Montessori: What Comes First?

In Montessori, when we follow the observations made by Maria Montessori and our own observations when we remove all culturally-imbedded bias, we discover some interesting things:

Writing come first. Followed by a discovery of reading. 

The adult provides the keys to writing, the child discovers he can read; the teacher has done less work, the child has found greater joy.

Cursive comes first. Following by a discovery of the ability to read and write in any writing style. 

The adult provides the keys to writing in cursive. The child discovers he can read anything in print and can replicate it when he needs to. The teacher again has done less work, the child has found greater joy in all the discoveries of the world around him.

Maria Montessori herself on writing, reading and cursive: 

Source: The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori pages 300-302

Coming into the school one day, I found that the directress had allowed the children to take the tables and chairs out upon the terrace, and was having school in the open air. A number of little ones were playing in the sun, while others were seated in a circle about the tables containing the sandpaper letters and the movable alphabet. 
A little apart sat the directress, holding upon her lap [Page 301]  a long narrow box full of written slips, and all along the edge of her box were little hands, fishing for the beloved cards. "You may not believe me," said the directress, "but it is more than an hour since we began this, and they are not satisfied yet!" We tried the experiment of bringing balls, and dolls to the children, but without result; such futilities had no power beside the joys of knowledge. 

Seeing these surprising results, I had already thought of testing the children with print, and had suggested that the directress print the word under the written word upon a number of slips. But the children forestalled us! There was in the hall a calendar upon which many of the words were printed in clear type, while others were done in Gothic characters. In their mania for reading the children began to look at this calendar, and, to my inexpressible amazement, read not only the print, but the Gothic script.
There therefore remained nothing but the presentation of a book, and I did not feel that any of those available were suited to our method. 
The mothers soon had proofs of the progress of their children; finding in the pockets of some of them little slips of paper upon which were written rough notes of marketing done; bread, salt, etc. Our children were making lists of the marketing they did for their mothers! Other mothers told us that their children no longer ran through the streets, but stopped to read the signs over the shops. 
A four-year-old boy, educated in a private house by the same method, surprised us in the following way. The child's father was a Deputy, and received many letters. He knew that his son had for two months been taught by means of exercises apt to facilitate the learning of read- [Page 302]  ing and writing, but he had paid slight attention to it, and, indeed, put little faith in the method. One day as he sat reading, with the boy playing near, a servant entered, and placed upon the table a large number of letters that had just arrived. The little boy turned his attention to these, and holding up each letter read aloud the address. To his father this seemed a veritable miracle. 
As to the average time required for learning to read and write, experience would seem to show that, starting from the moment in which the child writes, the passage from such an inferior stage of the graphic language to the superior state of reading averages a fortnight. Security in reading is, however, arrived at much more slowly than perfection in writing. In the greater majority of cases the child who writes beautifully, still reads rather poorly.

A fortnight! Two WEEKS!?

Yes, it still happens today. But it happens when we give the children a strong foundation in aural awareness, then all the sandpaper letters (single letters and multi-letters) mixed together within 3-6 weeks, then they start writing with the movable alphabet (their OWN ideas) - and suddenly they are reading.

Science in Primary Montessori

Science in Primary Montessori

Maria Montessori called her sensorial materials “keys to the world” – with these keys, the child can classify his world. He should have real-life experiences, with key presentations presentations to help him order, classify, identify and organize the world around him.

At primary, we focus more on zoology and botany (life science) and on physical geography (continents, countries, own state). This lays the foundation for the elementary level work, but is significant in itself. These are truly the keys for a primary age child.

Listed below are the Tables of Contents from the AMI primary albums with the presentations that are explicitly scientific in nature. Truly, science permeates all areas to some degree, so even those items I have chosen not list may still include review of scientific concepts.

Exercises of Practical Life
Table of Contents

Care of the Environment

How to Dust Leaves

How to Care for Plants

How to Arrange Flowers

How to Make Lemon Water

How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables

How to Peel & Cut Fruits and Vegetables

How to Bake   (CHEMISTRY)

Grace and Courtesy

Grace and Courtesy regarding the Outdoors; animals, plants

Visual Art – Use art skills to illustrate science experiences

Rubbings (Exploration of Texture)

Contour Drawing with Crayon (Exploration of Line)

Practical life: GET the children OUTSIDE. 

Table of Contents

Spoken: Vocabulary Enrichment
Orientation Game
Naming Objects in the Environment
Collecting Classified Objects
Practical Life Objects
Parts of an Object
Language of the Sensorial Materials
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 – unlisted components contain science concepts
Cultural Folders
     Extension: fictional story telling
Land and Water Form Folders
Land and Water Form Outline Maps
Biome Folders
My State

Writing – unlisted components can still use science concepts
Map Making (GEOGRAPHY)

Writing - Art of Handwriting
Book Making – creting books of own accord

Reading Classification – all stages bring in scientific concepts
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

Reading: Function of Words – phrases used contain scientific concepts, particularly zoology

Word Study – unlisted aspects bring in life science concepts for review
Animal Collectives
Animals and Their Young
Animal Sounds
Animal Homes
Animal Families

Reading Analysis – could use sentences related to to scientific concepts.

Language Extension
Who Am I?
Introduction to Biology
Introducing Animals
Plant Study and Experiments

Table of Contents

The ENTIRE sensorial album sets a child up to properly classify his world around him; giving him the world’s characteristics in concretized abstraction. See the introduction to the sensorial album for more details.


Education as an Aid to Life

Introduction to Sensorial

Three Period Lesson



Cylinder Blocks


Pink Tower


Brown Stair


Red Rods


Color Tablets Box I


Color Tablets Box II


Color Tablets Box III


Geometry Cabinet


Geometry Cards


Leaf Cabinet


Leaf Cards

Constructive Triangles


     Rectangular Box A


     Rectangular Box B


     Triangular Box


     Large Hexagonal Box


     Small Hexagonal Box


     12 Blue Triangles


Binomial Cube


Trinomial Cube


Graded Geometric Figures


Decanomial Square


Knobless Cylinders


Sensitizing Fingers

Touch Boards

Touch Tablets




Baric Tablets


Thermic Bottles

Thermic Tablets


Tasting Bottles


Smelling Bottles


Sound Cylinders



Geometry Solids

Stereognostic Bags

Mystery Bag

Sensorial Aspects of the World

Introduction to the Sensorial Aspects of the World

Sandpaper Globe

Continents Globe

World Puzzle Map

Continent Puzzle Map

Own Country Puzzle Map

Land and Water Forms

Oceans Globe


Climatic Zones


Scope and Sequence

Materials List

Language of the Sensorial Materials