Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Thought Filled Montessori Classroom - Thinking Together, Learning to Think, and Thinking to Learn

It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to teach child the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities. (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, 1995)
NAMC thought filled montessori classroom thinking girl gardening
Now, more than ever, citizens of the 21st century need to be not only skilled at what they do, but they need to be informed and capable of great thought. Like the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, they need to creatively embrace the quest for truth. They must be capable of great love and compassion for the cosmic interdependence of life on Earth. Gone are the days of rote learning and memorization. Instead, children must be given real life scenarios in which to apply their learning in new situations.

As Montessori teachers, we know the importance of real, applied learning. We know the value of teaching children to think for themselves, not relying on adults for all the answers. We have seen the art of collaboration at work in our multi-age classrooms. We know firsthand that the child who thinks for him/herself is not afraid to take risks and try new things to solve complex problems. Art Costa (Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento) calls this a “Thought Filled Curriculum”.

The Thought Filled Montessori Classroom - Thinking Together, Learning to Think, and Thinking to Learn

NAMC thought filled montessori classroom thinking kids reading
5 Themes of a Thought-Filled Curriculum
  • Learning to Think – This is a form of metacognition*, or “thinking about thinking”. Knowing the processes involved in critical thinking helps develop strategies that can be used throughout life.
  • Thinking to Learn – Content of curriculum is learned for the sheer joy of learning, not as a means to an end. It is then shared constructively with others to build shared knowledge.
  • Thinking Together – A wider perspective is shared when learning is shared with others. Emphasis is placed on the good of the society rather than the good of the individual.
  • Thinking About Our Own Thinking – Self-reflection is part of meta-cognition  Keeping an internal mental dialog about one’s own thoughts helps with difficult decision making at crucial times.
  • Thinking Big – As teachers, we should reflect on our own lessons. Are we teaching tiny microcosms of a curriculum or are we guiding our students to tie it all together, striving towards the bigger picture?
Montessori teachers strive to bring meaningful experiences into the classroom through experiential and integrated learning. We gently guide our students along their journey to be responsible citizens of the world. The path that they must follow is one that is thought-filled and engaging. NAMC curriculum manuals are designed around the cosmic approach to experiential and integrated learning in education.

  • Costa, Art. Five Thoughts About a Thought-Filled Curriculum. American Montessori Society. 2006.)
* A definition for metacognition can be found at
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, May 7, 2009.


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