Friday, August 17, 2012

Primary Montessori Materials LIVE in the Elementary Classroom

(updated - 11/26/12 - math section!)

There is a sub-set of Montessori materials that is utilized at both primary and elementary. The presentations are different; the teaching concepts are different - and the material proves just how deep it can go!

Teacher in one level or the other and want to know which materials overlap levels?
Homeschool parent transitioning from primary Montessori to elementary Montessori?
Curious for another reason as to the depth of the Montessori materials?

Here goes!

Some items can be very useful if you still have them in elementary - the children may do further exploration (pink tower, brown stair and the like come to mind). But core materials?

Keep the following items:

Exercises of Practical Life: 

  • Primary has care of the environment items on trays on the shelves; elementary has supply shelves, with empty trays to gather what they need. Same items - set up is different
  • Many of the EPL supplies can also be used in the geography area in elementary for demonstrations and such.


  • Geometry Cabinet (geometry in elementary)
  • Constructive Triangles (geometry in elementary)
  • Puzzle maps of the world/continents (could be used in elementary, but don't buy them just for elementary)
  • Binomial Cube (mathematics in elementary; geometry in adolescence)
  • Trinomial Cube (mathematics in elementary; geometry in adolescence)
  • Bells (use initially in elementary, then transition to tone bars; but don't buy them if you are just starting elementary - just use the tone bars)
  • Other stuff is great to have on hand, but if you must be budget/space-conscious, it is ok to let go ;)


  • small movable alphabets (at least 3 colors needed in elementary; letters and punctuation on tiles/cardstock and stored in a divided box - like a tacklebox)
  • wooden grammar symbols (multiples of each symbol in a box)
  • (NOTE: reading analysis material from primary is organized different, but you could use most of the same components and add the charts - see this post: Reading/Sentence/Logical Analysis)

Language Extensions: (AMI organization; other albums this includes biology)

  • Plants and Animals
  • (could keep the nomenclature material, but add more components to it - definition strips, more extensive definitions, blank material for the children to create their own)


  • Golden beads (9 thousands, 45 hundreds, 45 tens, 45 units is all that is needed for elementary)
  • Bead cabinet (all short and long chains, cubes, squares)
  • Fraction circles (metal circles)
  • Large bead frame (short bead frame is primary; if starting your child in elementary, only use the large bead frame)
  • "Decanomial bead bar box" (the set that has 55 of every bead bar, 1-10 - some boxes only have 45, some only have bars 1-9 - these smallers are handy in classrooms; not so useful in homeschools)
  • Division with racks and tubes (short division in primary; short and long division in elementary)
  • (additional math note: if you purchase the elementary negative snake game, you'll have all you need for the primary level snake games)

(note: this list does not include items that if a child "missed" primary, they might find useful as a bridge into elementary - such as the land/water and continent globes - useful but ok to use an on-the-fly adapted presentations with less expensive and spacious materials)

Let me know if I missed something :)

UPDATED THE MATH SECTION! (decanomial bead bar box --- and short/long division)


  1. While following my children I found that the Botany Cabinet is very useful with them. Again it is first used sensorial for the primary child. I plan to use this material with my high schooler to learn the names of the leaves. In the schools that my children attended never taught all the names of leaves. I find this list to be exactly what I have on the shelves for my elementary children. Thank you so much. Sometimes as a parent using the Montessori Method at home you can feel you don't have enough materials, or the right ones to help them go deeper, having this list just lets me know how deep the materials can aid in further discovery. Can anyone really master all the materials? Just a question, so much to discover:)

    1. Thank you for your comment!

      Definitely always more to discover!

      Curiously enough the botany cabinet is not used in my elementary albums, nor is it really mentioned. HOWEVER, my co-op elementary children just LOVE it - and we definitely really get into it. And my son still uses the insets to trace for art-work, or if he just not getting a particular leaf shape the way he wants free-hand. I think it is a fantastic tool for learning the basic leaf shapes with a "representative" sample - you can't get lost in the other details of a real leaf sample, yet can apply what you've learned to all leaves; you can see from both sides, it is totally flat, it can be traced to create your own guidebook, etc. My co-op children discussed putting a book together, each large page would have the leaf shape traced at the top, with leaf samples taped below. We ran out of time to do it, but maybe this fall!

