Older Children Coming In to Montessori - Can it be done???

How do I start Montessori with an older child? CAN I start Montessori with an older child?

Short answer: Yes!

The foundation of Montessori is respecting the child where he is right now and the direction he is going.

And that is the beauty of Montessori as well.

We adults gain so much from Montessori training - and reading - and just being in a Montessori-designed environment; that yes, children of every age can benefit. Children who are new to Montessori in upper primary, any age of elementary or adolescence, and adults - all people who are new to Montessori gain a LOT from it.

But adjustments will need to be made.

At any age, start with the How to Get Started in Montessori Homeschooling.

Primary (2-6): 
  • 4 year olds: can generally start at the beginning of each primary album, but will move through some things faster; if the child is in a school, encourage lots of language games at home in particular
  • 5 year olds or close to 5: again, they can start at the beginning, but make sure it is truly a game; they like to be a bit silly (that sense of humor is kicking in), so meet them in that place; for example, they won't want to trace sandpaper letters as much but are starting to use reason, so explain, "This will help with writing". You will likely move quickly through some things, but make sure to have thorough understanding - and I can't say enough: make it a game! They love those language and environment games ending each of the sensorial album pages - the sillier the better! (examples: scattering items and needing JUST the longer rod; or having them match all the geometric shapes to ALL the cards, but you have a set hidden underneath you and you just giggle as they get to the point of frustration (a hint that there is something up)). And do move at THEIR pace - which may be quicker than a 3 or 4 year old. Or slower in some areas - it is all fine! 
  • Some areas this older-primary child just needs the experience - no need to have perfect mastery before moving on with new presentations. You'll know when it's time to slow down on presentations. 

Elementary (6-12): 
  • All elementary children, but especially those without primary experience: get them working with their hands, even when they've moved out of the fussy-hands-on stage - handwork such as weaving, pottery, crochet, knit, cross-stitch, sewing, wood-working, mechanical work - whatever and as much as possible give them these skills NOW. They will need them to express themselves properly in the adolescent years. 
  • 6 year olds with no primary experience, or the albums didn't quite line up: there are remedial/bridge sections for language and mathematics - utilize only as needed. Think of remediation as a "bridge" - it is just an adjustment into a new plane of development. Keep them integrated into ALL other presentations (Great Lessons, Key Lessons), they do not NEED to read/write/do-math in order to have their needs fulfilled by the Great Lessons. You'll want to keep the most practical and preliminary of practical life available in the beginning (pouring dry and wet, for example) for children who have not had this practice at home. 
  • 7-9 year olds: also utilize those remedial album pages ONLY as needed. Just verify the child has those skills and move on. These children love "challenges" with the primary level materials - it has to be a game, a challenge; while use of the primary materials by these children is not required, it is amazing how much they get into the challenges and fine-tune their skills. 
  • 9-12 year olds: They likely do NOT need the remediation, though some situations justify it. Again, start where they are at with the elementary albums - have them show you what they know. They still need the Great Lessons whether or not they are continuing from a younger Montessori experience, so start there and proceed through the album pages at their pace. Review what they already know and go on to the next activity. Get them working independently on research projects. They prefer to be less "fussy" about beads and small parts, but should be strong on their handwork skills. 

Adolescence (12-15): 
  • Their minds are slowing down in pace of development as their bodies are going through so many changes, including physical and hormonal. They crave to find their place in the grand scheme of things and need to be connected with nature. 
  • Encourage lots of handwork. 
  • No elementary experience at all? Introduce the Great Lessons and Key lessons - the best way is if they can be helping make materials and work on presentations with actual elementary children. But if this is not possible, just get them involved as much as possible. 
  • Definitely cover the upper elementary presentations, especially on economic geography, history, geography. Mathematics and geometry in whichever areas needed (do not drill and kill). ETA: Many of these experiences are outlined in the Keys of the Universe Cosmic Education album, available in several places. 
  • There is also now an adolescent algebra album that they can move into when ready (it covers FAR more than just algebra!!!). See Montessori Albums page (scroll down to the adolescent section) for the links. 
  • Get them outside as much as possible - camping, hiking, working with animals, gardening, farming if possible, planning and building structures (ie for a farm or small business). 
  • Encourage entrepreneurship - think consumer mathematics here. Business math programs designed for this age - economics. 
  • For mathematics, focus on mathematics as part of life: in history, art, geometric designs; utilizing those math skills for practical purposes such as managing a household or a small business. 
  • Essentially, they should be LIVING cosmic education. 

