Montessori, an environment adapted to the child’s development


In a Montessori primary class, children will discover the universe.

They will understand that this universe has its own intelligence, with a very strong will and discipline, that it does its cosmic tasks, that it functions without man. in short, that this universe is self-sufficient.

So they will do the same!

To develop this aspect, the teacher who is the guide and model wishes to give the best and the maximum to the children. He/she will therefore be based on a whole philosophy of the environment prepared for self-management.

To this end, he will set up five prepared environments, the physical, temporal, dynamic, social, emotional environment. In this way, children will be able to think and act as role models, they will themselves become guides capable of managing their own community, they will invest themselves to make it work well.

Here we reach the goal and sense of belonging of each of us! Children live in a practical way within a community, this community experience will influence their need to belong and become in the universe.

Upstream, this community will be thought, designed and implemented by the teacher, only then will children become responsible for these five environments. We can compare this to the preparation of the earth for the arrival of plants, animals and human beings, only then did humans take over for writing.

By using their intelligence and making mistakes, children will develop their community as a framework and model for later life as an adult.

This self-managed community gives practice, the children will live there in order to make everything better.

Montessori and the philosophy of the five prepared environments

1 – The physical environment

For primary school children, the order is that of thought. However, children also need order in the environment.

This physical environment must be illuminated by the adult with the prepared environment and the care given to that environment. Hence the importance of inviting children to preserve this order on a daily basis.

Maintaining this order will very quickly become normal for them. Adults are not the only guarantors of this environment, for the body, heart and mind, taking care of the environment is good for the child.

Children can also participate in the reflection on the relevance of placing a material on a shelf, they can reorganize it with the adult. It is important that children feel that environmental care is collaborative!

Engaging children in caring for the environment means raising them for work.

It is therefore not uncommon to see a child who has finished his or her work walking towards the shelves, and undertaking to put them away one after the other without any request or intervention from the adult. The child, by doing this, responds to an inner force, he works unconsciously to his self-construction!

Already, when they arrive in the morning, the children begin to lower the chairs mounted the day before on the tables. This work is done according to the arrival of each person, nothing is defined in this case.

On the other hand, in the late afternoon at 4pm, when it is time for responsibilities, children can satisfy their thirst for storage at will! To do this, everyone will have chosen on Monday morning a responsibility to be carried out throughout the week.

Small non-exhaustive list of responsibilities:

  • Wash and wipe the board
  • Wash and wipe down shelves of mathematics, geometry, language, geography, history, plant biology, animal biology, binders, work tools, etc.
  • Rolling the carpets
  • Wash the tables
  • Sweeping the ground
  • Storing the cloakroom
  • Storing the library
  • Etc.

To help them and encourage their autonomy, the teacher can provide children with sheets on environmental care.

These are explanatory sheets that children use to take care of the environment on their own (see dynamic environment).

The teacher can also have the pictures from the shelf stored, so the children will have the material in the same way.

2 – The temporal environment

If we consider time as an aid and not a limit, it will be a structure to build itself and a framework for our creative expressions.

The Montessori adult then works to ensure that time is a marker of celebrated occasions in life and constancy in real work. The child lives in the self-education of the moment, which is a sacred moment and one which the teacher must protect.

This gives a program that offers security and consistency. It is a program specific to the flexibility that the child needs, and support for the three-hour uninterrupted work period in the morning and the same in the afternoon.

Upon arrival, the children take their time, then they will continue the work left the day before. According to Maria Montessori, a long commitment to an activity cycle characterizes concentration.

This long and slow process is a key to the development of the activity cycle, a key to ensuring that children continue in their work and continue it to the end. Then they will choose another one and so on. In the same way we observe the unfolding of hours, days, months, seasons, years, the unfolding of life. the teacher leads the children towards the discovery of time for everything but also just for the repetition of this time in order to achieve harmony.

A brief overview of the schedules for a typical day:

  • Between 8:15 and 8:30 am, the children arrive
  • Between 8:30 am and 11:30 am, children work spontaneously on all subjects
  • Between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm, the children play outside (recess)
  • Between 12:30 and 13:30, the children have lunch (sometimes in their class, sometimes in the canteen)
  • Between 13h30 and 16h00, children work spontaneously in all subjects
  • Between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm, children tidy up their classrooms while exercising their responsibilities
  • 4:30 p. m., departure.

