Thursday, April 08, 2010

Montessori Elementary: Developing Independence, Movement, and Motor Skills

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

NAMC montessori elementary developing independence movement motor skills boy and koala
A few years ago, I received my certificate to facilitate Positive Parenting courses, developed by Lynn Lott and Jane Nelson of Positive Discipline. In my first small group session with parents, I always ask this question:
“Imagine it is 20 years from now and your child is coming home for Sunday dinner. What are the qualities you wish to see in your adult child walking through your front door?” I let them brainstorm for a few minutes and then we collectively come together and write our responses paper for everyone to see. Generally, the qualities identified look something like this:
  • happiness
  • success
  • pride
  • honor
  • love
  • honesty
  • self-worth
  • independence
When this is shared, I then ask the most important question: “Is what you are doing now as a parent developing these character traits in your children?”

Independence is a skill. Like learning how to swim or ride a bike, it is not something that comes naturally or develops overnight. What it looks like and what it means to be independent needs to be modeled and practiced repeatedly, until it is mastered. Parents (and teachers) who wish to smooth the way and all obstacles may also be removing the precious experiences which help children grow.

Montessori Elementary: Developing Independence, Movement, and Motor Skills

Children who have been in the Montessori preschool spend three years preparing to be independent. As they enter the Montessori lower elementary environment, they are once again explorers, embarking on a new stage of development. They ask serious and important questions: Who am I? What am I? Where did I come from? Who and what came before me? While seeking these connections, they journey closer and closer to independence.

Like the Montessori preschool environment from whence they came, students are free to move and explore in the Montessori elementary environment. Through movement, children explore their world. They touch it, they move and manipulate it, they go outside and out into the world to examine the natural beauty around them.

The materials in the Montessori elementary environment are spread throughout the room in a logical and orderly manner. Journals are in cubbies, materials are on shelves, pencils are in a pencil holder by the pencil sharpener and work mats are in a basket by the library. Important social connections are made – Montessori lessons are now given in small groups and students enjoy working with one or two classmates. Montessori students in this stage of development are learning how to establish community and the Montessori environment gives them freedom to explore this in a safe, supportive manner. Children learn to discuss ideas and listen to others without judgment. The Montessori elementary learning materials offer the reality, concretely demonstrating learning concepts, encouraging and enabling Montessori students to explore with their imaginations, creativity and authentic interest.

NAMC montessori elementary developing independence movement motor skills girl helping senior with phone
Montessori understood that realizing one’s place in the world and being able to function as part of a community is an important part of being independent. Children in the Montessori elementary environment are encouraged to experience, observe, and yes, make mistakes as they try to make sense of their world. As they develop, Montessori students begin to move away from the concrete materials and proceed to thinking and reasoning abstractly on their own. They develop self-control both physically and emotionally, toward what Montessori called normalization. By being an important part of and engaging in the classroom community and beyond, students learn the social norms of society and l how to adapt and behave within the context of different social settings.

Freedom and movement go hand-in-hand in the Montessori environment. Becoming independent and capable means being free to explore and develop. Independence and well-being do not come from sitting at a desk for long hours and memorizing facts. These are achieved by exploring, experiencing and creating your personal working relationship with others and with the world.

See our other related blogs in this series:
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, April 8, 2010.


  1. What a lovely article. No wonder Montessori and Positive Discipline are such a good fit. :-)

  2. You are so right! Montessori and Positive Discipline work hand-in-hand because it's more than just a curriculum or a method; it's a way of life.

  3. Hello-
    I have been reading some of your blogs and really enjoy them! Would you be opposed to me printing a couple for parents at our school?? Any feedback would be great!

  4. Thank you, Pioneer Montessori. Yes, feel free to print our articles from this site and distribute them to your Montessori parents; we ask that you include our web address on the printout. The website address will be referenced on the bottom of the printed page so that they may visit our blog at any time.


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