share, where a quantity is divided into two or more groups. The child places one small skittle at the top of each column to mark the number of shares that will be in her divisor; to divide 24 by 6, she begins by placing 6 skittles along the top. Then she counts out the number of beads that she wants to divide and begins to distribute them, placing one bead in each hole from the top left to right and then down a row, until she finally has shared her quantity equally among the vertical columns. Any beads left over are her “remainder.”

As the children become more and more comfortable with the Golden Beads, they eventually begin to ask whether there is anything smaller than the unit. The Fraction Skittles, and many experiences in the classroom, gradually introduce them to the concept of a quarter, half, and whole. The Fraction Circles take this concept much further. It is a set of ten metal frames into which are set ten circles: one left intact; one divided into two parts; another into thirds, fourths, fifths through tenths. The children learn the terminology, how to write fractions out as figures, and begin to explore first the concepts of equivalence (2/4 = 1/2) and basic operations with fractions (1/2 + 2/4=1).

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THE SNAKE GAME

The Snake Game helps students to learn how to quickly make exchanges among different quantities that make up the number ten and higher. The game is played by laying out a snake using the colored bead bars (which represent the numbers 1 to 9 as rods of colored bead bars, with each quantity represented by beads of a different color). The children begin counting from the start of the chain, noting when they reach the number 10, and removing the beads that have been counted. At this point they need to replace the counted beads with a Golden Ten Bead Bar, and add in a new bead bar that represents the quantity left over. Let’s imagine that the first 3 beads in the “Snake” were a 5 bead bar, a 3 bead bar, followed by a 6 bead bar. When the child has replaced these 3 bead bars with a 10 bar, the original beads added up to 14. To leave the same beads in the Snake as where they were at the start, they add a 4 bead bar after the golden 10 bead bar that they just laid down. They continue replacing all the beads in the Snake with Golden Bead Bars, until the Snake has been turned from many colors to one that is completely golden, except for any quantity that remained.

The Stamp Game The Stamp Game represents the first step on the Second Plane of Abstraction in the Montessori Math curriculum. Where in the First Plane, the Golden Beads and Colored Bead Bars concretely represented quantities as three dimensional objects, the materials used in the second plane are much more abstract. At this level they are essentially tokens, symbolic counters identical in size and differing only in color and in how they are labeled, but which represent different quantities. The Stamp Game is a box containing little wooden tiles (originally Montessori used paper squares that looked like postage stamps). Some are colored green and labeled “1” to show that they are units. Some are colored blue and labeled “10” to show that each represents a set of ten units. Some are colored red and labeled “100,” and the last set is colored green and labeled “1,000” to show that each represents a unit of 1,000 units. The children use the Stamps just like they did the Golden Beads, laying out quantities using the symbolic tokens and adding them together, sub58

tracting, multiplying, and dividing. By this level, the children are normally writing their work out on paper and using the Stamps to help them visualize the process. For example, to subtract 822 from 1,000, the child would create four rows of stamps, beginning on the left with the thousands, then the hundreds, the tens, and the units. In to the top row she would place a single thousand stamp in the thousand column. Below, she would place nothing in the thousand column, eight hundred stamps in the hundred column, two ten stamps in the tens column, and two units in the unit column. Beginning with the units, the child seeks to take two stamps away from the quantity above in that column. Since the column is empty, she turns to the row to the left (the tens), which is also empty. She finds that her only choice is to exchange the one thousand stamp for 10 hundreds, which she places in the

hundreds column. Now she can exchange one of the hundreds for 10 tens, which she places in the tens column. Finally, she is ready to borrow from the tens column to solve her problem. She exchanges one ten from the tens column and exchanges it for 10 units and places them in the unit column in the top row. From this ten, she takes away two, leaving 8 units. This process continues, until she finds that her top row contains the correct answer: no thousands, 1 hundred, 7 tens, and 8 units ( 1,000 822 = 178).

