Montessori Terminologies For Beginners

Three years ago, when I started my Montessori training, I observed that the students are well-organized and independent. They have their own activity or we call that “work” in a Montessori terminology. The teacher or “guide” normally sits down in a corner with a pen and paper. The “guide” mostly records her observation of each child. She will then create an analysis and will work for a detail plan to make an improvement. A “prepared environment” is meticulously set up to create a nurturing space for children.

At first I struggle to understand some really deep but compelling terms. I know that you been to that experience too. I dig on my old notes and books for you to share the exact definition of each terminologies used in a Montessori setting classroom. I hope that these terms will help you all the way to better understand the Montessori Method of learning. If you think of other terms that you would like to discuss please share your ideas.

Absorbent MindA natural process which develops spontaneously to a human being. A part of the First Plane of Development (0-6 years). The skills that are effortlessly absorbed by the child through the manipulation of materials. 

Auto-Education- The ability to self-educate or construct knowledge in the brain. A prepared environment contribute to this, thus a child’s experience to manipulate materials makes neurological connections, and forms concepts about the world.

Control Of Error- Materials with specific purpose so the children will be able to work on it with minimal guidance. Ex. A spindle box had numbers on each slot. There are exact amount of spindles. If the child put more or less in a specific slot, there will be shortage or overage on the next number. He will then repeat it again to come up with the exact distribution of spindles.

Concrete to Abstract-Materials are presented to child in a concrete way that he can understand first. A sandpaper letter are used so the child can feel it using his two fingers. Once the child is ready, the teacher or guide can show more abstract activity of sandpaper letter like memory game.

Cosmic Education- Learning the universe as a whole. Educating the child to have a clear understanding of the natural world. Respectful of other culture and seeing it as an important part of the universe.

Development of the Will- The intelligent direction or inhibition of movement. Knowledgable movement. An ability to choose something without conscious intent develop gradually over the first phase of life and is reinforced through practice which is close to development of internal order of the child.

Didactic Materials- Are “designed or intended to teach” materials in a prepared environment. These materials are specially designed instructional materials 

Erdkinder- A german word meaning “child of the earth”. A learning environment for ages 12-15. This is likely a farm school setting wherein the students connects with nature.

Exercise Of The Will- The Exercise of the Will is when a child can balance between impulse and inhibition. If a child had an impulse to run but inhibit himself to walk. The observed behaviour from development of the will, when we see how a child is working. Exercise of the will can be seen by how they work by what their procedure. For example, we can recognize how the child carries out their sensorial materials. 

Free Choice or Freedom in Education- A child is free to choose any activity that he wish to use. Freedom to walk around and get a new activity when done with the first material. It also a freedom to observe other children so he can learn from them.

Grace and Courtesy- This is normally introduces to children during the beginning of the school year. These are social skills that they will use in their everyday life-like saying “thank you”, “excuse me”, “I’m sorry”, “please”. A learning approach to be polite, requesting rather than demanding, and greeting warmly.

Guide or Directress-The lead teacher in a Montessori classroom. The role of the instructor is to direct or guide children to an activity based upon the guide’s observation of each child’s readiness.

Isolation of Difficulty-Refers to procedures or movements that might prove troublesome are isolated and taught to the child separately. A good example, the simple movement of holding and tracing with pencil in a metal inset with simple shapes is shown before presenting the more complicated shapes.

Nido- A montessori prepared environment for infants ages 2-14 months.

Normalization- A love of work or activity, concentration, self-discipline, joyful work, healthy and well-adjusted child. The child develops her/his character and personality.

Order- This is a behavior a children develops during normalization stage. The child is aware of his environment thus developing the ability to put materials back into the proper place. 

Planes of Development- These are four distinct periods of growth, development, and learning that build on each other as children and youth progress through them:

ages 0 – 6 the period of the “absorbent mind”.

ages 6 – 12 the period of reasoning and abstraction.

ages 12 – 18 when youth construct the “social self,” developing moral values and becoming emotionally independent.

ages 18 – 24 years when young adults construct an understanding of the self and seek to know their place in the world. 

Prepared Environment-An environment designed or arranged according to child’s age or size. A child can function and concentrate better in a prepared environment.

Sensitive Periods- Stages where children are more readily able to absorb information than at other times. Children have sensitive periods for order, language, refinement of the senses and large motor skills, small objects, and social behavior. All of these periods take place during the 0-6 year plane of development. The sensitivity last lasts for a certain period and does not reoccur. 

Spontaneous Repetition- Is an inner desire of a child to repeat and master his work. Every child has an inner desire to repeat everything new to them and wanted to master it. It happen without an adult making the suggestion to repeat the material.  A normal child willingness to repeat comes naturally while non-normal child needs teacher to remind them which is a sign of a child with learning disability.

Three Period Lesson- Is a way of teaching using the nomenclature vocabulary using three stages:

  1. Naming or Introduction of an object. Example: “This is a skittle.”
  2. Association or Recognition. Example: “Show me the skittle.”
  3. Recall. Example. “What is this?”

Work- Dr. Maria Montessori uses the term “work” to any activity in a prepared Montessori environment that the child takes pride with. The child chooses work and is then able to take responsibility for it. This forms character and enables the child to have a sense of self-respect for what he or she has done.

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