Find Montessori Schools in Your Local Area! Montessori Scout Makes it Easy for You to Locate and Research Your Child's Next Montessori School. Join Our Montessori Education Community Today!
- Montessori School Search
- Introduction to Montessori
- Montessori for Parents
- Become a Member Today
- Montessori Education Forum
- Montessori Education FAQ
- Montessori in the News
- The Montessori Scout Story
- Montessori Scout News
- Our User Testimonials
- Our Contact Information
Glossary of Common Montessori Terms
Parents are often times exposed to Montessori terminology. In an effort to help you better understand these Montessori specific terms we are offering this glossary.
A mind able to absorb knowledge quickly and effortlessly. Montessori said the child from birth to six years has an “absorbent mind.”
Related to the idea of an absorbent mind is a special power of the young child that can be called the power of adaptation. This power is a process whereby the young child absorbs the culture of her time and place, taking in all the spirit, the customs, the ambitions and attitudes of a society simply by living in that society.
American Montessori Society (AMS) Affiliated or Member School
American Montessori Society (AMS) affiliation otherwise known as AMS Membership is separated by three different member types. These member types depend solely on the amount of accredited teachers the school employs. The first level of membership is Initiate. This level is for newer schools developing their status and can be held for up to three years. The school is expected to work toward full or associate membership. The second level of membership is Associate. The lead teacher in some, but not all, of the school’s classrooms must hold credentials from a teacher education program affiliated with AMS, AMI, NCME, or accredited by MACTE. The third level is Full Membership. All classroom lead teachers must hold Montessori credentials in the level(s) they are teaching. The credentials must be issued by a teacher education program affiliated with AMS, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the National Center for Montessori Education (NCME), or other programs that are also accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE). After 1 year as a full member, a school is eligible to apply for AMS accreditation, a widely accepted validation of quality Montessori education. Only full member schools may be accredited by AMS. See AMS for more information.
American Montessori Society (AMS) Accredited School
Accreditation is a service provided to full-member schools only (see above AMS Member School). It is a voluntary process that takes one to two years to complete. Accreditation begins with an intensive self-study, by the school, involving the school’s entire community—students, staff, faculty, administration, board members, and parents. During the application process, every aspect of the school is examined and documented, including governance, curriculum, fiscal and personnel policies, facilities, health and safety practices, teacher preparation, and learner outcomes. The self-study at the heart of accreditation leads to discoveries that empower the entire school community. Accreditation encourages continual self-evaluation and improvement, including ongoing professional development. See AMS for more information on Montessori School Accreditation and the AMS School Accreditation Standards and Criteria.
Analysis of movement
A technique used by Montessori teachers. The adult, when showing a complex action to a child, breaks it down into its parts and shows one step at a time, executing each movement slowly and exactly. The action thus becomes a sequence of simple movements and the child has a greater chance of success when “given the liberty to make use of them.”
Association Montessori International (AMI or AMI-USA) Accredited School
AMI, also known as AMI-USA was founded by Dr. Montessori herself in 1929. AMI is one of the most diligent Montessori organizations ensuring that Montessori schools and teachers are both well-grounded in the basic principles of the method and ready to carry those principles forward in the modern educational world. AMI offers teacher training and conferences, approves the production of Montessori materials and books, and, through their AMI-USA branch office, accredits schools.
To receive AMI Recognition, each classroom in the school must have:
- A fully-trained teacher who has completed both a college undergraduate degree and AMI's year-long training program
- A complete set of authorized Montessori classroom materials
- A three-year range of ages within the single classroom
- An uninterrupted three-hour work cycle each morning
Schools receive an outside consultation from an experienced AMI teacher every three years, verifying that these requirements are met and offering workshops and suggestions to help school staff further refine the program. Every three years, trained consultants evaluate AMI schools at each level as a part of the ongoing school accreditation process. See the AMI website for more information on AMI school accreditation.
A publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority. This means charter schools are independent public schools that operate under public supervision but outside public school systems.
The English name for Montessori’s Italian“Casa dei Bambini”. A place for children from 3-6 years to live and grow. Everything necessary for optimal human development is included in a safe and secure environment.
Sorting. Allocating or distributing according to common characteristics. The young child engages in classification activities because the process is essential for the construction of the intellect. The Montessori classroom offers many opportunities for classification.
The act of concentrating. The young child focuses his or her attention on aspects of the environment essential for development. From a Montessori perspective, concentration is “a consistent activity concentrated on a single work –an exercise on some external object, where the movements of the hands are guided by the mind.”. Deep engagement.
Concrete to abstract
A progression both logical and developmentally appropriate. The child is introduced to a concrete material that embodies an abstract idea such as size or color. With hands-on experience, the child’s mind grasps the idea inherent in the material and forms an abstraction. Only as the child develops is he or she gradually able to comprehend the same idea in symbolic form.
Control of error
A way of providing instant feedback. Every Montessori activity provides the child with some way of assessing his own progress. This puts the control in the hands of the learner and protects the young child’s self-esteem and self-motivation. Control of error is an essential aspect of auto-education.
Coordination of movement
One of the major accomplishments of early childhood. Through the child’s own activity, she refines muscular coordination and consequently acquires increasingly higher levels of independent functioning. Because of this developmental need, children are drawn to activities which involve movement and especially to pastimes which demand a certain level of exactitude and precision.
Imagination involves the forming of a mental concept of what is not actually present to the senses. Creativity is a product of the imagination and results from the mental recombining of imagined ideas in new and inventive ways. Both are dependent mental imagery formed through sensorial experience.
Cycle of activity
Little children, when engaged in an activity that interests them, will repeat it many times and for no apparent reason, stopping suddenly only when the inner need which compelled the child to activity has been satisfied. To allow for the possibility of long, concentrated work cycles, Montessori advocates a 3-hour uninterrupted work period.
Development of the will
The ability to will, or choose to do something with conscious intent, develops gradually during the first phase of life and is strengthened through practice. The Montessori environment offers many opportunities for the child to choose. Willpower, or self-control, results from the many little choices of daily life in a Montessori school.
Behavior commonly seen in children that is the result of some obstacle to normal development. Such behavior may be commonly understood as negative, (a timid child, a destructive child, etc.) or positive (a passive, quiet child). Both positive and negative deviations disappear once the child begins to concentrate on a piece of work freely chosen.
Discipline from within
Self-discipline. The discipline in a well-run Montessori classroom is not a result of the teacher’s control or of rewards or punishments. Its source comes from within each individual child, who can control his or her own actions and make positive choices regarding personal behavior. Self-discipline is directly related to development of the will.
Exercises of Practical Life
This is one of the four areas of the Montessori prepared environment. The exercises of practical life resemble the simple work of life in the home: sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, etc. These purposeful activities help the child adapt to his new community, learn self-control, and begin to see himself as a contributing part of the social unit. His intellect grows as he works with his hands; his personality becomes integrated as body and mind function as a unit.
A phenomenon observed in Children’s Houses around the world, often at approximately 10 a.m. The children seem to lose interest in work, behavior becomes disorderly, and the noise level rises. It may appear as if the children are tired. However, if the directress understands this is simply false fatigue, they will return to work on their own and their work will be at an even higher level than before.
Grace and courtesy
An aspect of Practical Life. Little lessons which demonstrate positive social behavior help the young child adapt to life in a group and arm her with knowledge of socially acceptable behavior; practical information, useful both in and out of school.
Help from periphery
The periphery is that part of the child that comes into contact with external reality. The child takes in impressions through the senses and through movement. Help from periphery means presenting objects and activities in such a way so as to evoke purposeful movement on the part of the child. “We never give to the eye more than we give to the hand.”