Adolescence (14-18): 
  • Their minds are picking back up in pace and their bodies are slowing down in changes. 
  • Incorporate all suggestions from the 12-15 range. 
  • Can handle theoretical lectures, but still need real work. 
  • Essentially, they should be LIVING cosmic education, now adding a deeper intellectual component. 

Montessori Mathematics is Incomplete

Or so the story goes ;)
(just at elementary)

So is the language album - and history - and geography....

It is true that the traditional Montessori elementary level mathematics album (and the others listed) does not contain some information that is required by every state in the US and probably by most standard school requirements around the world's first-world countries.

But let's think about cosmic education.

Mathematics is not a stand-alone subject by itself.

Mathematical principles are embedded in the very life around us; the very things that support that life.

Mathematics as a human language has come down to us through history as a gift from our ancestors. We have built upon it, used it, expanded it, created a supranature with it -- we live it every day and we pass it on to those who come after us.

We humans by nature have a mathematical mind (bear with me on this one - future Montessori Nugget!).

So let's think about this.

What is "missing" from the mathematics elementary album? 
--graphing: look in geography (economic geography with production and consumption); also see botany and zoology studies; it is also included in math, but not as a stand-alone album page; be sure you have an album with ALL the exercises. Specifically designated coordinate planes are not included.
--estimation: used in practical situations all over the place, most notably in geography (economics), fractions, long division
--statistics and probability: really get into it with economic geography; also covered in history studies
--comparisons (greater, equal): exercises within math presentations
--measurement: may be introduced in math, but heavily utilized in every other area of the room in practical life situations --- check Geometry ;)
--money: practical life (Goings Out, literal practical life); extension of various decimal fraction album pages and experience is assumed when children are working on divisibility (early math)

What is "missing" in  language?
--Research skills: no formal album page exists, but exercises, presentations and almost all follow-up work requires it. The entire elementary sequence focuses on research - show the children how to use tools as they come across them; formally these things are introduced in economic geography (upper elementary), but the children are very likely to know it all by then, if they've truly been exploring their own interests already.
--telling time: see the history album
--5 paragraph essays: they're not necessary.

"Missing" in history: 
--local history - timelines and charts: the children build these themselves according to the local educational requirements and their own interests (no album can cover every single "local history" requirement - so guidelines are given to create your own)
--the album just seems too short: because the history album provides the framework and the highlights - the children's interests and the local educational requirements dictate the details; encouraging the use of many different sources for information, rather than depending on just one source that may or may not be accurate or non-bias, or even cover everything.

"Missing" in geography: 
--everything that should have been done in primary, can be taught quickly in elementary with similar materials - so elementary geography "officially" speaking does not include functional geography. This is a research area for the children - as they study cultures, climatic zones, peoples of various places and times, they will be learning political geography at the same time.
--basic map skills: Goings Out - maps of museums, bus routes, maps of the city, etc.

The main thing to remember is that, since elementary Montessori is based on cosmic education, just picking and choosing one or two subjects won't cover all the concepts needed in that subject (ie mathematics - you'll need biology, geography, history and language to "complete" the math cycle).

This is where it is crucial to utilize the local educational requirements ("public school standards") in the 3rd and 6th years of elementary. These are a tool for the children to compare where they are with their locally schooled peers, check in on language usage, etc. It is a tool that builds personal responsibility as they do the comparing themselves, look for suitable tools to fill in, or in a few rare occasions the adult will provide the needed tool. 

Please reply back with anything that seems to still be missing. I'd like to make this post as comprehensive as possible, so we can honestly say which public school requirements are truly missing. 

Peace Education

Some Montessori companies have begun putting out a "curriculum" on peace education.

AMI does not have a specifically "Peace Education" album or specific presentations.

If the Montessori method is being fully implemented, there are rare needs for needing anything "extra" to obtain a peacable environment where children are learning conflict resolution skills naturally and deeply; however, we cannot always have the perfect Montessori environment.

Some thoughts to consider for the elementary level:
(hint: you want a "yes" answer)

Are you
  • focusing on cosmic education?
  • all past, present and future?
  • human contributions from our ancestors - gifts to be used and passed down to subsequent generations?
  • are the children doing lots of hands-on work of their own choosing and interest?
  • going deep with their interests?
  • getting out into the community, building connections, sharing resources?
  • providing the children with natural interactions when in a conflict (more like what they will experience as adults)?
  • do the materials and the human/plant/animal interactions meet the children's internal needs?
  • have they learned empathy naturally (without forced empty apologies)?
  • have they been learning responsibility when harm is done (caring for a person they've hurt)?
If so, then a peace education album is not necessary. 

