Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Montessori and Phonetic Words

More words are phonetic than just CVC words - consonant-vowel-consonant (like cat, bat, hit, bit, sit, rot, and the like). We don't need to limit the children to such words.
"Pumpkin" is phonetic - technically, so is the word "phonetic".

In Montessori, with the approach that Montessori herself discovered with the children, that Muriel Dwyer summarized in her booklet on the exploration of reading and writing with children, and that AMI and others still teach in their training programs, the children are given 40-44 "keys" to their English language (the number varies in other languages), through playing sound games thoroughly,

then they learn the written representation of those sounds through the sandpaper letters (individual letters on pink/blue backgrounds according to vowel or consonant; double/triple letters on green background - taught all together, not all individuals then all double/triple - and in cursive so the children know the entire *sound*)...

Now the children have all that they need to WRITE (an easier task than reading) - they write with the movable alphabet, while their hands are continuing to strengthen and develop writing skills with the sensorial materials, the metal insets and more. And then can write their OWN ideas. They don't need pictures or objects or adult lists of words to create. They can write what they want

Because they have been given the keys they need. And only the keys they need, include time to explore their own interests and have LOTS of real life experiences that they want to write about. To explore, to learn --- and to one day, on their own, to discover for themselves:

they can READ!

This was Montessori's experience - and this is the experience of all those who follow in her footsteps - provide the keys, follow the child's genuine needs/interests with lots of real life experiences - and observe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Montessori IS...

Before we start, let's consider that all of the below could be "included" to a small and APPROPRIATE degree within a Montessori environment. And the Montessori approach is set to meet the needs of the individuals living IN that environment/community.

And let's move towards accuracy of our terms.

Montessori is NOT:

Montessori is not letter of the week. P is for pumpkin. Have a seasonal focus such as a focus on pumpkins and other fall produce - via practical life in drying pumpkins/gourds, decorating them, carving them, preparing snacks with their insides, etc. These are GREAT. Swap out some language experiences, especially in describing sensorial experiences with these autumn objects (taste, smell, visual, texture - lots of sensorial real life experience, lots of language, lots of practical life, even some math if you want to introduce basic graphing (how many seeds in each pumpkin/gourd), measuring using language such as height, length, width, girth, perimeter ---- AWESOME options here! All that expand on the keys provided. We call this "real life experience" ;)

Just remember that 1) pumpkin is phonetic and 2) whether phonetic or not, play the SOUND GAME with it ;)
Pumpkin is also for p, uh, m, another p, ck, ih, n
What are ALL the sounds you hear in the word pumpkin? What other words do we know with "uh" in the middle? with "n" at the end? Any words that rhyme with pumpkin?
(this leads into not focusing on CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) - but providing experiences exploring ALL of language --- another topic, for another day)

Montessori is not "work on trays". We do have some work on trays.

Montessori is also not "work on mats" though this practice is more prevalent than trays ;)

Montessori is not worksheets, however cute. In homeschools, we find these slip in from time to time.

Montessori is not hands-on learning. Well, it IS hands-on learning, but just because it is a hands-on activity doesn't mean it is actually Montessori or even Montessori inspired. Some hands-on activities available via internet and dubbed as Montessori are still adult-directed, not developmentally needed activities.

Montessori is NOT free-for-all - only do what the child wants to do and absolutely nothing else. The adult sets the environment; the child constructs himself from it. The adult is a guide for the child through that environment, and the adult carefully observes the child, has conversations with him, and gets to know each child very well so as to know what is the next appropriate step for the child, then present new material as such. The adult should also be presenting some new material at varying times regardless of interest, so as to expand the children's horizons, provide additional work choices, ignite potential interest either in the moment or down the road, the child will know there is a suitable work choice already available to him when he is ready.

Montessori is not unit studies. The teacher/adult/parent might have some seasonal experiences for the children, and there may be some rotation of a very few materials. Within a homeschool setting, there can be unit studies of course; just know that these are part of your home experience. It is a slippery slope to have "Montessori units" because it becomes adult led and directed, and not keys-based, interest/need-driven. Unit studies centered around a family interest and planned/modified as a group are GREAT. Thus, they have a place, but are let's call it "outcomes" based on interests/needs/keys, not what we go into Montessori with.

Montessori IS:

Montessori IS real life experiences in the context of real life, with some time spent each day focusing on specific keys to the world (below age 6) or keys to the universe (above age 6) - height, weight, numbers, specific practical life skills. Each of these experiences and skill-keys are developmental in that the child takes these experiences and these keys and constructs (develops) himself with them. We follow the child in his developmental needs and his personal interests, sometimes providing something he needs but doesn't know that he needs, through a new presentation, a conversation, a real life experience.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Montessori Albums - Curriculum and Discovery

We do not use the albums as a curriculum but only as a guide. We want the child to discover all that we don’t show him. This discovery versus direct teaching allows the children to be truly inspired – the doors are opened for them and they make the discoveries on their own so that the learning becomes truly theirs and they are enticed and inspired to further exploration.