A central tenet of Montessori philosophy is that human beings exhibit a predisposition to exploration, orientation, order, abstraction, work, self-perfection, communication and a spiritual life. The tendencies are universal, spanning age, culture and racial barriers; they have existed since the dawn of the species and are probably evolutionary in origin. “Montessori stresses the need to serve those special traits that have proven to be tendencies of man throughout history.”
Not depending on another – “with various shades of meaning.”. Normal development milestones such as weaning, talking, etc., can be seen as a series of events which enable the child to achieve increased individuation, autonomy, and self-regulation. Throughout the four planes of development, the child and young adult continually seek to become more independent. It’s as if the child says, “Help me to help myself.”
Isolation of difficulty
Before giving a presentation, the Montessori teacher analyzes the activity she wants to show the child. Procedures or movements that might prove troublesome are isolated and taught to the child separately. For example, the simple movement of holding and snipping with scissors is shown before cutting curved or zigzag lines; folding cloths is shown before table washing, an activity requiring folding. A task should neither be so hard that it is overwhelming, nor so easy that it is boring.
The way nature has of preparing the intelligence. In every action, there is a conscious interest. Through this interest, the mind is being prepared for something in the future. For example, a child will enjoy the putting together of various triangular shapes, totally unaware that because of this work his mind will later be more accepting of geometry. Also called “remote preparation,” the deeper educational purpose of many of the Montessori activities is remote in time.
From the very first days in the Montessori classroom, children are given the opportunity to listen to true stories about known subjects, told with great expression. Songs, poems and rhymes are a part of the daily life of the class. The teacher models the art of conversation and respectfully listens to her students. Looking at beautiful books with lovely, realistic pictures is also a part of language appreciation.
Human development is often not slow and steady; acquisitions seem to arrive suddenly, almost overnight, and with explosive impact. Such learning explosions are the sudden outward manifestation of a long process of internal growth. For example, the explosion of spoken language around two years of age is the result of many months of inner preparation and mental development.
A public school offering special instruction unavailable elsewhere, designed to attract a diverse student body. This means a magnet school is a public school that provides unique or specialized curriculum in such a way as to attract a racially diversified student body. Traditionally, magnet schools are distinct from other public schools because they offer specialized academic focuses or themes, known as a magnet program. They are open to students outside the normal school district boundaries (to offset segregation) but offer rigorous, yet competitive, programs to attract high caliber students.
All babies are born with mathematical minds. That is, they have a propensity to learn things which enhance their ability to be exact and orderly, to observe, compare and classify. Humans naturally tend to calculate, imagine, abstract and create. But this vital part of intelligence must be given help and direction for it to develop and function. If mathematics is not part of the young child’s experience, his subconscious mind will not be accepting of it at a later date.
Children seem to enjoy difficult work, work which tests their abilities and provides a sense of their growing power. They exult in giving their maximum effort. A tiny child will struggle to carry a tray with juice glasses or push a heavy wheelbarrow whereas school age children, if allowed to make up their own problems will prefer to sink their teeth into a more challenging subject such as mathematics.
During the age period of 3-6 , children build their memory; sensorial games provide children an opportunity to strengthen their mental muscles. A typical game goes like this: A child picks up a geometric shape from a drawer, lightly traces the shape with her fingers, and sets it on the table. She must then carry that shape in her mind as she walks across a room full of distractions and finds its match amongst a set of cards at the opposite end of the room. Games like this build visual memory, a key component of reading. Similar games are played using other sensory modes: auditory, tactile, etc.
One of the hallmarks of the Montessori method is that children of mixed ages work together in the same class. Age-groupings are based on developmental planes. Children from 3 to 6 years of age are together in the Children’s House. Six to 9-year-olds share the lower elementary, and the upper elementary is made up of 9 to 12-year-olds. Because the work is individual, children progress at their own pace; there is cooperation rather than competition between the ages.