If any of the answers are no, pick up an elementary theory album and the introductions to ALL subject areas. You might be surprised what treasures await!

Some thoughts for the primary level:

  • Are grace and courtesy lessons/skits happening routinely? 
  • Is the adult engaging in conversations with the children? 
  • Are we exploring other cultures through the continent/culture folders? 
  • Are we telling stories, having the children tell stories, reading a variety of books from various styles and resources? 
  • Are the exercises of practical life including exposure to a variety of cultures through each area of EPL - including art, care of the environment, care of self, control of movement, preliminary activities? 
  • Is walking on the line happening daily? All stages over time? ALL stages? Barefoot on a textured line where the children can move blindfolded and still find their way around safely and peacefully? 
  • Is the silence activity happening routinely as the children are coming to a state of normalization? 
  • Is there joy in the work done by the children? Are they exploring themselves or being led by the adult? Are they writing their own ideas with the movable alphabet, creating their own math problems, gaining art skills without pre-planned full-class craft projects? 
If not, go back to the theory album - go back to the foundation of each subject and get those children creating! :) 

Thoughts on Interdependencies

In a lecture from March 27, 1944, given in Kodai Canal, Dr. Montessori said,

“The first effort of man was to adapt himself to nature and now he must adapt himself to this supranature. He must render himself conscious of this and that it is impossible for many to live outside of this supranature.

Today we have reached a point where man is absolutely separated from nature, for we can have nothing that hasn’t been the work of some person and not that of nature.”

Correcting Children's Work

Here is the blog post, this Montessori Nugget responds to:
Absorbent Mind - Reading Group - from 2009

I know this blog is older, but it poses an enduring question.

If the adult truly "behaves as though the child doesn't exist" once his concentration has set in, the blog post author estimates that 75% of errors were taken care of by the child. This leaves 25% of "what to do?"

For the 25% that doesn't work itself out, decide how much is "necessary" to get right. The brown stair should be properly put away at the end of the "day" (or end of the last work cycle for the day). These are the times to do a general clean-up. The children walk around the room with me and I ask them, "Does this look neat and beautiful?" (I try not to use "right" or "correct" except when it IS the most appropriate word to say). I will ask this about things that ARE correct, as well as those that are not, so the children have to truly think, analyze, judge.

In classroom situations, it works great. The kids immediately jump in and clear things up.

At home, with one child, not so much. He thinks it all looks neat and beautiful if it is lined up against the wall or furniture (think magazines and books and papers). So adjust the question as a parent: "Is this how I showed you? Is this how I expect it?"

Something like the pouring and not lining up the spout; or the wrong direction with the sandpaper letters: that's just a re-presentation on another day. He doesn't have to know the new presentation is because he was doing it wrong. Just do it again and bring lots of exaggeration to lining up that spout with the middle of the glass; or moving those fingers in the proper direction. He'll get it.

In elementary, there is a lot less "specifically correct answers" and a lot more going ahead and letting them know, "Hey, something's not right here. Give it another try and let me know if you need help figuring out what to do."

Montessori Large Bead Frame

The small bead frame and large bead frames (sometimes called the "Montessori abacus", which is  not entirely accurate, but it sure looks like one!) are a necessary yet often overlooked piece of Montessori mathematics material.
Large Bead Frame -
goes up to 10 million

They each allow for addition, subtraction and long multiplication and are a step towards abstraction in the process of carrying into new categories and in exchanging.

While this material can be used for 3 operations, the main focus of this material is its teaching of *Long Multiplication* - this IS the Montessori material that teaches all the steps in proper order. Other materials either prepare for it, or expect a child to have this experience tucked away already.

The small bead frame has four bars, going into the thousands (with 10 thousand-beads, it can go to 10-thousand).

The large bead frame, with 7 bars, is the child's first experience going into the MILLIONS. And they LOVE it!

The children also utilize lightness of touch, visual organization, proper order of steps, which is preparation for the division with racks and tubes (test tube division) which starts with short division (1-divisor with a 4-7 digit dividend) and goes into long division (2, 3, or 4-digit divisor into a 4, 5, 6, or 7-digit dividend).

Many primary level children will get to this work and the short division with racks and tubes - generally between 5 1/2 and 6. Whether they get in primary or not, this material is heavily utilized and crucial in lower elementary on their work with long multiplication.

The main thing with this material is the connection to the writing. There is long bead frame paper that goes along with this material, for the children to begin their writing out of long multiplication - one sized for the short bead frame; the other sized for the large bead frame.

They are introduced to the bead frame with nomenclature first; then addition and subtraction just to get a feel for how it works and how the writing on the paper works.

