Montessori Terminology

Absorbent Mind: A mind able to absorb knowledge quickly and effortlessly. Montessori said the child from birth to six years has an ‘absorbent mind’.

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 child and protects the young child’s self-esteem and self motivation. Control of error is an essential aspect of auto-education.

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 the activity has been satisfied.

Exercises of Practical Life: This is one of the four areas in the Montessori prepared environment. The exercises of practical life resemble the simple work of life in the home: sweeping, dusting, washing, polishing etc. these purposeful activities help the child adapt to his new community, learning self-control, and begins 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.

Prepared environment: 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.

Sensitive periods: Young children experience transient periods of sensibility and are intrinsically motivated and are urged to activity by specific sensitivities. The 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.

Simple to complex: 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.

Vertical age grouping: 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 classroom. Because the work is individual, children progress at their own pace; there is cooperation rather than competition between the ages