The IMS Montessori curriculum is a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to educating children, and it is rich with specialized classroom materials. Parents new to Montessori are occasionally confused by the vocabulary or purpose of learning practices, but once understood these concepts open up the exciting world of Montessori education. Montessori classroom practices and materials have been developed over 100 years by educators to cultivate and educate the child as a whole person – feeling, sensing, literate – and not simply as an academic student.
IMS enables the child to become a lifelong learner.
Below are some of the key concepts and materials you will find in IMS classrooms.
Maria Montessori developed the 3-hour work cycle after years of observing children at work and at play. Montessori observed that the manner in which children work and play came naturally and predictably in 3-hour cycles, with two distinct peaks of work and one natural trough of transition between these peaks of activity. The 3-hour work cycle can be generally be observed as follows:
1. The first few minutes of the work cycle (or ‘session’) are always the most busy and noisy. This is a period of time when friends are excitedly greeting one another, sharing stories and catching up. The chaos of the first few minutes, however, quickly evolves into calm, focused activity and purposeful, polite communication.
2. This is a period when children tend to choose a familiar activity that they have experienced many times before. This ritual helps children to mentally ‘switch on’ and to build a sense of self-confidence through independent achievement. By working with a familiar task, a child feels competent, empowered, and ready for the more challenging tasks that are ahead.
During this period, children commonly work on sensorial materials and practical life tasks. Literacy and numeracy are not commonly chosen during this early stage, and a child who chooses a challenging or unfamiliar task during this early stage is showing an unusual enthusiasm and an enhanced sense of self-confidence. A teacher will immediately understand that this child must be in a particularly sensitive period for their chosen topic, and we will use this opportunity to provide lessons that extend the child’s explorations.
3. After the initial series of familiar tasks the class generally experiences this briefly unsettled period which Dr Montessori called ‘false fatigue.’ During false fatigue, an observer could be mistaken for thinking that the work cycle is over. The children become less focused, often wandering around the room or chatting with friends rather than choosing further tasks. The noise level increases and the room hums with an energy that feels less productive. It is called ‘false’ fatigue for a reason – it is a temporary setback that actually occurs before the most engaging work of the day.
4. The relative chaos of ‘false fatigue’ is suddenly followed by a moment when children suddenly settle back into purposeful work. Some children work on elaborate cooperative activity with a few friends, others focus diligently on an individual task, while some accept invitations from teachers to participate in new, challenging lessons. The work that happens during this period, which Dr Montessori occasionally called the ‘great work,’ tends to be tasks that involve long, drawn-out processes and a great deal of cognitive stimulation. This is time when teachers present lessons that require a child to be feeling confident to face a challenge, and to be ready to focus to attend to a prolonged period of concentration.
The Mathematics in the Casa level
Montessori Maths Materials (in order of work progression)
Number in the Practical Life Exercises
Less directly, but very important are the exercises of Practical Life. The ordered and logical approach to cleaning a shoe encourages mathematical thinking. The materials are set up but they must be selected in the correct sequence and the tray must be checked at the end to ensure it is complete for the next user. Patterns are important in mathematics, both visual and number patterns. This is because mathematics is all about thing being in order, regular and systematic. Paper cutting introduces the ideas of pattern and symmetry and the folding of table napkins gives experience of geometry and of halves and quarters. The child adapts to the world and constructs reality from what he sees adults doing.
Number in the Sensorial Exercises
Mathematical order is present in many of the sensorial materials, allowing the child to work with units of 1-10 in several dimensions, all of which give concrete experience of discriminating between sizes, sequencing, grading or comparison. The child’s language is enriched by descriptive terms of measurement like narrow, long, short and wide. Much later the longest rod can be used as a unit of measurement. Children receive a visual and muscular impression of plane and three-dimensional shapes with the geometric cabinet and solids. As Montessori herself says, “If we look now at the sensorial apparatus which is able to evoke such deep concentration (remarkable in very small children between the ages of three and four) there is no doubt that this apparatus may be regarded not only as a help to exploring the environment but also to the development of the mathematical mind.”
The Montessori Classroom is rich in opportunities for the child to acquire pre-maths skills and we need to leave the child free to explore and develop more advanced mathematics skills as he or she matures. By the time the child is six, and ready to move into the Montessori Primary classroom, the student should be proficient with addition, subtraction, and have a working knowledge (and may be quite advanced in) of multiplication, division and fractions facts and manipulation.
To establish the numbers to ten:
Card and Counters
Memory Game of Numbers
To give a picture of the Decimal System as a whole and an impression of how the systems functions and of the four basic mathematical functions:
Decimal Tray One
Decimal Tray Two
Decimal Numeral Layout
Bank Game Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division.
To introduce Teens and Tens, and develop the ability to recognize, count and manipulate any number:
Introduction with beads 11 to19 (Beads Stair and Tens Bars)
Introduction with Cards
Association of Quantities with symbols 11 to 19 (Teen Boards and Beads)
Tens Board with Beads 11 to 99
Linear Counting – Hundred Chain, Thousand Chain
Skip Counting – all chains
Memory Work to establish abstract terms:
Addition Strip Board
Subtraction Strip Board
***Each year at IMS we hold Montessori Curriculum evenings to review the materials in each of the five major areas of the classroom with parents. We encourage you to come to these meetings to learn more.
Casa dei Bambini Classroom Materials
A quick perusal of a Casa dei Bambini classroom reveals a wealth of unfamiliar materials not found outside of Montessori schools. These specialised materials are vital to developing a child’s sensorial, practical life, literary, numeracy skills.
Click through to learn more about these specialised materials and their purpose:
The Five Great Lessons in the Montessori Primary Programme
The IMS Primary Programme is an exciting curriculum, centred around the Great Lessons, that takes a holistic approach to course materials and pedagogy.
The Great Lessons include:
- First Great Lesson – Coming of the Universe and the Earth (Sciences: Physics, Geography)
- Second Great Lesson – Coming of Life (Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, etc)
- Third Great Lesson – Coming of Human Beings (Social Studies & Human History)
- Fourth Great Lesson – Communication in Signs (Language)
- Fifth Great Lesson – The Story of Numbers (Mathematics)
… Success in life is not built on a foundation of standardised tests, but on the freedom to make difficult choices and experience their consequences. Success in life is not built on grades and percentages, but on self-awareness and self-improvement. Success in life is not built on artificial competition among same-aged peers, but on genuine collaboration between generations. Success in life is not built on cheating the system, but on having the wisdom and courage to transform it.