In the morning, when they arrive, the children say “hello” and shake the teacher’s hand. They take off their coats, put on their slippers, make a cross in front of their first name on the attendance sheet.

They are now ready to choose an activity that they will perform on a mat on the floor or on a table adapted to their size.

3 – The dynamic environment

This environment releases the children’s energy for maximum effort in their work. In a self-managed community, children absorb.

The adult thinks, anticipates and prepares the atmosphere. Each item must be beautiful, in good condition and stored in the right place!

From 8:30 am, every day, the teacher makes between 6 and 8 presentations (lessons), in different areas, to small groups or individually.

Each child will have the responsibility to repeat, that is, to reintroduce the adult’s presentation in order to memorize and understand the new concept in a lasting way. Each child arriving in the morning or early afternoon will choose the presentation they want to repeat.

Some will choose a grammar box, others will choose the checkerboard to make long multiplications, while their classmate will take the material from the pearl tubes to make large divisions. Two children will make a poster in plant biology, one child will draw the internal organs of the human being on a large roller, three comrades will work with the nomenclature of polygons, others will repeat experiments on the three states of matter. It will also often be possible to observe a taller person re-explaining a concept to a younger person.

They will be able to work side by side tirelessly and with pleasure, even as they rehearse different presentations! Children have free access to the shelves supporting the various materials. When they have finished their work, they can put it away, choose to read in the library corner or take back new material or a new card directly.

11:30, it’s time for recess! The classroom is tidy, everyone can put on their shoes and coat!

12:30, it’s lunchtime! if the children have lunch in their class, many of them will set the table for everyone. Others will clear, wash the tables, and put the dishes in the dishwasher!

After lunch, at around 1:30, the adult will offer a quiet time during which she will read a story to the children. Once this time is over, the children will return to their activities. It is also a time for some children to make their presentations to the community!

As with everything that will be experienced in the classroom atmosphere, the presentation will have been the subject of an explanatory sheet.

Example of cards that children can find in a clearly identified place:

  • How to pick up material on a shelf in a respectful way
  • How to cross the class
  • How to get there in the morning
  • What to do before leaving the classroom
  • How to attend a presentation
  • What to do in the evening when you are in charge
  • How to take care of plants
  • How to clean a shelf
  • How to get around in the classroom
  • How to whisper to your neighbour
  • How to borrow a pencil, an eraser. from your classmate
  • How to use on a birthday
  • How to bypass a group rather than go through it
  • How do you get into the classroom when you arrive late and the children are concentrated?
  • How to repeat the presentation
  • What are the safety rules to follow when re-delivering an experiment?
  • Etc.

These are all sheets that the teacher makes jointly with the children.

Before getting up from their seats, children tidy up their work properly so that they can have fun returning to it. A child who has chosen an activity must go to the end of it, without discipline there can be no freedom, this concept is part of it!

4:00 p.m., it’s time to clean up the classroom, make it beautiful again for the next day! In a self-managed environment, it is the children who manage the atmosphere!

Dynamic aspect of the prepared environment: the procedures and steps that lead children to take responsibility for living together

  • Procedures for primary classes, several examples of managing children in their daily lives.
  • Daily attendance: children can tick their first name on the attendance sheet.
  • Work tools procedure: the child who has chosen this responsibility will be responsible for checking that the work tools (erasers, pencils, rulers) are in good condition and in sufficient number for the whole class, ensuring that the missing tools are replaced.
  • Procedure for washing cloths, towels, rags. Clarify how children who do the laundry in the classroom should sort, put in the machine, dry, fold and store.
  • Meal procedure: clarification of how children take responsibility for announcing meal times, storing work, setting the table, enjoying food, cleaning and tidying up.
  • Procedure for going to recess: tidying up work, getting dressed, going to the playground, how to behave during the games, asking for help from another child or adult when necessary, how to go back to school when it is time.
  • Procedure for small outings on the school site: details of the different goals to be achieved.

4 – The social environment

In a Montessori primary class, the child belongs to a cosmic community with relationships that help him/her find his/her true place.

He may ask himself questions such as: who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? What is my place in this self-educated community?

During the discovery of these answers, each collaborates with the other, the minds are solicited and the motivations deeper. Everyone gives their help to others where they need it most. Children feel their importance and value, they have for example the universe that manages itself.

Here we come to the courtesies and good manners that will set the tone for real social work in a 6/12 year old class! The culture of the community is to recognize everyone as an individual, unique being, to help them develop and educate themselves!