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


The Passage to Abstraction Cubing Material (above)

The Passage to Abstraction

Montessori introduces children to pre-algebraic concepts at the early childhood level through concrete materials such as the squares and cubes of the numbers 1 to 10 illustrated by the materials of the Bead Cabinet and the Binomial and Trinomial Cube. At the upper elementary level, students use the Cubing Material (sometimes called the Polynomial Box) to continue a more advanced exploration of the nature of polynomials and the relationships between their component parts. Where, with the Trinomial Cube, which represents the polynomial (A+B+C)3, and in which the three component elements were fixed by the material’s design as 2 cm, 3 cm, and 4 cm [(a + b + c) 3 = a3 + b3 + c3 + 3a2b + 3a2c + 3ab2 + 3b2c + 3bc2 + 3ac2 + 6abc], the Cubing Materials consist of one cube and twenty seven wooden squares (1 cm high) for each of the quantities from 1 to 9 (shown as squares) from the one cm cube to a square of 2 cm, 3 cm, up through 9 cm, contained in a special box to keep everything organized. Using the Cubing Material, students can build binomials, trinomials, quatrinomials, and larger polynomials, varying the values for the component parts. This is all designed to help students grasp prealgebraic concepts at an abstract level.

By this stage the children are recording their work on paper, although many won’t be able to solve the same problems if asked to work with paper and pencil alone without the visual aid of the Montessori materials. You have to remember that most young children under the age of seven or eight find it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp something as abstract as quantities above three and what’s really happening when we add, subtract, multiply, or divide. The concrete Montessori materials make it possible for the child to see and understand, slowly internalizing each concept until it becomes fixed and clear in her mind. Naturally, children can’t depend on the materials forever. Can you see your child at age sixteen walking in to take the SATs carrying the Golden Beads? Dr. Montessori compared them to an airport runway which provides a smooth surface on which the plane can roll faster and faster until its built up enough speed to fly. The entire purpose of the Montessori Math curriculum is to make the abstract concrete, until a child can close her eyes and visualize mathematical processes at work. Step by step, the materials become less concrete and more symbolic. Step by step, she is challenged to demonstrate her understanding by teaching what she’s learned to younger children, which also tends to reinforce and clarify the tutor’s grasp on the sub-

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

ject as much as teach something to the one being tutored. Montessori uses a wide range of parallel materials and exercises to help children extend their knowledge and gradually memorize the basic math facts that every one of us is expected to know. As parents, you will eventually begin to hear about materials with odd names like the Snake Game (see page 58), the Addition and Subtraction Strip Boards, and the Negative Snake Game.

The boy shown above is working on mastering his addition facts with the Addition Strip Board, one of the tools used to help children memorize their math facts.

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Space doesn’t allow us to describe every one of the Montessori Math materials, but your child would probably be delighted to introduce them to you. There is also an involved series of Memorization Charts and associated exercises that help the children in their final stages of mastering the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division charts.

(Above) The Multiplication Checkerboard is another more advanced material that introduces Long Multiplication. When the children have begun to show that they are ready for still more abstract exercises, they’re introduced to another series of Math Materials at the Second Plane of Abstraction. For example, the Bead Frames (or abacus) challenge the child to solve problems in a slightly more abstract process. The Short Bead Frame (shown left) allows the child to work with quantities up to 9,999. The Long Bead Frame uses quantities as large as 9,999,999. The Flat Bead Frame (shown left) represents the final step in the passage to abstraction with multiplication. It contains nine columns of Golden Beads with a zero at the base of each column. Color-coded dots representing the numerical hierarchies are found along the side of the Frame. The white, grey, and black strips along the top indicate the units of numbers: 1, 1,000, 1,000,000. 60

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


This older elementary student is exploring how the area of a plane geometric figure is calculated. (Above, below, and left)) At the elementary level, the children move on beyond learning the names of geometric figures to mastering the definitions as well. They also begin to construct geometric forms with a protractor and compass.

(Left) The Long Division Material (Racks and Tubes) allows the children to solve complex problems in long division. It’s not unusual for elementary students to work through problems using numbers much larger than a trillion.

(Above) Geometry continues on from its early introduction in the Sensorial curriculum into the elementary level. These students are exploring angles and the construction of different geometric figures.