      And they do still love all the sensorial material (but then these are children who didn't have it in primary). :)

  2. Awesome list! Thanks for posting. I have One who is not quite primary and one who is not quite elementary and this list is very useful to know! Thanks for all your posts I read every one of them though I don't comment often.

    1. You're welcome! I am happy to hear this blog is useful to people.

      I was actually prompted to this particular topic by all the homeschoolers who were selling their primary materials off as their children "were done with them" (although items like the binomial and trinomial have 5 year old level work in my primary albums, so I wonder which albums don't) - and then they express surprise when they have to buy everything back again for elementary!


  3. Thanks so much for this. Regarding this :
    "(note: this list does not include items that if a child "missed" primary, they might find useful as a bridge into elementary - such as the land/water and continent globes)"

    Can you help with such a list? It would be useful for me for my 5yr old.

    1. For a 5 year old, it really depends on where s/he is with things. And if you have a younger child coming up.

      If 5 year old is not yet reading/writing, but has a younger sibling, the sandpaper letters should be bought or made; but if there is no younger child, the cost and time are just not necessary - you'll modify the presentations by using the "remedial" section from the elementary language album and fill in with more interesting language activities from the primary language album. While the wooden movable alphabet is wonderful, again, if there is no younger sibling, the cost can be prohibitive - I like having it around even for elementary children learning to write in cursive, because they can trace the letters, but this could be done printing each letter onto cardstock and cutting it out - you still have the shape for tracing and showing connections. But mostly you can focus on the small movable alphabets (printed onto small tiles or cardstock-rectangles. Otherwise, stick with the regular language materials for primary as they will suit the child most appropriately.

      In math - I would go with the materials that are meant for elementary as well. The number rods can be made from other materials (Legos recently came up as a suggestion - I'll post a photo soon at Montessori Trails) and the other numbers 1-10 materials can be made easily with paper or objects around the house. It does NOT have to be fancy. But golden beads, decanomial bead bar box, bead cabinet - you'll want those to transition into elementary anyway. And they are SO "basic", so clearly "keys", that even doing other math programs, these materials come in handy!

      EPL is easy - just pull things from around the house that your child is interested in learning or to hone in on a needed skill.

      Thus it is really in sensorial that we get the real questions. Does a 5 year old need the pink tower? Maybe, maybe not. All of my elementary children I've had who had no primary experience still worked with ALL the sensorial material - their work was different from that of a 3 year old, and they proceeded through all the presentations at a much faster pace - many times discovering the next step themselves and giving each other the presentation! Or more typically, issuing challenges to one another (who can get all the cylinders back into their blocks, silently, with ZERO mistakes) -- and then there are all the language lessons of the sensorial materials. If you have younger children, do not skimp on sensorial - get all the AMI-recommended key materials here (and I would ONLY provide the keys here - there are so many extensions and so much depth just to those keys - and it will be much easier to apply the experiences to real life and vice versa if you just have the keys). If you do not have younger children, it will seem harder to justify the expense, to be entirely honest. Look to purchase used, so that when you post them for sale again, you recoup most of your outlay. See what you might be able to modify from home items already. Puzzle maps: these are SO fantastic and my elementary children learned a lot from working with them - but they are *expensive* for one child and a 5 year old at that - if you can get them used, do it; otherwise, consider other options - it might be possible to have someone trace you out each continent puzzle map onto very large posterboard - two copies of each - color in those pieces and cut them out - use those as the puzzles, and one as the control map. Not the most ideal, but definitely cheaper and less space.

      That's my quick answer ;) Your question is a prevalent one and one that I would like to address by putting together a guide that specifically outlines how to proceed in an appropriate manner with children coming to Montessori after age 3. Most albums are geared for starting at 2 1/2 to 3 1/2; but many children start at 4 or 7 or even 10 or older. No, Montessori is not lost - not if us adults gain so much from it!


  4. This helps a whole lot, my grandson is a bit ahead and already doing addition at two and a half, and reading sight words spontaniously. It's good to know what crosses into elementary, for future reference. I am trying to hold him back but he reads words out of books already. I just follow his interests.