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The page provides a definition of the terms commonly used in the Montessori community.

Absorbent mind

Refers to the time from birth to 3 years old, when young children are capable of absorbing huge amounts of information about the environment through their senses. In the process they will acquire language(s), develop motor and social skills of the adults around them, and acquire expectations about how the world will treat them.

Active listening

Means more than listening to what a child says then repeating it outloud.By using active listening, a teacher makes sure a child feels heard.

Circle time

Refers to the special routines with which teachers and children begin and or end their time together each day as they sit in a circle together.


Constructive roaming

Refers to the deliberate movement a child makes from place to place while considering options in the process of choosing an activity.

Control of error

Refers to a method of selfcorrection that is built into both materials and teaching methods in a Montessori program and provides children with opportunities to learn by correcting themselves rathe than depend on adults to correct them.


Cosmic education

is an overall Montessori approach to education that involves helping children develop an awareness that everything in the universe is connected and interdependent and forms a harmonious whole and that they themselves are part of and contribute to that whole.

Early childhood education

refers to the formal educating of children under six years of age.


Entry items

Refers to familiar educational toys, such as interlocking blocks, pegboards, and puzzles, available to new children at the start of the school year until they have received presentations in the learning materials.



refers to related activities that increase the complexity, range, or application of an activity that has been presented.


Fine motor skills

Refers to the small, detailed movements that can be made with the hands and fingers.


Five great lessons

Refers to a series of five imaginative stories told at the beginning of each Montessori elementary year. These stories give students an overall impression of the grand topics of the universe, the earth, and life on earth.



Refers to a proactive guidance strategy wher the teacher keeps a child who is restless or disturbing others close by for a period of time before inviting the child to choose a more suitable activity.

Going out activities

Refers to give older elementary students to plan, organize, raise funds for, and carry out trips away from the classroom and the school, out into the community.

Gross motor skills

Refers to the ability to make the large body movements such as crawling, walking, lifting, and climbing.

Isolation of difficulty

Refers to the process by which, before making a presentation to a child, a teacher analyzes the activity and its parts and assesses whether the child might find it difficult to do one more. The teacher isolates these parts and presents them separately to the child before presenting the intended activity.


When teachers consciously behave in a way that sets an example for the behavior the teachers want the children to emulate.

Montessori method

Refers to a combination of theory, a set of rules, ideas, principles, and methods applied to an event or topic in an attemp to explain it, and practice, putting the theory into effect.

Montessori learning materials

Refers to the materials that reflect the ideas of the Montessori method, presented to the children in a particular way.

Motor skills

Refers to the ability to move the body and to control the movement of the body.

Nomenclature cards

Refers to naming cards showing pictures and corresponding labels for children to match.


Refers to the Montessori term for the mental state children reach when they approach their studies with enthusiasm, work with little direction, treat others in a respectful way, and can work quietly on their own or with others.

Orientation activities

Refers to the activities presented at the start of the school year to individual children or very small groups to introduce children to the classroom. These activities help new children adapt quickly to the routines of the class, lear about expectations for respect as well as manners and courtesy, develop some independence, and become familiar with the classroom, accesory spaces, and materials.

Peace place

Refers to a small beautiful place set aside in a quiet part of the classroom for silent meditation or reflection. At the early childhood level is usually occupied by one child at a time.

Phase-in period

Refers to when new children come to a program for reduced periods of time during the first few weeks at the start of the school year.

Planes of development

Refers to the term used by Montessori to refer to four distinct periods of growth, development, and learning for children and youth: birth to 6, 6 to 12, 12 to 18, and 18 to 24.


Refers to an activity someone finds enjoyable and interesting and is valuable in itself for that reason.

Positive interaction

Refers to a communication strategy, can consist of simple statements that let a child know that he/she has been noticed and acknowledged in a busy classroom.

Practical life activities

Refers to an increasingly challenging series of small motor tasks involving practical real life goals, such as cleaning a table, washing a plate, or polishing silverware.


Refrs to putting the Montessori theoty into effect.

Prepared environment

Refers to how everything is carefully designed and chosen by a teacher to facilitate children's learning. This care applies not only to the classroom and everything it contains, but also to the children, teachers, and other adults within the physical environment of the classroom and its immediate surroundings.


Refers to a short, step-by-step demonstration of an activity and its materials by a teacher to a child. Sometimes to a small group, but rarely to a large group at the early childhood level.

Proactive guidance

Refers to communication strategies that many Montessori teachers have found effective because the goal is to guide, not force, children in positive ways as they develop.


Refers to written reports showing how a program is run, what decisions are made, and how the children are progressing.


Refers to helping a child choose other ways of behaving.

Role plays

Refers when someone acts out certain actions as though he/she were someone else.


Rferes to the development of a sense of self as separate and different from others.


Refers to the ability to do something for its inherent value, wheter or not it is requested by someone else.

Sensitive periods

Refers to periods of time when, given ample opportunities, children are absorbed by and focus their attentions and energies on one thing, sometimes seeming driven to develop a certain skill.

Silence game

Refers to an exercise designed by Montessori initially to help children develop motor skills. In the Game, the teacher invites the children to join him/her in sitting still and silent for a short period of time.


Refers to the effort someone makes or to the process someone follows to do something or make something that has value to the person or to society.

Work period or work cycle

Refers to the uninterrupted period of time made available in a Montessori program for children to work with specific learning materials of their choice in the ways for which the materials were designed.

Walking the line

Refers to the activity where the children follow an imitate a teacher or child moving in various ways along the shape (usually an ellipse) and practice doing so without losing balance or touching someone else.