Geometric Figures At the elementary level, the children move on beyond learning the names of geometric figures to mastering the definitions as well. They also begin to construct geometric forms with a protractor and compass.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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e are all members of the human family. Our roots lie in the distant past, and history is the story of our common heritage. Without a strong sense of history, we cannot begin to know who we are as individuals today. Our goal is to develop a global perspective, and the study of history and world cultures forms the cornerstone of the Montessori curriculum. With this goal in mind, Montessori teaches history and world cultures starting as early as age three. The youngest students work with specially designed maps and begin to learn the names of the world’s continents and countries. Physical geography begins in the first grade with a study of the formation of the Earth, the emergence of the oceans and atmosphere, and the evolution of life. Students learn about the world’s rivers, lakes, deserts, mountain ranges, and natural resources. 62

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


Montessori’s integrated thematic curriculum allows a broad scope of study in the areas of history, geography, and cultural studies. The children also study the emergence of human beings during the old and new stone ages, the development of the first civilizations, and the universal needs common to all humanity. For older elementary students, the focus is respectively on early man, ancient civilizations, and earlyAmerican history (or the early history of the many other countries in which Montessori schools are found). Montessori tries to present a sense of living history at every level through direct hands-on experi-

Montessori Globes

ences. Students build models of ancient tools and structures, pre-

The Land & Water Globe and the Continent Globe

pare their own manuscripts, make ceremonial masks, and recreate all sorts of artifacts of everyday life of historical eras. Experiences such as these make it much easier for Montessori children to appreciate history as it is taught through books. While Montessori schools are communities apart from the outside world, in which children can first begin to develop their unique

These two special globes (shown right) are used to introduce physical geography. The first is used to teach the idea of how land areas and water are represented on a Globe. Land is shown as rough brown area; water is smooth blue surface areas. The second introduces the seven continents. Each is shown in a distinct color. Children learn the names and location of each continent. The color code used on the Continent Globe is carried on with the Puzzle Map of the World and in early work in continent studies.

talents, they are also consciously connected to the local, national, and global communities. The goal is to lead each student to explore, understand, and grow into full and active membership in the adult world. Field trips provide opportunities to explore the world outside the classroom. Younger elementary children often use simplified research card material and charts in their studies.

The Big Bang History begins with the “Big Bang” and the formation of the universe and, within it, of our solar system. Children start with the story of how the world began, how it began to cool, the formation of the atmosphere and oceans, and the emergence of life. They study the story of life on Earth up through the geological eras to the last ice ages and the emergence of the earliest humans. Shown on the opposite page is a photo taken years ago at Wilmington Montessori School (Delaware). This teacher uses a balloon filled with sparkling glitter to demonstrate the “Big Bang.” The balloon is tossed into the air and then pricked with a tack attached to a stick. The balloon explodes and glitter goes everywhere. A universe is born!

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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The Imaginary Island Puzzle The Imaginary Island Puzzle (shown below) introduces students in elementary classes to thirty-eight land and water forms. They study vocabulary and definitions of such words as isthmus, butte, tributary, archipelago, bight, lagoon, and more. Children also learn to plot longitude and latitude and analyze the flora and fauna of a region. With the use of eighty-four puzzle pieces, students are able to create an infinite variety of islands of their own design, modifying them at will, and reinforcing vocabulary words during the process.

What would you do if you could create your own little world? The Imaginary Island allows Montessori students to explore the possibilities. Chelsea
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remember that a smile swept across my face as I received the instructions for our next class assignment: “Imaginary Island” was written in bold letters at the top of the page. As we were directed, we would be responsible for creating an entire island which owed its entire existence directly to whatever I proposed. I was in the sixth grade, and I had always had an overactive imagination, so, when our teachers actually assigned us a project that not only allowed us to be creative, but assumed that we were creative, I thought I had struck gold. Little did I know, however, that making this so- called island was far harder than just deciding where the island would be located and 64

