Montessori Glossary - Common Terms Used in Montessori and Their Definitions

Understanding Montessori education involves familiarizing oneself with its unique terminology. This glossary aims to clarify common Montessori terms, aiding parents and educators in better grasping this educational approach's philosophy and practices.

Montessori Terms

Sensitive period - a term used to describe a time frame in a child's life when they are exceptionally receptive to certain types of learning and development. During these periods, children can acquire specific skills or knowledge more rapidly and effortlessly.

Absorbent mind - the term Montessori uses to describe young children’s incredible ability to effortlessly absorb information and concepts from their environment. Children are naturally equipped for rapid learning during the developmental period from birth to around age 6.

Planes of development - four distinct periods of human development identified by Dr. Montessori. They include birth–6 years (the absorbent mind for foundational learning), 6–12 years (reasoning minds), 12–18 years (humanistic/spiritual awareness and self-construction), and 18–24 years (specialization) with each plane marked by common needs, traits and sensitivities.

Child’s Work - in Montessori, play and learning activities are often referred to as a child’s "work," recognizing the seriousness and importance of these activities in a child's development.

Montessori materials - these are specially designed educational tools that encourage hands-on learning and exploration. These materials are often self-correcting, allowing the child to learn through trial and error in a supportive environment.

Sensorial materials - resources designed for toddlers and primary students to refine their senses and aid understanding of concepts like size, shape, color, texture, sound or smell. Discriminating sensory stimuli promotes observational abilities, concentration, and categorization.

Skill development - Montessori places a strong emphasis on developing both academic and life skills. This involves a focus not just on intellectual growth, but also on social, emotional, and practical skills.

Maximum effort - refers to the exertion displayed by a child when they employ both their mental and physical energy to accomplish a task, often described as 'heavy work.'

Nido, which translates to 'nest' in English, - refers to a Montessori-prepared environment designed for infants aged 6/8 weeks to approximately 16 months. This setting is also commonly known as the 'Infant Community.'

Pre-Casa - is a term utilized by certain Montessori schools to characterize a prepared environment for children ranging from 16/18 months to 3 years old, more commonly referred to as 'Toddler.' It's important to note that the term Pre-Casa is not widely recognized in the Montessori community; it was introduced by some schools to provide childcare spaces for children under 2.5 years old.

Casa, which translates to 'home' in English - is a term used to depict a Montessori-prepared environment tailored for children aged 2.5 to 6 years.

Practical life activities - these activities are designed to teach children real-life skills, such as pouring, buttoning, or sweeping. They are integral in developing independence, coordination, and concentration.

Crisis of opposition - is a term coined by Dr. Montanaro, a pioneer in spreading Dr. Montessori’s educational method globally. This phase typically emerges around 18 to 36 months, signifying a developmental shift where the child starts asserting their will, often expressed by saying 'no.' Also recognized as the Crisis of Self-Affirmation, where the child begins to assert their sense of 'me' and 'mine.' It's essential to note that historically, this developmental stage has been inaccurately labeled as 'the terrible twos.'

Growth mindset - is the conviction that we can acquire new knowledge through diligence, being open to constructive feedback, and trying out different approaches. It involves a willingness to learn and adapt, as well as an acknowledgment that valuable lessons can be gleaned from our "mistakes."

The learning tower - is a robust and secure wooden stool designed to elevate children to counter height in the kitchen, allowing them to actively engage in food preparation or other kitchen activities.

Learning environment - in Montessori, refers to the classroom setup, which is carefully designed to support independent learning and exploration. The environment is typically arranged according to subject area, and materials are accessible to the children.

A weaning table - is a table sized for children, utilized in the Eating Area of the home when the child starts consuming solid foods. It facilitates the gradual separation between the child and caregiver during mealtimes, supporting the child's independence as they grow and begin to feed themselves.


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