Friday, October 23, 2009

Elementary Montessori Practical Life Activities Explained: Independence and Responsibility

The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one's self. -Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.

NAMC montessori elementary practical life activities explained independence responsibility boy helping bake
When my son entered his first Montessori classroom at age 5, he was drawn, as if by a magnet, to the Practical Life area of the classroom. I have to admit, the small pitchers, the child-size brooms and dustpans, the apple and banana slicers in the snack area, the bright colors and increasing difficulty of the dressing frames held a certain fascination with me, too. It is not hard to understand why this was his favorite area in which to work.

I began teaching in the Montessori upper elementary environment two years later and was surprised and saddened to see that my classroom had no Practical Life materials. When I approached my level leader, she told me that by upper elementary there really was no need for Practical Life activities. I politely yet resolutely disagreed.

Elementary Montessori Practical Life Activities Explained: Independence and Responsibility

Purpose
The purpose of the Montessori Practical Life activities is to help children develop their independence so that they may become fully capable and responsible adults. The Montessori elementary Practical Life curriculum is a continuation of the practical life skills presented and practiced in the primary classroom. Skills pertaining to care of self, care of environment and living things, along with grace and courtesy are still important; however, these activities now begin to take the children outside of the classroom and into the greater community. While the activities may change, these skills are just as important in the upper elementary, middle school, and even high school years.

The exercises in Practical Life also serve an important social purpose. Children become more self aware which helps them develop empathy and sensitivity to others. It is because of this greater sensitivity to others that community service projects are a big part of the upper elementary Practical Life curriculum. Additionally, Practical Life activities help foster self-discipline, self-reliance as well as teaching children how to concentrate and cooperate.
NAMC montessori elementary practical life activities explained independence responsibility latch hook kit
After my discussion with my team leader, I made a trip to my local craft store. I bought a latch hook rug kit and some simple cross-stitch kits. I put them into simple baskets and found a place for them on my shelves. My students noticed them immediately. “Miss Michelle, are these for us?” “When can we use them?” “Will you show us how?” They were so excited! That afternoon, I gave lessons to all who wanted to learn. There was a new sense of purpose. Work was completed in record time so they could work on their sewing. They had a new sense of pride and accomplishment. It was so satisfying for me to watch them. Even the parents commented on the changes they saw, not to mention the fact that several of them had had to make trips to the craft store over the weekend.

Is there a place for Practical Life work in the upper elementary Montessori classroom? You bet there is! Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing more about what types of activities to bring into your upper elementary Practical Life area. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them!
Practical Life resources from NAMC:
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 Friday, October 23, 2009.

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