Written by guest author Jenny Formon

Work-time in a Montessori classroom is a combination of perfecting previous skills and works, along with receiving new lessons. There is tremendous value and emphasis in the practice and repetition of already known works. The repetition of work is important in mastering those works as well as preparing for future works.  The presentation of new lessons is also vital for furthering each child’s individual development. In the Montessori classroom it is integral to present new lessons at the opportune moment.

In Science Behind the Genius, Angeline Stoll Lillard states:

To achieve maximum interest (in a subject), Dr Montessori noted that a lesson must be given at the opportune moment in a child’s development. If given too early, the children will find it too difficult, and if given too late, the child will be bored by it. In either case, the child will not be interested. Therefore, the teacher is responsible for watching the children very closely, aiming to present each material to each child at a time in the child’s development when that lesson will be particularly interesting.

So, how do we decide when a child is ready for a new lesson?

We do A LOT of observation in the classroom. As we are observing, we are looking for signs that the child is ready to move forward with a concept in a specific area. In particular, signs for readiness for new lessons include…

  • Boredom or acting out. A child may begin to lose interest in the current works that are available to him, he may wander the classroom a bit more, or he may begin to bother others during worktimes because the works are not engaging to him.
  • Watching others. The child may be intent on watching others carefully with a work that he is interested in getting a lesson on. Any time someone chooses that particular work, the child may carefully observe by sitting close by.
  • Ease of work. While doing a particular work repetitively, a child may begin to do the work with ease.  He may also begin to show this work to others, taking the role of teacher. The child is displaying mastery of this particular skill.
  • Directly asking for a lesson. After exploring the classroom, a child may approach Regina or I to ask for a specific lesson. While sometimes we are able to honor this request, there are also times that other works must be mastered first.
  • Interest in a particular area. A child may choose work from one area over and over again. He may go through several of the same types of works or progress from the easiest and cycle through the more complex works in one area.

As we are observing all of the above, we are also looking at each particular child’s skills. The above must be coupled with the child’s developmental readiness for the lesson. A child may have the “academic readiness” for a particular work; but not the organization or work habits to proceed to more complex works. The child’s interest also plays a huge role in the readiness for new lessons. A child may have mastered a particular work but not have the interest to move forward yet.

 “…we are here to offer this life (child)…the means necessary for it’s development; and having done that we must await this development with respect.” Maria Montessori. 

Jenny Formon has been working at Charlotte Montessori since 1995. She enjoys being in the classroom as well as sharing the Montessori philosophy with others. Jenny writes with her fellow teachers for her school’s blog at: http://www.charlottemontessori.com/blog/.

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