a peek into the Montessori Method

Sometimes Montessori can be confusing. There's a lot of information about Montessori education and methods, and the question "is this Montessori?" comes up quite a lot.

We're here to shine a light on various Montessori matters -- from truths about the philosophy, to the materials and the prepared environment, to all things Montessori. You’ll learn that everything in the Montessori method has a purpose, and how this all matters in the overall development of a child.

The Casa Prepared Environment

Maria Montessori believed that the space where the child learns should be set up with the main goal of enhancing the child's skill as well as to enable his or her independence -- she called it the prepared environment.

All the materials and various objects surrounding the child has a specific purpose in their development of learning ability and self. The child is empowered by the space -- and the class guide -- to choose what he or she wants to learn, or what activities he or she wants to do.

The prepared environment is the child’s safe haven, where they can learn to learn, and learn to love it.

Casa: The Color Tablets

The Montessori Color Tablets are a sensorial material that introduces the child to color, with the purpose of refining the child’s visual discrimination and perception through various matching activities.

The tablets are small rectangular pieces with handles on two sides, having one pair for each color. The material comes in three boxes, which are presented at different times and when the child is ready.

Box I contains six tablets of primary colors red, yellow, and blue; Box II contains twenty-two tablets, adding secondary colors purple, green, orange, as well as colors pink, grey, white, and black.

Box III has nine compartments, each containing seven tables in gradation of each of the nine colors, now introducing lighter and darker shades of color -- that's sixty-three colors they child gets to experience!

digital movable alphabet material, on Seesaw

Casa: The Movable Alphabet

Most children learn to read between the ages of 4 and 7, and in order to become more comfortable with reading, children first need to be comfortable with the letters and then the words. That’s where the Movable Alphabet comes into play.

Rather than just seeing them on paper, the children get to manipulate these colorful, three-dimensional letters to form these words with the use of their hands. This more hands-on, playful interaction makes learning more engaging, and easier.

The Montessori method encourages self-directed learning through exploration and a little bit of play, through specially designed materials like the Movable Alphabet. They may look just like fun toys, but are actually designed to help children learn and master more difficult concepts.

Casa and Elementary: The Binomial Cube

The Binomial Cube is made up of a number of color-coded blocks, which fit together in a specific way. When it is first introduced to the child, it is presented as a challenging three-dimensional puzzle, a challenge to their fine-motor skills and ability to discriminate between the blocks based on multiple characteristics.

But it's more than a play puzzle -- it is actually a precursor for more complex mathematical concepts, including fractions and algebra.

The indirect purpose of the Binomial (and Trinomial) Cubes in Casa becomes the direct purpose when the material is re-introduced in the Elementary classrooms.

The blocks are color-coded and different sizes, and fit together to create a binomial pattern, representing the cube of two numbers, (a + b). Elementary-aged children use the cube to develop an understanding of the expanded equation (a+b)3 = a3 + 3a2b + 3b2a + b3 . (If you're lost, come check out the Cubes.)

Understanding of abstract concepts such as numbers and formulas develops from a child’s interactions and experiences with real-life objects. Working with sensorial materials help children learn to generalize and abstract from observed physical relationships, progressing to greater levels of conceptual complexity.

In this way, they build a solid, grounded foundation upon which they will build new knowledge. This mental process of forming concepts from abstractions is one that children will use continuously, and in every domain, for the rest of their lives.

Adolescent Program: The Discussion Circle

Teens know it will be a great day when their Literature, Humanities, or Science Guide tells them to push the tables to the sides of the classroom, and place the chairs in the middle to form a Discussion Circle.

A classroom that often feels like a office working environment with seats and black conference tables is suddenly transformed by excited teenagers into a place for deep and meaningful discussions on literary texts, historical accounts, or scientific articles.

There's no need to raise your hand -- participants are encouraged to speak up and candidly, following these rules:

  1. Everyone must have a copy of the text being discussed.

  2. Participants should not be holding or playing with anything else that distracts them from listening and contributing.

  3. Treat everyone with grace and courtesy.

Imagine a 13-year-old citing a literary text or scientific paper to support their point-of-view -- isn’t that exciting? This is a wonderful exercise for teens to develop their reasoning skills and oral communication, and perhaps most importantly, to have a voice in a community working together towards learning and understanding.