Then they are introduced basic multiplication - 52 taken 3 times for example. They are writing the steps on paper and doing it on the bead frame, so they understand what they are writing and when they are exchanging, WHY they are exchanging or carrying. At this point, they might do a number such as 54 taken 3 times.

Once they are comfortable, they are given longer and longer multiplication examples, until they are making up their own (our goal is for them to create their own numbers, so that they own those numbers and will pay more attention to how they work, what are the patterns, what are the results).

And they begin to add zeroes into their writing.

Before you know it, they are writing out long multiplication problems without the use of the bead frame or a calculator.

AND they are prepared for the greater task of long division!

UPDATED TO ADD due to a small number of private messages received: Yes, there are a couple (?) of album sets you can purchase that do not introduce this material until the 3rd year of lower elementary and seem to indicate that it is an upper elementary work. AMI albums sit this material firmly at 5-8 years of age for normally functioning children, with the children working with it as long as they need (through any age). The fact is, upper elementary children are getting "less fiddly with the beads" (as quoted by one of my AMI trainers) and should really be far beyond the introductory stages to this material if they have had Montessori math since at least 5 1/2; still working with it as needed, but not JUST receiving it at age 8. If just getting it at age 8, they won't be doing LONG division until at least age 9, perhaps even 10, long after kids in the public schools have already started it; and Montessori has prepared them from the time they were 3 if they've been with Montessori that long - even starting at 5 1/2, there will be minimal slowing down in the early mathematics presentations. The big question is, if they're not doing long multiplication stages and long division stages at age 6 and 7, what have they been doing?
NEW children (starting Montessori after age 6 1/2 or 7) and children with severe learning impairments will follow a later schedule. THAT IS OKAY - but they are the exception and their needs should be considered when "Following the Child".

Montessori Music - An Article on Maccheroni's Book

(click above)
This article was written in 1956 by Mario Montessori, Maria Montessori's son,  to announce the publication of one of the booklets made by Anna Maccheroni about the Montessori music material.

  • Some facts about small children
  • Dr. Montessori and the child.
  • Music for children

Normalization - Walking on the Line and Silence Game

Walking on the Line is the point of departure for the process of normalization. 

It brings children into a state of normalization.

It should be done consistently from the beginning of the primary experience, and is useful even in elementary.
(have ADHD kids? set up a permanently available walking on the line)

The Silence Game is the point of arrival. 

It cannot be done by children who have not yet been prepared.

It should not be done on the first day of class with new children. Some of the children can do it, but it's not because they yet have a state of normalization. They just know to obey the new teacher. Gain their trust first, because we want them to be open to a light touch on their shoulder or cheek; this sort of touch is not appropriate for a new adult in their lives.

Have a class or a group of children with a mixed state of readiness? The ones not ready can take a short walk with an assistant (or an older sibling) while the other children play the Silence Game.

Normalization: The Signs

Characteristics, or signs, of Normalized Children: 
  1. Love of work, love of activity
  2. Concentration on an activity
  3. Self-discipline
  4. Sociability or joyful work

All four characteristics must be present for us to say that a normalized type common to the whole of mankind is appearing—no matter how brief the appearance of the characteristics. The process is usually invisible to us because the process of normalization is hidden by characteristics not proper to the child. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202)

Normalization in a Nutshell: Definition

Let's define our terminology so that we are discussing the same thing when we use particular words:

Normal: how things typically are in any given situation. This sense of normal can be good or bad.
Synonym: Typical. Ordinary. Usual. What is expected based on past experience.

Normalized: the state of being complete, whole, reaching one's potential, utterly fulfilled. This sense of "normal" is a beautiful and wonderful experience!
Synonym: Peaceful. Fulfilled.

Normalization: the process of becoming normalized.

Normalization is the single most important result of our work. 
(The Absorbent Mind, p. 204)

Montessori and Independent Learning

Montessori is not independent learning. 

Independent learning and independent activities can be developed, even in "Montessori-style", but it is not Montessori.

These things are good - and can be wonderful - and can certainly be utilized in proper balance in a Montessori environment. But let's call them what they are: independent learning activities.

Montessori is independent, co-dependent, community, self, the world, the universe: it is SO much bigger than "independent learning activities."

Let's put Montessori into a properly sized box, shall we ;)

Montessori is cosmic education. 

Read this article from For Small Hands on Cosmic Education for another insight.

Cosmic Education is heaviest at the elementary level, but begins in infancy and pre-birth when we begin to prepare for the child's environment and life.

