The Montessori History
The Montessori Teacher
The Montessori Approach
Areas of Study
The Montessori History
Dr. Maria Montessori studied young children in Italy in the
early 1900s and observed that a child has an innate desire to
learn and is essentially a sensorial explorer within his or her
environment. From her research, Dr. Montessori developed a
child-centered curriculum that is now implemented and celebrated
around the world.
come to mean education for life that evolves from a child’s use
of all his or her senses in the learning process. Designed for
manipulation and experimentation, various Montessori materials
and apparatuses promote independence and creativity. Specially
designed tools allow the child to proceed at his or her own
pace, from dressing himself or herself at age three, reading at
age four to working on computer at age five.
The late Helen
Keller, a deaf-blind American author, activist and lecturer, was
inspired by Dr. Montessori and once wrote “Children will educate
themselves under the right conditions. They require guidance and
sympathy far more than instruction.” This represents a succinct
summary of the Montessori method of education.
The Montessori Teacher
The role of a Montessori teacher is one of guide and observer,
whose ultimate goal is to encourage independent work and
exploration with the materials and to intervene less and less as
the child develops. The teacher strives to build an atmosphere
of calm, order and joy in the classroom, to encourage and
recognize the children in all their efforts and to promote
self-confidence and discipline.
When working with
the younger students at each level, the teacher is more active
and often demonstrates the use of materials and presents
activities based on an assessment of each student’s needs.
Knowing when to observe and how much to intervene is a skill the
Montessori teacher must develop and hone through professional
training and work experience.
The Montessori Approach
The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an
aid to life and aims to help children with their task of finding
and developing the individual within as they grow from childhood
to maturity. This approach is effective because it draws its
principles from the natural development of the child and its
inherent flexibility allows the method to adapt to the
particular needs of the individual, regardless of the level of
ability, learning style, or social maturity.
A Montessori classroom is a carefully designed and prepared
space that offers the children an environment in which they are
free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The
children’s innate love of learning is encouraged by giving them
opportunities and resources to engage in spontaneous, meaningful
activities under the guidance of a Montessori teacher. Through
their work, the children develop concentration, motivation,
persistence and discipline, which qualities will help the
children to succeed in future schooling and careers.
Areas of Study
The practical life section is the most important area of study
of a Montessori education. It is through these materials that
the child develops the self-confidence, control and
concentration essential for mastery of the other more advanced
areas of study such as language and mathematics.
Children are naturally drawn to this area because these
materials are most familiar to them. This familiarity also
serves to provide the children with a feeling of security and
well-being. The activities will contain objects and materials
that are normally encountered in the everyday living experiences
of the children's culture. Many of them are fundamental
activities that children need to master to be able to live
comfortably in the real adult world. Most of the activities of
practical life will fall into four main categories: grace and
courtesy, care of self, control of movement, and care of the
Primary purposes of practical life activities include:
· To develop and perfect muscle control and coordination through
organization of movement.
· To develop a sense of physical and mental order through
exactness in use of objects and working in definite sequence.
· To develop understanding through control of the environment
resulting in a sense of dignity and self-confidence, joy in
completing tasks, and social maturation among children.
· To develop concentration and persistence through focusing of
attention on work, thus fostering independence and
· To develop respect, discipline and self-control through
enforcement of established classroom rules and procedures.
In the words of the child:
“I Hear and I forget,
I See and I remember,
I Do and I understand.”
Dr. M. Montessori
The sensorial materials help the child to become aware of
detail. Each of the activities isolate one defining quality,
such as color, weight, shape, texture, size, sound and smell.
The primary purpose of these activities is to help the child in
his/her effort to sort out the many and varied impressions
collected by the senses. Each apparatus for the sensorial
activities consists of a set of objects which, experienced
together, evidence a single perceptual quality, such as ‘colour’
or ‘taste’. This experience of a single quality occurs because
each object in the set is identical in all respects except that
Listed below are some of the Sensorial activities for each of
the following sense faculty:
The visual sense (which perceives size, shape, composition,
pattern and colour): Cylinder Blocks (alas Knobless Cylinders),
Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, Red Rods, Colour Tablets, Geometric
Cabinet, Constructive Triangles, Square of Pythagoras, Binomial
and Trinomial Cubes.
The tactile sense (perceiving texture): Touch Boards, Tactile
The baric sense (perceiving weight): Baric Tablets.
The auditory sense (perceiving loudness and pitch): Sound Boxes,
The gustatory sense (perceiving tastes): Tasting Cups.
The olfactory sense (perceiving scents and odours): Smelling
The stereognostic sense (which perceives through tactile and
muscular impression, combined with movement): Geometric Solids,
Stereognostic Bags, Mystery Bag, Sorting Grains.