If children are repeatedly able to experience periods of spontaneous concentration on a piece of work freely chosen, they will begin to display the characteristics of normal development; a love of work, attachment to reality, and a love of silence and working alone. Normalized children are happier children: enthusiastic, generous, and helpful to others. They make constructive work choices, and their work reflects their level of development.
An act of will that develops gradually, showing itself “unexpectedly at the end of a long process of maturation.”. While the inner development is going on, little children may obey occasionally, but be completely unable to obey consistently. As their will develops through exercise of free choice, children begin to have the self-discipline or self-control necessary for obedience.
Points of interest
Montessori realized that if children spend too much time on a complex task or fail to master necessary details, the exercise ceases to interest them. She suggested that points of interest be interspersed throughout each activity. These points guide the child toward the goal and stimulate repetition and interest by offering immediate feedback, or what Montessori called “control of error.” The child’s performance becomes refined through trial and error, the points of interest acting as signposts along the path to success.
The Montessori classroom is an environment prepared by the adult for children. It contains all the essentials for optimal development but nothing superfluous. These include order and reality, beauty and simplicity. Everything is child-sized to enhance the children’s independent functioning. A trained adult and a large enough group of children of mixed ages make up a vital part of the prepared environment.
The teacher does not teach in the traditional sense, but rather shows the child how to use the various objects and then leaves him free to explore and experiment. This is called a presentation. To be effective, it must be done slowly and exactly, step by step, and with a minimum of words.
The first three years of life is a period of mental concentration, just as the nine months in utero is a period of physical creation. The brain awaits experience in the environment to flesh out the genetic blueprint. Since so much mental development occurs after birth, Montessori called the human infant a psychic embryo.
The young child’s work is very different from the adult’s. When an adult works, he sets out to accomplish some goal and stops working when the objective is achieved. A child, however, does not work to accomplish an external goal, but rather an internal one. Consequently, they will repeat an activity until the inner goal is accomplished. The unconscious urge to repeat helps the child to coordinate a movement or acquire some ability.
Young children experience transient periods of sensibility and are intrinsically motivated or urged to activity by specific sensitivities. A child in a sensitive period is believed to exhibit spontaneous concentration when engaged in an activity that matches a particular sensitivity. For example, children in a sensitive period for order will be drawn to activities that involve ordering. They will be observed choosing such activities, becoming deeply concentrated, sometimes repeating the activity over and over, without reward or encouragement. Young children are naturally drawn to aspects in the environment that meet their developmental needs.
The sensorial materials were created to help children in the process of creating and organizing their intelligence. Each scientifically designed material isolates a quality found in the world such as color, size, shape, etc., and this isolation focuses the attention on this one aspect. The child, through repeated manipulation of these objects, comes to form clear ideas or abstractions. What could not be explained by words, the child learns by experience working with the sensorial materials.
Simple to complex
Moving from the simple to the complex is a principal used in the sequence of presentations in a Montessori classroom. Children are first introduced to a concept or idea in its simplest form. As they progress and become capable of making more complex connections, they are eventually able to handle information that is less isolated.
“The process by which the individual acquires the knowledge and dispositions that enable him to participate as an effective member of a social group and a given social order.” “Optimal social learning takes place when the children are at different ages.”
Many children know the alphabet but have not analyzed the sounds in words nor are they aware that words are made up of separate sounds (phonemic awareness). From the age of two (or as soon as the child is speaking fluently) sound games can make them aware of the sounds in words. In England, they use the nursery game, “I Spy.” The sound of the letter and not the letter name is pronounced.
Three hour work cycle
Through years of observation around the world, Montessori understood that children, when left in freedom, displayed a distinct work cycle that was so predictable, it could even be graphed. This cycle, with two peaks and one valley, lasted approximately three hours. In Montessori schools, children have three hours of open, uninterrupted time to choose independent work, become deeply engaged, and repeat to their own satisfaction.
