Grammar Boxes - Colors

Why did Dr. Montessori choose the colors for the grammar boxes? Why don't they match the grammar symbols like they do in primary?

Because if they matched, it becomes a mindless matching activity.

So why use color at all? To aid the child in sorting the multitude of cards into the proper compartments. Also to show during transposing that the "verb" just became a "noun" - without the color, the incongruence wouldn't show up as clearly; the grammar boxes "game" would be less fun, fewer patterns would be noted, and the fullness of the activity would be lost.

All reasons and many more riches are described in The Advanced Montessori Method available free online via Google Books.

Please do not change what Maria Montessori developed - when we don't understand the true depth, we can inadvertently take away the true beauty in the experience.


  1. I still don't understand why only some of the colours changed though .....!

  2. From what I've read, she chose to keep the noun and the verb as black and red respectively because they are the two most important parts of speech - historically speaking they are probably the oldest parts of speech; also they are the parts of speech easiest for animals to understand and for some to even sign to us.

    All 7 other parts of speech change color to avoid the "mindless matching". So most of the colors changed, and only two stayed the same.

    Personally, I actually wonder more why she kept the noun and the verb the same - on the one hand, I do understand that the other parts of speech center around the noun and the verb; on the other hand, I see where this choice causes confusion with the adults, and makes us want to match the grammar boxes to the grammar symbols for all the parts of speech (or make them ALL different).

    I have only this in my album on the grammar boxes, so I've been culling from Montessori's writings on the matter - and she never fully explains herself, but I also know she never did anything without some intention or some very excellent result:

    "In the grammar boxes, each part of speech is distinguished by a color and that color does not always correspond with the grammar symbol; this incongruence was done intentionally, because Dr. Montessori did not want the children to just match the color of the symbol to the color of the cards. There is actually no significance to the colors except that they are different. The two colors that are the same in both the symbol and the grammar box material are the two most important parts of speech: the noun and the verb. The different colors help to distinguish one part of speech from the others. Each compartment within each box is a different color for a different part of speech. The grammar boxes themselves are empty except for little cover slips; all of the material we use with the grammar boxes is contained within the filler boxes. The number of each grammar box refers to the number of compartments within the box."

  3. That is interesting. However, I have found that I still have to watch for mindless colour matching once the child has moved onto the grammar boxes, as they all relate within that sequence. There is no guarantee that a child will not do anything mindlessly, which brings it back to the guide! It is the guide's job to make sure that the child enjoys the lesson enough to be involved in the process and not just trying to get through the lesson.

  4. Grammar boxes are something I have struggled with for a long time. Thanks to Montessori Nuggets I finally almost get it!

    It is definitely true that the guide is the one who sets the environment and needs to make sure the children are working productively. Since every elementary child MUST work productively and responsibly, compared to the primary child who can choose to work or not work, they must be given suitable tasks according to their abilities.

    I have come to the conclusion that the grammar boxes MUST be presented within the first year - ALL OF THEM. When they are presented too late, or as the "capstone" of their grammar work, it is boring, below them, done far quickly, and, well, mindless.

    The reading level is low on them. They really have to be done in the first year of elementary. Isn't there some talk about having them in some primary classes for ready children? If there is a possibility of having them in primary, why (this question is mostly for the lady who does Nuggets, but anyone please answer) do we have people suggesting the boxes themselves are for 3rd graders? I just don't understand that suggestion and I definitely don't agree with it, but I would like to understand the ideas behind the suggestion (I am sure they are sound).

    I finally got to present all 9 boxes throughout this past year to all 1st year children. The results were the best I've ever had! There was no mindless matching; there was lots of activity; lots of fun and interaction; and lots of illustration and copy-work. I know the children aren't supposed to write them down, but many chose to of their own accord and it was joyous. I had 3 children who just wouldn't and I let them go as they were obviously understanding the presentation, without needing to have them write it out.

  5. Anonymous - I am happy to hear this blog is helping. Do let me know if there is anything you'd like to see covered :)

    There are as many ways to present the grammar boxes as there are children in this world. I too have seen the benefits of early presentations; but have seen that all is not lost on the older children - it just needs to be directed differently (as a group; as a game; as a play on words - and definitely a lack of emphasis on color, because they do pick up on it quickly).

    Now, I have seen 6 year olds pick up on the color scheme pretty quick too - and these children moved through the boxes FAST - then went back and explored various aspects with them for the next year or so.

    And I've seen many children who don't really pick up on the color scheme - that could care less except to sort them; and a mix of children who take 2 years to go through the boxes; it just entirely varies with the child.

    I can't answer your question about the primary level use of grammar boxes - I've only seen it done with children who really COULD have moved into elementary if their schools were set up to let them go there - and these were language guru children.

    I'm with Annicles too - anything can become mindless if we let the children hide behind it. :)

  6. I've learnt a lot from this post that I will teach with.
    thanks for sharing.

  7. Maria Montessori was not some sort of all-knowing deity. She was a person. She had a lot of good ideas, but she's not the only person to have any good ideas in the last hundred years. If something, like this, doesn't make sense we should feel free to examine it and come up with something that does make sense.
    I suspect that the colors of the grammar symbols are different because someone along the line decided they looked prettier another way and stated making sets that way. I think they should stay consistent colors throughout the grades. If you think a child is matching mindlessly based on color, then the color should be removed entirely. Maybe just colored dots put on the backs for a control of error.

    1. Dr. Maria Montesori wrote in her book The Advanced Montessori Method Volume 2: The Montessori Elementary Material and clear and concise description of the different colors to be used in elementary and why they were to be distinctly different from the grammar symbols (the symbols being used in both 3-6 and 6-12).

      Someone along the line decided to change the elementary colors so they would match the 3-6 colors. Not how you stated.

      Finally, if there were no color at all, then the transposition stages wouldn't yield the results they do - seeing a verb in the function of an adjective, for example.

      This material was very well planned out by the very human, but very astute, Dr. Montessori.