The thermic sense (perceiving temperature and heat absorption
potential): Thermic Bottles,Thermic Tablets.
It is in the sensorial area that math concepts are first
introduced and internalized. The sensorial activities provide
the child with basic skills needed for mathematics work,
including, calculation of amount or degree, exactness in
perception and dexterity, discrimination among similarities,
repetition, set recognition, algebraic analysis, and recognition
of progression in a series. Most of the sensorial materials
provide the child with experiences in more than one of these
Activities in this area also indirectly prepare the child for
writing and reading. For example, through the manipulation of
the Cylinder Blocks, the child develops the muscles in his
fingers as well as his coordination, which are critical for
proper pencil grip and manipulation. Through the use of the
rough and smooth boards, the child develops light touch for
writing. The child also becomes familiar with the shape and
curves of letters in writing through learning the different
shapes in Geometrical Cabinet.
The development of language in early-childhood classrooms is an
umbrella for the entire Montessori curriculum. Language learning
occurs most profoundly in the moment-to-moment interactions
amongst students and teachers within the classroom. Children
learn to listen, speak, and later to write and read through the
multitude of materials and activities within the language area
of a Montessori classroom. These activities provide
opportunities for young children to expand vocabulary, listen
carefully to common sounds, and look carefully to find
likenesses and differences among objects and pictures. Matching
sets of objects, learning the names of household items, unusual
animals and insects and geometric shapes are just some of the
activities which build language and early literacy skills and
will be found in a Montessori classroom. Dr. Maria Montessori
personally developed only three language materials for the early
childhood classroom: the metal insets, the sandpaper letters and
the moveable alphabet. These materials have proven to be
Language is divided into three areas: speaking, writing and
reading. Speech develops naturally in a child. From 2 to 6 years
of age, the child is at his sensitive period for language and is
said to have an “absorbent mind”. While the child retains many
of the sounds he/she hears, the information is stored randomly
in different places in the mind. Typically around the age of 2
˝, an explosion of actual speech and language in the child’s
mother tongue take place. The child starts to speak in complete
sentences and begins to grasp complete thoughts communicated to
him or her. Therefore, at this stage, it is important to provide
the child with all the correct information (e.g. correct diction
and proper grammar) to allow him or her to pick up and
assimilate and to build a solid foundation in language.
Classified picture cards, stories and poetry are some of the
materials used to help enrich the children’s vocabulary.
Since speech develops naturally in a child, Montessori language
activities therefore presume that the child will spontaneously
begin to speak with meaning, and the purpose of the language
activities is largely to cultivate reading and writing. This
begins with phonetic introduction of the alphabet with the use
of the Sandpaper Letters (see photo).
“Phonetic” means by sound and the
Montessori reading program is based on the sounds (as opposed to
the names) associated with the letters of the alphabet. The
child move progressively from single sound of single letters
(e.g. “s”) to more complicated sound of a group or combination
of letters which are called “phonograms” (e.g. “sh” or “qu”)
with the use of phonogram materials. A phonetic word is a word
that the child can read by pronouncing the sound of each letter
the way he was taught using the sandpaper letters. All other
words are called “non-phonetic” words. Only words with short
vowels can be called “phonetic”. Example of phonetic words: man,
bed, milk, frog, jug, .
Once the child has learned the phonetic sounds of a few vowels
and about half of the consonants, the child will start “word
building” with the Movable Alphabets and will soon begin to
read. The first level in the reading scheme is called “Pink
Scheme”, representing reading of phonetic words with three
letters or less. The next level is “Blue Scheme”, representing
reading of phonetic words with four or more letters. The last
level is “Green Scheme”, representing reading of words with
phonograms. It is recommended that a child receives 3 years of
Montessori education in the Casa level, during which the child
will move through an extensive series of exercises and explore
all facets of the English language including grammar and syntax.
Montessori students use a variety of hands-on learning materials
that make abstract concepts clear and help the child to develop
a sound foundation in mathematics and geometry. By using
concrete materials during the early years, the child can learn
the basic concepts of mathematics and the relationship between
numbers and quantities.
Mathematics activities are organized into five groups: (1)
introduction to numbers; (2) introduction to the Decimal System;
(3) introduction to tens, teens and counting; (4) arithmetic
tables; and (5) abstraction. The activities within each group
are as follows:
Group 1: Introduction to numbers from 1 to 10.
Several exercises to illustrate the units of quantity are used.