It continues throughout life, if we are going to support life. Life that is interconnected, interwoven - cosmic.

Grammar Boxes - Word Order

What about the order of the compartments? It really does not matter. Some people seek to have them "in order that we speak our language" - but look at these two sentences: 

the brown dog ate his bone. 
the brown dog ate his bone in the large yard. 
the dog that is brown ate his bone in the yard that is large. 

The first sentence has 2 nouns. So where should the nouns section go in the box? Towards the beginning or towards the end? 
The second sentence has three nouns - and three adjectives (brown, his, large) - so where shall we place the adjective? In front of the noun? Ok, that makes sense, but the children are still going to be going back and forth for the nouns, since there are articles throughout the second sentence; prepositions that could be at the beginning or middle; etc.
As the sentences add parts of speech, there is more and more complexity with word order. See the third sentence. The adjectives are coming after the nouns they describe. Hm. 

The boxes are a storage and display - an organizer, but NOT for the order in which we speak.  

We want the children to explore language - their own language which has already been given as a gift to them in infancy and toddlerhood; that they have striven to learn, to perfect, to master and to share. Even if we *could* hand them the boxes in order, should we? It would be less of a puzzle, less of a game, and more of a mindless matching activity. Indeed that has been the experience of many teachers when doing the noun/adjective/article box with the box in English order: article, adjective, noun. It became mindless. The children didn't have to *think*.

Now, at this age, we are not really looking to just hand them their language - they already have it! Now we are looking to examine it, to explore it, to play with it. So we hand it to them "messed up" - with colors that don't match the symbols they've learned; with transposing and making silly sentences; learning all sorts of play on words (the push cart, push the cart); developing poetical skills as they mix up the sentences and find what still makes sense, what makes sense but with a different meaning and what is entirely non-sensical. 

We are also training their ears to truly *hear*. 

It is impossible to create the boxes "in the order that we speak" - so don't try! Just play along with the language games and enjoy the company :) 

Grammar Boxes - Emphasis - Writing

From AMI Montessori Training Notes: 

The grammar boxes provide for a manipulative activity – they are not a written exercise. Repeat: They are not a written exercise. That is the fastest way to kill the fun that the children should have with this material.

Writing something out is a great way to review and internalize - the children have already acted out the sentences; brought any noted materials; manipulated the cards, transposed, re-constructed, symbolized the sentence/phrase; and repeated for the contents of that box. It sounds like they've done a LOT already!

Now, if the child chooses to write them out and illustrate them - GREAT! Do NOT make it a requirement or a chore, but if this is their way of extending the work, go for it. There are plenty of other places for writing practice in this area that can provide feedback on what the child has understood - and since this is primarily a lower elementary activity, there is plenty of time for assimilation. 

The work with the grammar boxes and associated activities is designed to lay a strong foundation for the love of grammar study in the years to come. 

Keep it fun and interesting - humorous in a healthy manner. And you will have a child with a life-long love of language. 

Biology - Introduction - Elementary - Synopsis - 4

Our hope is that the child recognizes herself as part of nature, meaning that she too has a task; she too has a contribution to make; she too has a cosmic task. We also hope that the child sets about discovering that personal task.

We want the children to realize that people, unlike animals, have the power to alter the balance. So if it ever falls to her lot to be in a position to decide what is going to seriously impact our environment, she must act thoughtfully and responsibly with full awareness that decisions made may have consequences remote in time and place.

Choose plants first if you have a choice:
·                    The children tend to have less experience.
·                    They are very easy to explore - dissect - etc.

Do not give too much information – leave room for exploration!

Explore WITH the children! 

Grammar - Verb

But what about the red ball? (roll it around) It scoots around until someone stops it. 
This red ball symbolizes energy – movement – that force in nature. Dr. Montessori took a red ball as the symbol for the part of speech that represents movement – action. We know that part of speech is the verb. In our grammar symbols, the symbol for the verb is a red circle – the two-dimensional representation of this red ball.

The work we’re going to do with the elementary grammar boxes center around these two most important parts of speech: the noun and the verb. The other parts of speech have a relationship to the noun and to the verb. That relationship is determined by the noun and the verb. We’re going to help the children recognize the importance and the significance of these two parts of speech, and help them see the relationship that the other parts have to the noun and the verb. 

Biology - Introduction - Elementary - Synopsis - 3

The children’s explorations will lead them to recognize that there is great diversity of life on this planet. After introducing the child to one idea, little by little she becomes aware that because of this one idea, plants behave in many different ways. Those different behaviors result in different characteristics and in different qualities. The children learn that plants and animals have needs and in order to survive those needs must be met. The needs are met in a myriad of ways and this variety of response is what gives rise to such a diversity of life on our planet. All of these awarenesses that come to the children must be classified and organized and when this is done, it helps the children to meet that tendency to order.

