Embarking on a journey into the world of Montessori education can be an exciting and rewarding experience that allows your child to enjoy timeless principles and innovative learning. However, for newcomers and even seasoned Montessori enthusiasts, the array of specialised terminology can sometimes feel like navigating a foreign language. From “practical life” to “control of error” and “prepared environment,” Montessori has unique terminology that every parent and educator should know.
To provide you with a better understanding, here are ten Montessori terms you should add to your vocabulary list:
Control of Error
Control of error is a Montessori term often associated with Montessori materials or toys. These materials are designed to ensure children receive instant feedback, allowing them to assess their progress without needing a parent or teacher to correct them. It’s a great method of self-correction, which enables the child to learn from their mistake without the assistance of an adult. A great example of Control of Error is the Montessori cylinder block. A child can visually determine if a block doesn’t fit correctly and will be unable to fit all cylinders into the correct positions if one block is out of place. This will allow them to self-correct themselves.
Grace and Courtesy
The Montessori curriculum goes beyond simply teaching children how to read and write but also teaches them to be kind and responsible. Grace and Courtesy lessons are associated with Practical Life Activities, with these lessons aimed at each child being capable of navigating social situations. These are social skills lessons they will use throughout their lives and include learning to say “please” and “thank you.”
Maria Montessori noted that young children are happiest when engaged in real-life, ordinary activities. Practical Life Activities are, therefore, meant to resemble the simple, everyday tasks of life and home. Pouring water, sweeping, dusting and preparing food are all practical life activities. These form the basis of purposeful activities within Montessori that help young children develop motor control and coordination while giving them a sense of purpose.
The Montessori classroom is referred to as the prepared environment and is an environment created to meet the child’s learning needs. Everything within the environment is child-sized, which helps them to accomplish their tasks and ensures they can function independently. The goal of a Prepared Environment is to make sure children can move freely around the classroom, choosing their activities and working individually or within a group.
The Montessori term “normalisation” is a unique process in a child’s development in which they become a contributing member of a community, in this case, the classroom. Normalisation is also characterised by a child’s ability to think and complete activities independently within the Montessori environment, engaging in their interests and working peacefully with classmates.
Coordination of Movement
Coordination of Movement is an important skill children learn during their development. Coordination is encouraged through practical life activities in order to achieve higher levels of independence within their environment. Learning to hold a pencil and pouring water are examples of coordination of movement, which allows them to control and explore their environments.
Concrete to Abstract
Dr. Maria Montessori believed children worked best when they interacted with concrete materials before moving on to abstract concepts. The idea is to use a wide range of hands-on, sensory-rich materials to help children grasp fundamental concepts. These materials allow children to self-correct while independently learning through exploration. For example, in mathematics, children may start by using physical objects like counting beads, number rods, or golden beads to understand numerical concepts such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Planes of Development
The four planes of development within Montessori are developmental stages in which a child undergoes an intense period of development. During these sensitive periods, children exhibit certain needs, attributes and characteristics, with each stage building upon the last.
- First Plane of Development (0-6 years): During this stage, children have a remarkable capacity to absorb information from their environment. As such, this stage is usually referred to as the “Absorbent Mind” stage.
- Second Plane of Development (6-12 years): Referred to as the “Childhood” stage. Children during this stage are highly social and have a growing interest in exploring the world beyond their immediate environment. Abstract thinking and imagination become more prominent, and they start to develop reasoning and problem-solving skills.
- Third Plane of Development (12-18 years): This is often referred to as the “Adolescent” stage. Adolescents in this plane are going through a period of physical, emotional, and intellectual transformation and are developing a sense of independence and a desire to understand their place in the world.
- Fourth Plane of Development (18-24 years and beyond): This is the stage of “Maturity” and extends into adulthood. They are exploring their roles in society, developing a sense of purpose, and seeking independence.
In Montessori, work is defined as a purposeful activity. Montessori observed that children learn through purposeful activities of their choosing. All activities completed within a Montessori classroom are referred to as “work,” but while this may give the impression that children are engaged in activities that require physical or mental effort, these purposeful activities actually bring children joy as they experience learning through play.
Points of Interest
In Montessori education, “points of interest” refer to the specific topics, objects, or activities that capture a child’s curiosity and engage their natural desire to learn. These points of interest can vary from one child to another and may change over time as the child’s interests evolve. Perhaps your child finds the sound of dry rice hitting the bowl more interesting than preparing or cooking the food. Instead of getting frustrated, focus on this point of interest to help capture their attention and get them to engage with the task.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or simply a curious soul, we hope these Montessori terminologies will help guide you through the exciting world of Montessori, where learning is a lifelong adventure and every child’s potential is celebrated and cultivated with care.