Montessori 101: Seven Helpful Definitions in the Montessori World

Helpful definitions for people in the know... Or those who want to be.


A child's annual celebration of their birthday. The group of students gathers around a circular Earth mat and a 4-Seasons mat is spread over it. Then a wooden Sun is placed in the center and a "Sun" candle is lit. The birthday student holds a globe and walks around the sun while the classmates sing, "The Earth Goes Around the Sun." The birthday student walks around the sun one time for every year of age. After all of their orbits, the class sings "Happy Birthday."


The progression of a Montessori lesson is both logical and developmentally appropriate. A student is first introduced to a concrete material that represents an abstract idea such as size or color to provide a hands-on experience. As the mind matures, the student twill gradually comprehend the same idea in symbolic or abstract form.




A brief window of seeming chaos and louder noise levels in the classroom, usually around 10 a.m.  The students seem to lose interest in work at this time and they sometimes seem tired.  It is referred to as false fatigue because, generally, the students return to work on their own (sometimes a snack helps:)) and they become more attentive to their work than before.


An extension on the indoor environment.  Because a student's connection to nature is important, many Montessori schools will set up an outdoor area where students can use materials from each of the curricular areas.  "We shall walk together ion this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity."  Montessori




"Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child." The part of the Montessori curriculum, within the Cultural curricula, that stresses interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, and self-knowledge. Through books skits and materials, the guide offers each student the opportunity to understand their place in the universe, the classroom, the family and how they can bring peace to their relationships.


One of the five areas in a Montessori classroom. The exercises and materials in the Practical Life area resemble the simple work of life in the home: sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, etc. These activities serve the purpose of helping a student adapt to his new community, learn self-control and begin to see himself as a contributing part of the social unit. The exercises also serve secondary purposes in preparing the student's fine motor muscles for handwriting.


The sequence of presentations in a Montessori classroom. The simplest form of the concept is introduced first. Then, as the student progresses and becomes capable of making more complex connections, the presentation becomes more detailed.


The 3 hours of uninterrupted, independent work at the beginning of the day. It came into practice after years of observation of students around the world. Montessori learned that children show a predictable cycle of work, with two peaks and one valley, that lasts approximately three hours. This chunk of learning time allows the student to deeply engage and repeat work to their own satisfaction.

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