Montessori Materials, how important are they?

teachingmtlsI read Angeline Lillard’s interesting article in asking How important are Montessori Materials?

It made me ask myself ¬†“Is Montessori being dumbed down?”


The article is very good, and points to many issues I have had over the years teaching and mentoring teachers about the need to remain “Traditional” in Montessori teaching and in the prepared Montessori environment. I believe that Montessori materials offer SUCH a wealth of knowledge to be explored by the child and, quite frankly, the teacher ¬†that there is very little need to supplement them in a classroom with other materials.

Montessori materials and all their extensions should be second nature to a teacher and should flow, integrate and overlap across the curriculum. Practical Life ..should be just that, giving a child an opportunity to practice life, so therefore no need to grate about nutmeg or a carrot?

I often wonder that, if a Montessori School has non Montessori activities, whether it is for a parents benefit? As this is what a parent, who is not familiar with Montessori materials, would feel comfortable with and is what a child may have at home, so perhaps a child would naturally gravitate toward them offered at School, perhaps making transition easier. Notwithstanding the need for a parent to have some sort of proof that their child is learning. (parent education needed here) or perhaps the teacher does not fully understand or is not convinced by the Montessori materials.

It is a teacher’s job to prepare the Montessori environment carefully and to demonstrate the materials to the students appropriately.
I think it is important to have a complete “set” of materials in each and every classroom so catering to the needs of each and every child, and not limit the materials to an age..surely that is removing a child’s “freedom of choice”? To have a classroom
that flows developmentally say from 2-6 years offers so much.

Mixing in other materials and activities detracts from the very unique Montessori approach to a child’s welfare and development. I believe they also could send confusing messages..for example puzzles with dinosaurs and humans, cartoon bunnies, grating soap, etc.
I also strongly believe in the correct use of the materials,( that we know have been carefully and scientifically developed through observing children from concrete to abstract), demonstrations by the teacher and use by the child so that the very important optimum development is achieved.

Having said all that, there are very carefully developed materials that complement the Montessori curriculum, one that comes to mind is the “Bird’s eye view” mat for the lay out of the golden beads.

If a Montessori teacher is going to introduce materials that are not “Traditionally” Montessori, careful consideration is necessary in that they enhance and are true to the Montessori science and research in the development of the materials, and that they do not contradict or conflict with the fundamental message.

I am a thrilled to be a “traditional” Montessori Teacher because I have witnessed over and over again the amazing growth in students in a “traditional” Montessori classroom.

How important are Montessori Materials to you?

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  • Noemi Santiago says:

    Well since you are the Director it is your job to work with your teacher. Especially since you hired a non-Montessorian to do a Montessori job. I think you owe your teacher an apology.

    • sharon says:

      You are quite right Noemi, it is crucial that a Director, who employs a Non Montessori teacher, mentor and help her/him in every aspect of being in a Montessori School. The teacher who chose to be employed by a Montessori School should wholeheartedly get on board too and embrace Montessori so that it is a happy and meaningful partnership.

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is so funny! I have a teacher in private school and later with the DOE before I transitioned to a Montessori. I spent more than 1 year making lessons totally not Montessori and my Director never, ever told me what I was doing was wrong. At my first evaluation she destroyed me.

    Directors need to work with their teachers. Teachers that transition from other philosophies of education – especially DOE – are trained in their manner and need time to readjust their thinking, planning and methodology.

    • sharon says:

      Absolutely Elizabeth, Directors should invest in their Teaches wholeheartedly, with mentoring, Montessori Education, and complete support. It is a two way street, if a Director decides to employ a non Montessori teacher, she/he needs to commit to that teachers transition and education and the teacher needs to embrace Montessori with dedication to make it work.

  • Jacquelyn Balaguer says:

    I transitioned from the public school system to Montessori. My Director was so busy she never took the time to work with me or show me that my lessons were not Montessori. It was only after I about 5 months on the job that I started really understanding Montessori and was able to adapt my lessons. Just work with your teacher and you will see the change.

    • sharon says:

      Very true Jacquelyn, it is important to mentor ones teachers and have positive teacher reviews, so that there is an understanding about the Montessori method.

  • Because our Montessori is unique in that it is a Spanish immersion program, it is very difficult to find teachers who have early childhood education, are fluent in Spanish and have Montessori training. Because the latter is the hardest to find, we have forfeited searching for the person with all three qualifications and instead hope to train non-Montessorians. I have had a resistance with a teacher who, coming from a public school background, is very ademant on creating projects and lessons that parents can see as that is “what makes a parent happy”. I am so glad to find this blurb so that I can further reiterate to both teachers and parents that the philosophy behind the materials must be always present in the classroom. Without this, we cannot call ourselves a Montessori school.

    • sharon says:

      Your effort to be a Montessori School in all it represents is awesome Stormy, you have your challenge identified, with that is the gift that you know you are on the right path..stick to it.

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