What is Montessori?

Practical Life

Independence is fostered in the Montessori classroom as children acquire and develop skills for everyday life: sweeping, polishing, cutting and pouring, washing up after snack and lunch, for example. Also covered are personal skills such as hand washing and buttoning. As they practise the skill in question, the child also strengthens motor skills and coordination, and importantly, begins to develop the power of concentration. Interpersonal skills – such as greeting one another nicely, table manners and remembering please and thank you – are also covered. 




As in every area of the Montessori curriculum, the child builds knowledge on what he or she already knows, gradually proceeding from the concrete towards the abstract.  Through handling the apparatus in order to discover rules and patterns, the child is able to internalise concepts that govern how numbers behave. We start from sensorial beginnings, teaching the quantities 1-10 before introducing the written symbol, then moving on to 11-20, the decimal system and early operations. We constantly encourage a perceptive awareness of the relevance of number in our environment through songs, rhymes and creative activity. 




Through manipulating equipment, the children are able to order and classify the many sensory impressions they have received since birth. This enables them to understand their surroundings more consciously, and gives them the opportunity to work with abstract ideas in a very concrete way. The child develops classification and discriminatory skills whilst working with different dimensions, colours, sounds, tastes, smells

and textures.  




We teach reading using synthetic phonics, in other words, by teaching the sounds made by each letter of the alphabet. This is done using the Montessori ‘sandpaper letters’ which enable the child to learn sound and letter formation in a multi-sensory way. We then move towards word-building (early writing) and reading phonetic words, through a series of carefully graded exercises. The child will progress towards reading and writing longer phonetic words and early ‘sight’ words and phonemes. We constantly reinforce what has already been learnt, and prepare for reading and writing, through story books, games, music, art (which includes endless opportunities for “mark making” - preparation for writing) and role play.



This is the area of the curriculum that covers geography, history, botany, zoology, science, music, art and craft: in fact, a wealth of knowledge! Montessori emphasised the importance of presenting to the child a whole view of the planet, stressing the inter-relatedness of everything in the natural world. The cultural subjects are therefore the areas of knowledge that enrich the child’s understanding of all aspects of the world in which he or she lives.



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© Camilla Bruce