Apparatuses in this group include Number Rods (shown), Sand Paper
Numbers, Number Tablets, Spindles, Numbers and Counters, Memory
Group 2: Introduction to the Decimal System (numbers up to
9999), giving concrete experience with units, tens, hundreds and
thousands as represented by beads (shown), and showing how these are
combined in arithmetic operations.
Apparatuses in this group include Limited Bead Materials, Number
Cards, Stamp Game and bead materials to learn the four
mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication
Group 3: Introduction to 11 – 99 and numbers 10 – 90 and number
This is done concurrently with Group 2, gives experience with
the decimal system beads as applied to counting by units, by
linear intervals, and by geometric progression.
Apparatuses include the Golden Beads and Sequin Boards.
Group 4: Arithmetic Tables
Group 4 uses strips, boards and beads to give material
demonstrations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and
division, and records the results of these operations in tables
to help the child remember them.
Apparatuses in this group include Addition Snake Game, Addition
Strip Board, Addition Charts, Subtraction Snake Game,
Subtraction Strip Board, Subtraction Charts, Multiplication
Tables, Multiplication Bead Boards, Multiplication Charts, Unit
Division Board (shown), Division Charts.
Group 5: Abstraction
Group 5 is the transition to abstraction, helping the child
internalize the functions of arithmetic and gradually disregard
the physical manipulations of materials.
Apparatuses include Short Bead Frame, Hierarchies, Long Bead
Frame, Simple Division.
In the culture area, the students work with nomenclature, proper
terminologies, definitions and scientific knowledge, and these
are coupled with the reading and writing curriculum to give the
child a practical extension of skills in language and literacy.
Cultural activities include music, physical education, basic
science, Geography, Zoology, Botany (study of plants) and art,
all which are taught at a sensorial level.
Montessori preschools offer many opportunities for the child to
expand knowledge of the world during the early years when they
are motivated by spontaneous interest. The materials provided in
the social studies area spark this interest. Some of the
materials in this area are: Land and Water Globe, Continent
Globe (shown), World Map Puzzle, picture packets of animals and people
in other countries and career exploration.
The classroom offers children a concrete representation of
history by letting them work timelines. Some examples of study
through the use of timelines are: prehistoric life, presidents,
the student's own life timeline or the teacher's life timeline
and the child's day. Other cultures as well as our own are
explored. Important figures from the past are discussed.
The children learn about the world around them through various
Montessori materials. The use of puzzle maps, atlas’ and globes
to name a few, allows the child to learn, depending upon their
age, many different aspects of a continent or the name of a
particular country, it’s flag, the capital city, population,
terrain native to a particular country, import/export, animals
(land, air and ocean) etc. They are introduced to land and water
formations, space, weather, explorers and many other facts about
the world we live in, both past and present and possibly what
the future may hold in the way of technology, science and human
Science is an integral element of the Montessori curriculum. The
program is designed to cultivate the child's curiosity and
determination to discover the truth for themselves. They learn
how to observe patiently, analyze, and work at each problem.
Students engage in field trips and hands-on experiments and
typically respond with enthusiasm to the process of carefully
measuring, gathering data, classifying and predicting the
outcome. One goal of Montessori science is to cultivate a
lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about
the world in which we live. Some science activities you could
see in a Montessori classroom are activities of magnetism,
weights, growing plants and classification of plants and
The children’s natural curiosity is stimulated through discovery
projects and experiments which help the children to draw their
own conclusions and formulate their own hypothesis. The plant
and animal kingdoms are studied in an orderly fashion to foster
a love and appreciation for all living things.
The biology curriculum is a natural extension of the care and
maintenance of the classroom pets as well as the plants and the
natural environment that are a part of our world both indoor and
out. Biology also extends out into our geography curriculum as
we study the biomes of the earth and the flora and fauna that
exist in all of these different place on our planet.
This program follows the concept of “Earth Kinder”, a Montessori
philosophy that emphasizes the natural processes and harmonious
living on our planet. Children are introduced to plants, water,
the sun and learn about the delicate balance of our ecosystem
and how it affects their everyday life.
Zoology is studied in-depth and introduces the child to animals
and their needs, characteristics and habits. Children are always
fascinated with animals whether they are learning about animals
that live in the wild, pets, marine life or dinosaurs.
Through daily calendar tell exercises, time lines and occasional
birthday celebration, the children develop a sense of time and
history. The clock and to tell time is also introduced as part
of history and math activity.
Because children learn more readily when they are self-directed,
and because the learning environment is so rich, our students
can progress quickly in their academic learning. Most
five-year-olds in their third year are reading, writing, doing
decimal math, science experiments, understand world culture and
geography and are beginning to gain a global view of earth's