Three period lesson
“The famous three period lesson of Sequin” is actually quite simple. The first period is Naming: “This is thick. This is thin.” The second period is Recognition: “Give me the thick. Give me the thin.” The third period consists of The Pronunciation of the Word: “What is this?” In three simple steps, the entire learning process is brought into play. The three period lesson is used for giving language.
The young child’s vocabulary increases exponentially in the years from 3-6. To feed this natural hunger for words, vocabulary is given: the names of biology, geometry, geography, and so forth, can be learned as well as the names of qualities found in the sensorial material. The child’s absorbent mind takes in all these new words “rapidly and brilliantly.”
From an evolutionary perspective, the long period of childhood exists so children can learn and experiment in a relatively pressure-free environment. Most social scientists refer to this pressure-free experimentation as “play,” although Montessori prefers to call this activity the “work” of childhood. Children are serious when engaged in the kind of play that meets developmental needs. Given freedom and time, they choose purposeful activities over frivolous ones.
Writing to reading
In a Montessori environment, children usually begin writing before they can read. They are keen to create words with a box of loose letters (the moveable alphabet) or write their words with chalk or pencil. About six months later, they begin to understand what reading means, and they do so only through associating it with writing.
Montessori Schools in Popular US Cities
- Montessori Schools in Albuquerque, NM
- Montessori Schools in Anchorage, AK
- Montessori Schools in Atlanta, GA
- Montessori Schools in Austin, TX
- Montessori Schools in Baltimore, MD
- Montessori Schools in Billings, MT
- Montessori Schools in Birmingham, AL
- Montessori Schools in Boise, ID
- Montessori Schools in Boston, MA
- Montessori Schools in Bridgeport, CT
- Montessori Schools in Burlington, VT
- Montessori Schools in Charleston, WV
- Montessori Schools in Charlotte, NC
- Montessori Schools in Cheyenne, WY
- Montessori Schools in Chicago, IL
- Montessori Schools in Columbia, SC
- Montessori Schools in Columbus, OH
- Montessori Schools in Dallas, TX
- Montessori Schools in Denver, CO
- Montessori Schools in Des Moines, IA
- Montessori Schools in Detroit, MI
- Montessori Schools in Dover, DE
- Montessori Schools in El Paso, TX
- Montessori Schools in Fargo, ND
- Montessori Schools in Honolulu, HI
- Montessori Schools in Houston, TX
- Montessori Schools in Indianapolis, IN
- Montessori Schools in Jackson, MS
- Montessori Schools in Jacksonville, FL
- Montessori Schools in Kansas City, MO
- Montessori Schools in Las Vegas, NV
- Montessori Schools in Little Rock, AR
- Montessori Schools in Los Angeles, CA
- Montessori Schools in Louisville, KY
- Montessori Schools in Manchester, NH
- Montessori Schools in Memphis, TN
- Montessori Schools in Miami, FL
- Montessori Schools in Milwaukee, WI
- Montessori Schools in Minneapolis, MN
- Montessori Schools in Nashville, TN
- Montessori Schools in New Orleans, LA
- Montessori Schools in New York City, NY
- Montessori Schools in Newark, NJ
- Montessori Schools in Oakland, CA
- Montessori Schools in Oklahoma City, OK
- Montessori Schools in Omaha, NE
- Montessori Schools in Philadelphia, PA
- Montessori Schools in Phoenix, AZ
- Montessori Schools in Portland, ME
- Montessori Schools in Portland, OR
- Montessori Schools in Providence, RI
- Montessori Schools in Sacramento, CA
- Montessori Schools in Salt Lake City, UT
- Montessori Schools in San Antonio, TX
- Montessori Schools in San Diego, CA
- Montessori Schools in San Francisco, CA
- Montessori Schools in San Jose, CA
- Montessori Schools in Seattle, WA
- Montessori Schools in Sioux Falls, SD
- Montessori Schools in Tucson, AZ
- Montessori Schools in Virginia Beach, VA
- Montessori Schools in Washington, DC
- Montessori Schools in Wichita, KS
- Montessori Schools in the United States