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.

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).

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.

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. 

Montessori Albums - Curriculum - Lesson Plans

Montessori albums tell you how to present the materials, how to use the materials, provide guidance on typical best times to present that work option to your child. Your child's abilities and interest dictate the pace.

These provide the curriculum (scope and sequence), the lesson plans (how to present/use the materials), suggested ages and experience ranges.

Authentically Montessori albums should NOT provide daily lesson plans (what to present on each day - your child and you decide this based on the child's interests and abilities). They should not dictate all the follow-ups your child does. Album pages (the lesson plans that tell you how to use the materials) provide some games and extensions that are good for most/all children; and some that are suggested for most/some children. Some follow-ups the children will discover on their own, if we guide them that direction, preparing the environment and our words to encourage their own self-discovery.