Observation is a tool that the child will possess and put to use. It becomes a key that will open many doors to her awareness.

We want to ensure that the environment provides many opportunities for the children to explore, to observe, to wonder, to ask questions and seek answers of their own accord.
·        Stories
·        Plants – why are these leaves drooping?
·        Animals
·        Lots of variety
·        Resources for inexhaustive study

When we nurture that sense of wonder, we foster a respect for nature. Children discover that there is a balance in nature and that it is a very delicate balance, in need of protection. The children will realize that biology is not just learning about plants and animals, nor is it just about learning the names of the characteristics of plants and animals, biology is actually about understanding the relationships between plants and animals, and with the earth. They see that this is a vital relationship that must be kept in balance and be protected. When they start recognizing these aspects, they start assuming responsibility for the care of nature.

Biology - Introduction - Elementary - Synopsis - 2

Biology in the second plane of development

When we begin the work of biology in the elementary, we must consider the new characteristics that are now operating within the child. The tendencies remain the same, but there are new characteristics which support the work of the tendencies. 
-The child still explores, but now uses imagination, which is aided by the reasoning mind. 
-This elementary age child is interested in the how and the why. Not just in names and facts anymore. She’s not interested in the fact that the leaf is green – she wants to know WHY the leaf is green. She observes that a fish is dead and wants to know WHY the fish is dead. 
-We have to know that we are working with a different kind of child in the elementary class; this means whenever we present plants and animals, or the parts of plants and animals, we must relate the function to the part. In other words, we don’t just give anatomy, we give physiology. The child comes to understand that it is the function that explains the reason for the behavior of the plant or animal.

From such experiences we provide in biology, it becomes apparent to the child that the behavior of the plant or animal is directly related to the function it must perform in order to survive. 

NOTE: the Biology classification material appear to be out-dated. In one manner of speaking, yes they are. But the system used has important benefits for the child who, in any other elementary setting, is not likely to get this depth of classification elsewhere - it is based on observable characteristics, it gets the children's brains organized, and provides the keys to moving on to any other system of classification. 
Note 2: the system of classification used is simple and easy to use. It is consistent. New methods of classification come out almost every day, each of which provides excellent insights into the complexity of life. So we provide a KEY - and the children will be able to utilize any other system available. Perhaps explore these other options in upper elementary, middle school and high school. 

Grammar - Nouns

In her book that is not yet translated into English, Psycho-grammar, Dr. Montessori asks us to take a different approach to this role of language. Connect it to history and tell a story: 

In the universe we have the force of energy and of matter. She symbolized matter by referring to the noun – the name of things – and the enduring history that nouns have. They are probably one of the oldest parts of speech. 

We know that things in the environment had to be named, so that people could communicate about those things. And in most cases, the names of things, once given, have stuck – they’ve stayed with those objects. 

Well, because of the enduring nature of nouns and names, she took the pyramid as the symbol for this part of speech. The pyramid is one of the oldest, most enduring buildings on earth. They have lasted for years and years and years. The pyramid is a building that is stable on its base - they seem to stand eternally. Now, this pyramid will stay anywhere it is put – until it is moved elsewhere, where it will sit until I move it again. (when presenting this story, the adult will actually move and place the pyramid).  

In the grammar symbols, we use an equilateral triangle (each face of the pyramid).

Biology - Introduction - Primary - 4

(this is actually taken from the elementary introduction)

Biology in the first plane of development

We know that the first plane child is a sensorial explorer and we only need to give one key in order to open up a new world to the child. In botany, we have the key of the botany cabinet; because there is a limitation of the number of leaf shapes in that cabinet, when the child is out in nature looking for the ones she knows, she is going to make the discovery that there are other shapes as well. When she makes that discovery, she’s going to want to know the name of that exception – the child’s interest is piqued. She’ll start to look for other leaf shapes that are not found in the botany cabinet. Hence we don't automatically give every single leaf shape. 

When the child is outside, carefully looking for certain shapes of leaves, she will also discover that they have different colors; in those explorations she may also see the flowers of the plant as well – they too have different shapes and different colors. And the bark, and stems - and what type of soil is each growing in; what is growing around each plant - and then we notice the insects and animals that are attracted to each plant. 

You can see that it took just one key to open the door to an awareness of the varieties of nature. The children are aware of color, they are aware of shape, they become aware of texture and fragrance – and it expands from there  the beauty of this work is that it took just one key in the child’s classroom to make a connection with the world outside.

