Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 26 2013

Montessori for our children!

I’m currently engaged in a Montessori teacher training program and last summer wrote some notes on the theories and methods of Montessori education.  If this interests you, I would recommend reading some published books such as Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard, scheduling a classroom observation at a local Montessori (AMS or AMI) school, and/or reading some free online albums e.g. collections of lesson plans (these aren’t by me but look similar to what I’ve experienced and are available online, a major plus).  Here also are some notes I took early in the training process.  When I copied these from another program, it changed some of the outline scheme, but until I figure out how to attach a word document hopefully you get the idea!  (It really bothers me this isn’t displayed as I intended, as the content may be new and the organization helps to create meaning).  The main categories in this five-page word document are holistic education, prepared environment, “Great Stories” themes, methodologies, and selected materials…scroll down for the more tangible stuff!  Hope you enjoy!  Please post if you have questions or feedback.

One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

Montessori Theory and Content

  1. Holistic Education
    1. Reaching beyond mind by providing an appropriate space for “human potential”
    2. Turning kids on to their power
  2. Prepared environment: education as a transaction between children, adults, and the environment
    1. Concept of freedom
    2. self-checking materials or accessible controls (for open-ended work, self-assessment via checklist or rubric)
    3. ownership
    4. work choices (negotiation)
    5. time management
      1. Structure and order / organization
      2. Physical
  3. progression of shelf work: left to right, (top to bottom), simple to complex
  4. and/or top to bottom: display, Montessori materials, extensions; reference
    1. Three-period lesson: method for introducing certain new material / vocabulary such that a child can be successful in initial interaction with material e.g. hears name twice before being asked to verbalize the name
  5. “This is…” (didactic)
  6. “Show me…” (child’s exploration with material)
  7. “What is this?” (research / assessment)
    1. Time: 2.5 to 3 hour work cycle
    2. Classroom rules / procedures
      1. Reality and nature
      2. Preparing to go out i.e. planning field experiences
      3. Shopping and use of money
      4. Community meetings
      5. Practical life shelf
      6. Plants and animals
      7. Opportunities for writing and math in context
        1. Beauty and atmosphere
        2. display shelves – items to peak curiosity and wonder
        3. cultural wall-hangings and knick-knacks
        4. unusual clocks, barometers, and other tools
        5. flow to the classroom: less is more
        6. open shelves (no back) if not against wall, for visibility and beauty
        7. furniture appropriately sized and grouped for age of children (feed collaboration)
          1. Montessori materials
          2. concretely represent abstract concepts, making concepts accessible at a young age
          3. fun and easy to work with
          4. facilitate progression from concrete to abstract
          5. placement and condition give clues for use and communicate respect
            1. Development of community
            2. The adult
          6. first job of the teacher is to transform himself: “find or renew enthusiasm and awe”
          7. teacher as “actively passive” and a guide versus dispenser of knowledge
          8. observation as a discipline: complete announced observations daily (5-10 minutes); observation can be focused including on a housekeeping issue (announce, observe, report)
  8. “Great Stories” themes
    1. Fable of Creation:
    2. wonder
    3. immensity
    4. physical and chemical laws
      1. Story of Life
      2. progress
      3. continuity
      4. adaptation or death
        1. Story of Humans
        2. interdependency
        3. humility
        4. imagination
  9. Methodologies
    1. Horizontal presentation of concepts e.g. study several strands of math concurrently
    2. Presenting groups of related facts e.g. model a country study with the children, then facilitate group presentations on other countries
    3. Use of impressionistic lessons – real objects and experiences as often as possible, details later (presentation from whole to part)
    4. Developing research skills and orientation
    5. through open-ended assignments
    6. through following the child(ren)
    7. guiding child to record work in a way that effectively creates own resources
      1. copy book as a rite of passage (have the young child use a spiral bound notebook or binder until he or she is ready to organize across and within pages in a composition book)
      2. child dates and titles all work (for the young child, highlight capital letters and commas in red, and always follow the same format)
      3. child numbers all pages and creates both a table of context (in the order work is completed; leave open pages in the front for this) and an index (alphabetically by topic; leave pages in the back for this)
        1. Socratic method
        2. Questioning and drawing out – say as little as possible, and question more than tell
        3. Children state patterns, laws, or theories in their own words (option for later revision)
          1. Examples: commutative law of multiplication; process for finding next points on a line with constant slope; number sense observations e.g. relative size of the multiplicand and product with multiplier greater than, equal to, less than 1
          2. Teacher records the children’s ideas  so that spelling and grammar are correct and so that children have same records but uses children’s wording (children copy these into their record books, adding concept to the TOC and index)
          3. Option to write children’s observations in the style of a quotation, including quotation marks and “attribution” to the children in the lesson
          4. Children group objects and justify reasons for grouping
            1. Singular and plural: match cards with singular and plural words, then create groups and “rules” for each group e.g. these words need “ies”, these words stay the same.
            2. Geometric solids: allow children to group, justify, and regroup e.g. by faces, by curves, by vertices such that a cone and a pyramid could be grouped, or a cone and a cylinder could be grouped – follow the child.
              1. Facilitating development of “engrams” for memory: examples of use across age groups and concepts
          5. exploration of plane figures in 3-6 classroom indirectly introduces angle study
          6. trinomial cube used for sensorial in 3-6 classroom (color and size matching) and for cubing (proof of the trinomial cube) in the 9-12 classroom
          7. angular layout of the decanomial foreshadows patterns for squaring and square rooting
            1. Use of etymology
            2. to strike the child’s imagination e.g. research on why October is the tenth Month and December the twelfth.
            3. to increase vocabulary and comprehension
              1. Color red as a highlighting color
              2. for capital letters and commas in dates (for the young child)
              3. to isolate part of a picture, equation, word, or text
              4. picture – parts of an animal, color the part in red
              5. equation – study of slope, color the coefficient in red
              6. word – spelling study, color the letters that make the sound
              7. text – to highlight an etymology or definition
  10. Selected Materials
    1. “Component Part” studies e.g. parts of a fish, parts of a line
    2. Physical material
    3. Picture cards
    4. Label cards
    5. Definition cards
    6. Mute definition cards (same as definition cards but with a blank for term)
    7. Cut definition cards (same as definition cards but in 2-3 pieces)
    8. Definition book (serves as a control)
      1. Possible progression of material use (children choose written extensions as well)
      2. match picture with label
        1. match picture with label and definition (this can be done as a group activity in which you or a child read the definition slowly, and children raise hands as they know the answer)
        2. match picture with mute definition, then label
          1. match picture with cut definitions (you may model sorting the cards into beginning, middle, and end piles by using punctuation clues)
            1. “Question and Answer” studies e.g. animal study (could be adapted to behavior of graphs)
            2. Physical material
              1. Question cards (up to eight; printed on different colors of paper)