It is not only the guide who does this, it is also all the children. Indeed, differences in temperaments, interests and ways of learning become the treasure of this community!

We are a whole and we are all individuals in this class.

It is through our courtesies and good manners that the community’s engine is lubricated: all the bumps we encounter on the road are damped, it serves as a suspension like in a car.

This is what allows the group’s life to vibrate and buzz, it is through peer relationships that all problems are examined and repaired.

Children are in a space between biological intelligence and grace and courtesy. Unconscious biological intelligence makes their bodies, hearts and lungs function with a conscious intelligence that enriches, complicates and challenges them.

Children are imbued with compassion and care for others, so these courtesies and good manners are well aware.

Like the customs and procedures that help to make a society work, civility and good manners can refine the way of being with each other in a Montessori school. For this reason, the guide will reflect in depth on how it will present this concept.

Once the courtesies and good manners have been established, the whole class participates in a reflection to make community life even better.

Groups of children prepare examples of courtesies and good manners that they often present to the whole group in the form of skits!

I remember coming back from a meal at the beginning of the school year. Two little girls, bored with the way one of their classmates had behaved during lunch time, set up a table, cutlery, plates and towels. They sat at this table and without any criticism of their classmate undertook to make a presentation to the whole class on how to eat, hold cutlery, wipe their mouths, etc.

When children master this way of doing things, they can start thinking about how to function more harmoniously in the classroom and apply these habits to any situation. For example, if the class welcomes an animal such as a hamster or a turtle, it will be a question of knowing how to sit around the cage without jostling, without making too much noise, leaving room for others, but also how to feed it and take care of it.

The adult will invite children to get involved and think about how to do it, the children will then become experts, they will no longer need a guide.

The joint reflection of children and adults focuses on all the opportunities and opportunities to exercise these courtesies and good manners. Sit in a circle before going to recess and get up one after the other, line up in a calm line. Or bring the group together with respect for each other. Ask for special attention. Assist in the management and resolution of a conflict, etc.

It is about respecting the other while respecting the collective identity of the community.

The emotional environment

We know the curriculum in mathematics, language and all subjects, but it is essential for adults to question the social and emotional curriculum.

The teacher helps and supports children to develop and educate themselves because he knows that this is how they normalize, but some children need more attention. How can the community help these children while giving them the opportunity to develop their skills, such as the ability to understand themselves better and have the courage to look at their dark areas?

The work on the emotional environment therefore depends on the circumstances and the moments. The adult can then make presentations that respond to a situation.

On a typical day in a Montessori school, it is not uncommon during recess to witness a conflict between children. It is therefore time for the teacher to guide them towards mediation. So they go by watching their master get an insight into how they can manage their conflict themselves.

Better still, they will be able to observe the fact that they can themselves be mediators!

Early in the year, children discover how to solve problems with words, a voice and a respectful tone. The child does not need an adult to explain non-violence to him/her. The child has within him or her the power of non-violence and his or her own power of inner peace.

According to Maria Montessori, the role of the adult is predominant because it is the one that helps the child to develop this inner peace.

In fact, everything that is not going well is an opportunity for children because they will be able to correct it, an opportunity that will allow them to acquire the skills to go into the world as a peace officer, as a future adult member of this peace force, that is how Maria Montessori sees the world.

Work and the environment are at the heart of the relationship between the child and the adult. The Montessori teacher does not work on the child, he works on the five parts of the environment.

It is possible to imagine an organised and constructive adult society, based on the model of that of children, i.e. a cohesive society. Attachment to others is the first step and leads humans to collaborate towards a common goal. It would be fantastic for everyone if society were organized in this way. But it is impossible to impose it; it must be dictated by nature.

If nature is the basis, the construction will be solid, but in the absence of this basis, there can only be an artificial cohesion of society, which risks easily collapsing at any moment.

It is extremely interesting to observe this cohesive society of children. The latter engage in social activities for an external purpose. They work in groups when the activity requires collaboration. They cooperate when they have something to do.

Maria Montessori, The Child is Man’s Future


Maria Montessori, The Child is Man’s Future

This article is largely inspired by a seminar held by Donna GOERTZ in 2013. Donna Bryant Goertz founded the Austin Montessori School in 1967 near the St. Edward University campus to provide the central Texas community with a quality education based on Montessori pedagogy and focused on peace building.