Primary Materials - a Survey

What Belongs in a Montessori Primary Classroom? Results from a Survey of AMI and AMS Teacher Trainer

This is an excellent but long article. Take it in pieces :)

It applies to primary, but there are hints of elementary as well; including that transition time between the two planes of development.

Biology - Introduction - Elementary - Synopsis - 1

This elementary introduction is much longer than what is presented here!

When we present biology, we present it in a way that is consistent with the lessons of cosmic education. This means we want to give a vision of the whole and put plants and animals into perspective with that whole. We treat biology as part and parcel of the process of life on earth. Therefore we present it in relationship to other factors that influence biology. We begin to introduce the child to the inter-relationships between plants and the earth, plants and other plants, and between plants and animals.

The child has been introduced to geography lessons and with those, has learned about the ever-changing earth. She has learned how the earth has been prepared to support life. When you have plants and animals in your classroom, you complete the developing pictures for the child. She can see the universe in its totality. Plants and animals can then provide opportunities that help the children develop their human potentials and allow them to express their human tendencies.

We find that in biology, as in other areas, we do not need a lecture or a textbook. 
We need real life experiences from which the children draw conclusions.

Introducing Animals - Notes from Primary

Language Extensions

Introducing Animals

            To foster the child’s reverence for life, it is important to have one or several animals in the classroom or home. When choosing animals for the casa, or for any classroom, consider the following criteria:

Purpose of the Animals
Zoological: Learning the fundamental characteristics of animals.
Animal Care: Teaching children how to properly care for pets.
Ambiance: The animal can complement the feeling, sound and visual characteristics of the casa or other environment. (do you want something LOUD in a quiet work space? or would an aquarium of beautiful fish be more suitable for a quiet work space, with chatty guinea pigs in a more active space?)

Age and ability of the Students
2-6 years: Animals that will not be handled by students or only by an adult.
7-12: Animals that can be handled by experienced students with adult supervision.
(home environments can better modify these ages since the groups of children are smaller, younger children can have more experiences handling the animals)

Classroom and Environment
Physical characteristics of the room: size, construction type, natural and artificial light, fluctuating temperature.
Activity type and levels of the animals: sounds and movements.

Animals’ Care Needs - what can be accommodated in your situation
Enclosures: wire, plastic, glass
Diet: commercial feeds, fresh feeds, live feeds
Health: veterinary care, immunizations, feed supplements
Exercise: independent or assisted

Animals’ Behavioral Characteristics
Activity level, noise, and odor.
It is important to choose animals that will not easily disrupt the children’s work.

Non-Classtime Care Schedule
Care on the weekends, holidays and summer break; vacations. 

Health Conditions of the Student Population
Allergies and respiratory problems
Immuno-depressed students
Students with mental or physical disabilities - what is most suitable to developing their abilities without putting anyone or anything in danger.

Local Regulation
What is allowed by state or local authorities, licensing and regulation. 

Consider each of these factors and what is necessary within your situation. If it turns out our situation does not allow for animals AT ALL, plan visits to appropriate locations to fulfill this area: homes of those who do have animals; zoos; veterinary clinics; boarding facilities; camping; nature hikes... Post more ideas in comments! 

Respect for Nature in Montessori

Those seeking to know how Montessori develops a love for nature, may have come to realize that there is no official album for this concept - it is interwoven throughout all the albums:
  • respect for the child (easier to give respect when one receives it)
  • reasonable expectations of responsibility with corresponding freedom
  • care for materials
  • care for people and for self
  • early experiences with the world around the child - plants, animals, weather
  • getting out into the world both in primary and in elementary
  • cosmic education nature of the environment
  • development of historical appreciation for gifts
  • responsibility to pass these gifts on in a positive way
Essentially, because we *care*, they will care.

Please add your own ideas in the comments! 

Biology - Table of Contents

Biology experiences should begin in primary with caring for plants and some experimentation. It is an environmental thing, rather than an explicit area of the classroom.

If this experience is missed, it is OK to pick up in elementary, just consider some of the environmental factors from the primary list below.