-Animal sample question – How does it reproduce?

-Graph sample question – Does it have an axis of symmetry?

  1. Answer cards corresponding to each question (as many as needed; color-coordinated with questions)

-Animal sample answers – by eggs, by live birth

-Graph sample answers – symmetrical about the y-axis, symmetrical about the x-axis, symmetrical along x = y, another axis of symmetry, no axis of symmetry

  1. Possible progression of material use (children choose extensions as well; step IV could also be a good class starter)
    1. layout the entire material to “demystify” the large work
    2. 1 Q and 1 A and a set of cards to classify

-Accept, discard, and research piles

  1. 1 Q and all As and a set of cards to classify

-Sort only (no discard or research piles)

  1. One card to classify and all Qs (layout Qs but not As)

-Answer each question for that card.

-Repeat many times.

  1. Model the process of creating an outline from material.
  2. Model the process of writing an essay from an outline.
    1. Detective Triangle
    2. Physical material
    3. 63 unique plastic or laminated triangles, as per guidelines below
    4. labels with descriptions exactly corresponding to those triangles

-three colors: red, blue, yellow

-three sizes: small, medium large

-seven possible combinations of sides and angles


  acute-angled right-angled obtuse-angled

(not possible)

(not possible)




  1. Several children complete layout together (possible to assign each child a role in advance, or allow the children to develop, use, and evaluate a systematic method)

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