Montessori believed that too much regulation can lead to rebellion, while too much freedom can lead to chaos. It is important to balance the two.[1]   “The first thing her education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given her by nature. This does not mean just to amuse her and let her do as she likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the law which decrees that development comes from environmental experience.”[2]

[1] Dr. Montessori, Maria. (1949).  The Absorbent Mind, Kalakshetra Publications, 12th Edition
[2] Dr. Montessori, Maria. (1949).  The Absorbent Mind, p94, Kalakshetra Publications, 12th Edition

Monday, September 29, 2014

Montessori Changes with Age

Montessori at preschool/kindergarten is NOT the same as Montessori at elementary or Montessori at adolescence.

But it is the same.


  • Respect for the development of the child in that moment.
  • Provide keys; time/material to explore interests.
  • Development of child's innate human capabilities through human needs and tendencies.


  • Primary (preschool/kindergarten) is keys to the WORLD; elementary is keys to the UNIVERSE; adolescence is keys to ONESELF and one's place in the cosmic plan.
  • Primary we have movement and words separate - in elementary and adolescence we can give words with the actions.
  • Primary (and infant/toddler) is the absorbent mind; elementary is the reasoning mind.
  • Primary gets some work already prepared for them on trays or on a shelf; elementary, they collect the items they need from their natural locations or supply shelves (planning through what they need so they don't have to stop their work and get another item).
  • Adolescence we are giving them the keys they need to live an adult life. They are not adults yet, but we start practicing those skills, so they don't entirely flounder later. Indeed we set them up for success.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Montessori Work - What is it? Is it trays?

Montessori is not "on a tray".

There are SOME activities organized into a tray for the children's use; these tend to be for the very new and the very young.

They progress away from this set-up very quickly in primary; in elementary, they use empty trays to go collect all the items they need to bring back to their work space.

Even in primary, the children will need to go elsewhere in the environment to collect items to finish their work set-up (items to be polished, for example, should not be placed next to the polishing trays - the children should be polishing items from all around the environment).



Neither is this on a tray: 
 Or anything around it:

None of this stuff is on a tray:
this was before I added more horizontal shelves....
even then, there was one tray, organizing some language stuff -
a basket really. It stayed on the shelf and the children took the cards they wanted. 
 No trays here:

There is a writing tray on the one desk there: aha! A TRAY!!!

MORE TRAYS! Can you spot them? They are in the back corner, so the elementary children can collect their supplies and bring them to their work area.

We do have mats.... lots of those!
Maybe Montessori is Mats.

2 trays: one with the number bead bars 1-9; the other is used for transporting golden bead materials from another shelf to the.... MAT.

NO trays! For all that math!

Wow. So few trays (most are in practical life, unpictured here, not sure where the pictures went). And this is actually a genuine Montessori environment. With so few trays?
Oh yeah! Montessori is MATS. (that is said tongue-in-cheek - Montessori is actually not mats either).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Montessori Nomenclature Cards - what are they FOR!?

Nomenclature is always REVIEW of the concept in elementary, with invitation to create one's own booklet or chart, to make the work one's own, with one's own definitions of the terms.

Nomenclature is always READING PRACTICE on FAMILIAR CONCEPTS in primary. We give vocabulary with the picture-only cards after they have had real experience with the items represented in the pictures. Then we add the words as they are learning to read, to give them familiar items to match up with the sounds they are learning (these sounds they should already be writing - remember, the child should write before reading); then we add the definitions as they become stronger readers, to give them more for reading practice on definitions they already know.

To back up a step, we are reading those definitions (via the booklets) or at least describing the terms in their context of real life experience. When the children start reading, they find familiarity in the definitions with what they already know.

Nomenclature cards are not teaching tools. They are review of concepts and reading/vocabulary practice.

Thus the child can move into whole reading rather quickly, because of a foundation of a variety of real life experiences, with sound vocabulary and other rich spoken language experiences provided from the beginning of his life, exploring the sounds of his language with the sound games and all the sandpaper letters, then the movable alphabet; freed from the tedium of step-by-step systems, he has the keys to explore his own language, other languages, and indeed the whole world around him.

Maria Montessori called the sensorial materials "keys of the world" - indeed all that observed and tested in all areas of the infant, toddler and primary (3-6, preschool and kindergarten), are keys of the world.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Montessori Without Materials !?

You can certainly do "Authentic" Montessori at home without the materials. How is that possible? Because pure Montessori is about the following concepts: 

  • *beauty, simplicity, order
  • *follow the child (the child's interests, abilities, needs)
  • *OBSERVE - and RESPOND appropriately according to the plane of development and individual needs/interests
  • *provide KEY experiences - not overwhelming with too much information, or 10 materials to teach the same concept; or even 1 material that is so busy it doesn't allow for focus
  • *routine and beauty/simplicity/order that allows for developing long periods of concentration
  • *movement integrated with learning, balanced with moments of stillness and silence. 

Not a single specifically Montessori material mentioned ;) 

and for those who do use the specifically designed Montessori materials that do provide the Keys to the World and the Keys to the Universe? They phase out, until there are almost no such materials in upper elementary.