Class
 Notes how it might look. I envisioned planting one single palm tree smack-dab in the center of sand, to only further consider that an entire ecosystem, among other things, would not be able to live off of one lonely tree. So, I had to consider what other vegetation might exist on this island. Hmmm… this really did put my brain to the test. I explored the notion that all kinds of plants, vegetables, and trees would exist on this island, though I would not allow the celery plant to exist, because I detested holidays where we politely ate celery—still, those stringy threads make me wonder what’s to like about celery. So, I covered the vegetation ecosystem issue, even decided upon a location close enough to the equator that it would allow for growth. I question, however, how global warming might have affected my choices, had I been assigned the project now. It was time to move on to other factors: What would the education system look like, the government, the family system, and so on? This project, while using great creativity, turned out to be far more difficult than I had thought. It actually required logic. In the end, I chose to include things that gave me comfort and security. The family system, for example, I recall resembled my own family—fairly complicated but extremely accepting, loving, and understanding—allowing that phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” to really exist. I also remember the government being optimal—in that, it represented the interests of all the people, not just those that had more advantages than others. I didn’t even think about the fact that everyone should have quality healthcare because, at that age, I thought everyone had healthcare—it was the only world I knew, and I liked it that way. I believed in work, still do, but believed that those who could not work, for whatever reason, would

remain cared for and secure. I didn’t even have to think about a defense system because 9/11 wasn’t even on our radar at that point. It pains me to think that children are bombarded by such challenges today. I wonder, had I been assigned the project now, would I have allocated certain funds and protections that I, otherwise, had not thought of? This assignment taught me so much. Reflecting back on it, perhaps it taught me too much. Still, I appreciate that I could, as a child, live in such a state that I believed our conditions were great enough that I might want to replicate certain things in my own island. It certainly made me look at things that perhaps I paid little attention to, previously. This, I believe, is still the purpose of the Imaginary Island project. It allows children to still live in this imaginative state, devoid of worry. But, it also encourages children to look at things and recognize they may need changes. It gives them an opportunity, even for one assignment, to change the world to make it better. Montessori provides this, nurtures it even. This assignment, for me, has lasted a lifetime. In spite of the dangers and challenges we face in this world, I still believe (whether naively or not) that the world is a good place and offers hope. I believe we, as Montessori children, can foster these changes and create them, both big and small. We must encourage our children to continue to use their imaginations and creativity to make such differences—and we can. As I received my project back, I was most astounded and appreciative to have received compliments on my assignment (yes, this TypeA, perfectionistic girl still remains). But, still to this day, I have an argument to pick — a certain teacher was a bit skeptical about my chosen transportation system: a belly-button transporter system that magically warps people from one place to another in seconds. It made sense to me—still does. If now, I can only find a way to make it work. Yes, imagination still exists— choose to foster it and embrace it.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


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(Above) A lower-elementary student at work with the Time Line of Life on the Earth. The children also study the emergence of the first civilizations and the universal needs common to all humanity. For older elementary students, the focus is respectively on early humans, ancient civilizations, and early-American history (in the USA).

Early Childhood Montessori Teacher Education Program A
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The Teaching Clock (above) Before a child can begin to understand history, she needs to begin to grasp the concept of time. The child pictured above is learning to tell time, along with the other concepts of the passage of time, such as: How long is a minute, an hour, a day, a year? How old are the people that I know? ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

PO BOX 267 Te rra Ceia, FL 34250 Toll Free 888-344-7897 919-870-1945 www.guidedstudies.com 65


These students (right and below) are working with the Land and Water Forms, a set of three-dimensional models that represent, in very simple terms, the nature of basic geographic features. This is also a pouring exercise, as the child adds water to the tray to create a higher level of sensory impression. Here she explores the idea that an island is a body of land surrounded by water, while a lake is a body of water surrounded on all sides by land. The children learn to name each form, match the model with a photo of a real lake or island, place the correctly printed label underneath each form, then prepare their own labels. They also learn the definitions of each land form, continue to learn about the largest lakes or islands in the world, and research facts about specific places. The first set includes such geographic forms as an isthmus, peninsula, cape, bay, and strait. Advanced exercises introduce more complex geographic features, such as mountains, mountain ranges, volcanoes, archipelagos, foothills, cliffs, mesas, prairies, river valleys, and river deltas.

