Montessori Exercises of Practical Life

The Montessori method develops self-motivation and auto-education. Followers of the Montessori method believe that a child will learn naturally if put in an environment containing the proper materials. These materials, consisting of “learning games” suited to a child’s abilities and interests, are set up by a teacher-observer who intervenes only when individual help is needed.

Montessori Method is a developmental approach which according to Lilian G Katz, Ph. D, at the National Early Childhood Conference, August 2008 contains three principles:

  1. A developmental approach to nurturing young children’s thinking and learning. It is one that takes into account developmental changes that come with age and with the range of experience that comes with age.
  2. The normative dimension addresses the abilities, socio-emotional competences and range of behaviours that are typical by age. The norms are useful starting points for planning what activities and materials, etc., will be provided for an age group.
  3. The view of development implied just because children can do something – from a normative perspective, does not mean that they should do it. This principle suggests what children should learn and should do must be decided on the basis of what best serve their development in the long term.

The first important principle of Montessori practice (Lillard, A, 2005 as cited by Jones, A), is that movement and cognition are closely intertwined and that physical movement can enhance thinking and learning. This principle is supported with studies of human infant grasping and crawling demonstrating that advances in movement are related to advances in cognition (Needham, Barrett, & Peterman, 2002 as cited by Edwards, C. P., 2006). Cognitive studies had shown that mental representation, processing, memory, and facial discrimination are improved when people’s movements align with what is to be learned. The principle of movement and cognition relates to some of the most familiar components of Montessori curriculum, in particular, the Practical Life Exercises (e.g. washing, pouring, polishing, tying and buttoning),

A valuable aspect of Montessori pedagogy is how closely it reflects current motivational theories (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005, as cited by Jones, A.). When a child reaches the state of normalization in the Montessori classroom, what he/she is experiencing, according to Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, is flow (Kahn, 2003, as cited by Jones, A.). Csikszentmihalyi, after having knowledge of Dr. Montessori’s normalization idea, began to pursue the connection between his optimal experience called flow and Montessori’s normalization (Kahn, 2003, as cited by Jones, A.). The study revealed that, while engaged in work, Montessori students experience flow far more frequently than traditional students (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005). These findings, as well as others, suggest that Montessori education fosters the development of intrinsic motivation because the students are fully engaged in reaching task oriented goals.

The Prepared Environment is the Montessori approach to education which recognizes and supports the ability of children to direct their own learning. The Montessori classroom is usually quite large in size and is designed in order to promote a child-centered atmosphere. There are worktables set up in the room for children to do their work, or children may choose to work on the floor with materials using a rug to delineate their workspace. Work areas are usually divided by low shelves which hold all of the didactic materials used in Montessori education (Lillard, 2005, as cited by Jones, A.). The Montessori Classroom is meticulously organized and intentionally set up that way to promote order and aesthetic value. This environment allows for students to concentrate on their learning and feel comfortable with their surroundings. One major task of the Montessori teacher is to ensure that the classroom is set up beautifully and in an orderly fashion. It is an endeavour to constantly keep the room free of clutter and pleasing to the eye. The Montessori Classroom is systematically organized in a prepared environment so children have access to intelligent resources that promote sustained attention. It is equipped with materials that have been designed to this end.

Once the environment has been prepared, the Montessori teacher introduces the child to the activities that will lead to concentration. This is accomplished by following a very simple formula i.e. get the children into work that satisfies their developmental needs. “For the adult who works with children of this age, you have to understand the manifestations of the sensitive periods.” (Lloyd, 2008).

Another aspect of Montessori approach is Cycle Of Activity. (Jones, A., 2005). The adult has “a pivotal role in putting the child into communication with the activity.” This introduction by the adult is referred to as a presentation or a lesson. Some Montessori educators discussed initiating a child into a cycle of activity by using a three-step sequence. The first step is choosing the activity and collecting the materials that will be needed. The activity is always chosen from the shelf instead of from another child. This classroom rule provides a “very clear indicator of when an activity is available because it’s on the shelf.” This also protects children from having things taken from them when they are not ready to release them. It offers children the psychological security to work with a material for as long as they want without being interrupted, which leads to the second step in the sequence, the work or the activity itself. And the final or third step is putting the materials back on the shelf so they are available for others.

By choosing the activity from the shelf and then making the effort to set it up, the child has initiated the “psychological commitment” that seems to prepare the way for concentration to emerge. This is in contrast to a typical pre-school environment, non-Montessori environment, where most of the time, activities are kind of set up, and the child comes to the activity already set up and does something and then walks away from it.

The Montessori Child get to signify that the event is over by putting everything back and then signalling now to the rest of the group that this is available again. And that actually is very important for the social aspect of normalization, which is the mutual respect and kindness that the children display. Once the materials have been returned to the shelf, the child often has a period of rest and contemplation after which socializing occurs before choosing another activity. It was these cycles of activity and their increasing length of concentration that were studied by Montessori. . In the traditional program, there are no cycles of activity because it is all teacher directed. But if you give the children freedom, then you can observe something which is a natural phenomenon of nature and mental growth. When work in cycles, where it ebbs and flows in a natural way, that is what it’s all about, when you talk about following the child.

In summary, Montessori method has proven effective in developing children in a holistic and psychological way. More have been explored especially through empirical findings of its effectiveness in developing Mathematical skills and literacy acquisition and learning.