PRIMARY - Keys of the World:

Exercises of Practical Life

Care of Self
How to Wash Hands
Add outdoor care of self - when to wash hands and the like

Care of the Environment
How to Care for Plants
How to Dust Leaves
Raise herbs
Gardening – inside and out
How to Arrange Flowers
How to Make Lemon Water
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables
How to Peel & Cut Fruits and Vegetables
How to Compost
How to Recycle

Grace and Courtesy
Introduction to Grace and Courtesy
     Grace and Courtesy for the Outdoors
     Grace and Courtesy living creatures inside

Control of Movement
Walking on the Line
     Find lines outside
The Silence Activity
     Do it outside; be like plants and animals

Visual Art
Extensions of the work: Take art outside; incorporate plants and animals into art experiences, both inside and outside


Leaf Cabinet
Leaf Cards

Sensorial Aspects of the World (including plants and animals in the extensions)

Sensitizing Fingers


Spoken: Vocabulary Enrichment
Naming Objects in the Environment – including plants and animals
Collecting Classified Objects – including items used to care for certain animals or plants
Language of the Sensorial Materials – given orally now, written form later (leaf shapes, leaves in your local area, types of trees, etc, etc, etc)
Three Period Lesson
Classified Cards - Social
Related Objects Game - Presentations A & B
Description/Definition Game
Stories – Biological Classifications
    The Story of Living and Non-Living Matter
    The Story of Plants and Animals
    The Story of the Five Classes of Vertebrates
Sorting Game – Biology Classifications
Nomenclature Cards – Scientific
Life Cycles
Oral Language Games

Spoken: Language Development – all of these can and should include biological experiences
Reading and Books in the Library
Conversation – More than one person
Question Game
Cultural Folders
Extension: fictional story telling
Land and Water Form Folders
Land and Water Form Outline Maps
Biome Folders
Art Folders
My State

Metal Insets (12 Stages) – introduce tracing the leaf cabinet insets

Reading Classification
Presentation I – Classifying the Environment
Presentation II – Cards with Labels
A. Social
B. Scientific
C1. Biology Classifications: Living and Non-Living
C2: Biology Classifications: Plant and Animal
C3: Biology Classifications: Five Classes of Vertebrates
Extension: Mix and sort - work up to 5 sets
Presentation III – Definition Stages

Children can also create posters or cards of the leaf cabinet; the parts of the animal puzzles and more.

Word Study
Compound Words
Animal Collectives
Animals and Their Young
Animal Sounds
Animal Homes
Animal Families

Language Extension
Who Am I?
Plant Study
Plant Experiments

You could also have parts of the animals or parts of the plants puzzles. We want them to have real experiences first (caring for animals; the plant study above) before introducing the puzzles, if at all possible. In practical use, the puzzles seem to lead to a better understanding of the real creature, developing a higher appreciation and enjoyment; rather than serving as a review alone. 

ELEMENTARY - Keys of the World:

Introduction to Biology
Use of the Microscope
1.  Botany
a.  The Plant
Basic Needs of the Plant
How Plants Grow Toward the Light
Plants Need Minerals

b.   The Leaf
Function of the Leaf
Parts of the Leaf
Varieties of the Leaf
Simple Classification of Leaves
Varieties of Leaves Depending upon their Functions
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Leaf

c.    The Root
Function of the Root
Parts of the Root
Cooperation of Leaves and Roots
Other Functions of the Root
Two Main Types of Roots
Other Sensitivities of the Root
Varieties of Roots
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Root

d.  The Stem
Function of the Stem
Kinds of Stems
Parts of the Woody Stem
Kinds of Tubes in the Woody Stem
How Water is Moved through the Stem
Varieties of Stems
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Stem

e.    The Flower
Function of the Flower
Parts of the Flower
Varieties of Flowers
Position of the Ovary
Specialization of Flowers to Ensure Pollination
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Flower
f.     The Fruit
Function of the Fruit
Kinds of Fruits
Parts of a Succulent Fruit
Kinds of Succulent Fruits
Another way to look at Fruits based on their Flowers
Kinds of Dry Fruits
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Fruit

g.   The Seed
Function of the Seed
Parts of the Seed
Kinds of Seeds
Seed Dispersal
Follow-Ups to Studies on the Seed

         Botany Command Cards
         Botany Nomenclature

2. Zoology
        Introduction to Zoology
        Story Material
        Activities Preparatory to Body Function Material
        Dissection of Animals
        Body Function Material

3. Classification
                Introduction to Classification
a.  Kingdom Vegetalia
Material Description
Classification of Kingdom Vegetalia:  First Method
Classification of Kingdom Vegetalia:  Second Method
Continuation of Presentation of Folders to the Family Level
Genera Level
Book Work
Geneaology of a Plant
Tree of Classification
b.   Kingdom Animalia
Material Description
Classification of Kingdom Animalia
Geneaology of an Animal
Tree of Classification

4. Ecology
        Introduction to Ecology
        Chart of Interdependencies