Birthdays are celebrated by a walk around the sun holding a globe of the Earth to mark each year of the child’s life.

The Pin Maps (below) challenge the children to begin to master the names of the countries, capital cities, and flags of the countries of several continents. Each label is printed on a card attached to a thin pin, which is placed in the appropriate hole on the map. A set of control charts allows the children to check their own work.

(Above) This young lady is working with a model of the inner core of the Earth.

(Right) As part of the National Model Cities Competition, these students from Westwood School in Dallas, Texas are designing a three-dimensional diorama. The competition involves more than just a model; the students must also develop an urban plan, including: transportation, recreation, energy use, and more. This is an annual event for Westwood students, who have been national winners in the past. 66

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


CULTURAL
 STUDIES Cultural studies continue at every age level in Montessori education. The curriculum integrates art, music, dance, cooking, geography, literature, and science. Children learn to prepare and enjoy dishes from all over the world. They learn traditional folk songs and dances in music and explore folk crafts in art. In Language Arts, they read the traditional folk tales and research and prepare reports about the countries they are studying that year. Units of study often culminate in marvelous international holidays and festivals that serve as the high points of the school year.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

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Hands-On
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Exploring the Elements This elementary student (right) is exploring the elements. He is constructing models of the atomic structure of one element, placing protons and neutrons in the nucleus and electrons in the outer shells. Working with this unique teaching version of Mendelev’s Periodic Table of the Elements (above), elementary children begin to learn about the more complex elements, their symbols, and how various elements are grouped together according to their properties. At the same time, children are looking for examples of common elements in their daily environment and beginning to research information about the characteristics and uses of the elements.

©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org


This material introduces students to the life cycle of a star.

The
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The young lady below is researching the planets of our Solar System, using reference materials and models of the planetary bodies. Child-sized planets(left) show the location and size of the planets in comparison to the sun.

This young lady is studying the five kingdoms.

The Clock of Eras The elementary students shown above are working with the Clock of Eras. This more advanced exercise presents the great geological eras of the Earth’s history as a pie graph or clock face. The children label each geological era, from the formation of the Earth to the present day. In earlier exercises, they’ve begun to study what was happening on the Earth’s surface during each era.

Right: Simple experiments introduce elementary students to chemistry. ©Tomorrow’s Child Magazine Montessori 101: Special Issue • www.montessori.org

Sophisticated science equipment enables young students to study the unseen world up close. 69


A

rt is not a separate area of the Montessori curriculum; it is an integral component. Throughout the day, even the youngest students are surrounded by the beauty of the materials and activities that Dr. Montessori developed for each developmental level. From the smooth, simple elegance of the Geometric Solids to the ever-increasing complexities of drawing using the Metal Insets, Montessori uses all of the children’s senses to promote an awareness and appreciation of the beauty in all things — animate and inanimate. In the early years, children are free to spend quiet moments in a special art corner of their classroom: painting, drawing, or working with age-appropriate crafts. Some Montessori schools will employ the talents of an art specialist, and many schools expand on their art programs through special after-school workshops. Older students will incorporate art into their lessons when studying history, science, math, and international cultures. Art and music appreciation are re-introduced in greater depth throughout the years, and students of all ages enjoy performing in dramatic and musical productions for their families and at special school-wide celebrations.

The Arts

Health, Wellness, & Physical Education M

ontessori schools are very interested in helping children develop control of their fine- and gross-motor movements. For young children, programs will typically include dance, balance and coordination exercises, and loosely structured cardiovascular exercise, as well as the vigorous free play that is typical on any playground. With elementary and older students, the ideal Montessori Health, Physical Education, and Athletics program is typically very unlike that of the traditional model of “gym.” It challenges each student and adult in the school community to develop a personal program of lifelong exercise, recreation, nutrition, and health management.

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Montessori 101 and Guided Tour of Montessori Classroom  

This is a special issue of our magazine, Tomorrow's Child intrbasic principles of Montessori education and offering an illustrated introduct...