Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Worksheets and Workbooks in the Montessori Environment: Practicing Concrete Concepts

When we refrain from guiding the subjugated child step by step, when, liberating the child from our personal influence, we place him in an environment suited to him and in contact with the means of development, we leave him confidently to "his own intelligence." His motor activity will then direct itself to definite actions…Thus, passing from simple objects to objects of ever-increasing complexity, he becomes possessed of a culture; moreover, he organizes his character by means of the internal order which forms itself within him, and by the skill which he acquires. – Maria Montessori, Advanced Montessori Method I, pg. 161

NAMC worksheets workbooks in the montessori environment practicing concrete concepts boy writing

In the previous post about the use of worksheets and workbooks in the Montessori environment, we discuss the need for young children to move and manipulate their learning environment in order to fully absorb and internalize their learning. As children mature, they are capable of much more abstract thought. The progression from concrete to abstract manifests itself throughout the Montessori elementary curriculum as children begin to rely less and less on the repetitive use of materials.

Worksheets and Workbooks for Montessori - Practice After Concrete Mastery

When used in accordance to the Montessori principals, i.e. individual choice and pace, control of error, isolation of difficulty certain types of worksheets may be incorporated into the practice and internalization of concepts with elementary students. While a workbook suggests a specific order or that the whole book in its entirety must be completed, an individual worksheets may be used as an independent practice.

The NAMC Blackline Master's CD has hundreds of pages of individual worksheets that serve to help the teacher create individual practice for the student. These worksheets may be easily made into individual cards and put on a shelf or they may be photocopied for the students to insert into their own journals. Two sets may be made; one a working set for the student and one a control of error for her to check her own work. This keeps the locus of control at the student level.

NAMC worksheets workbooks in the montessori environment practicing concrete concepts

It can be easy to rely on worksheets to help students advance more quickly through the curriculum. The concrete materials should always be presented first, with plenty of opportunity for individual practice. Worksheets, like command cards, should be used only when the child has sufficiently internalized the concepts presented.

Parents who question the lack of paperwork should be gently reminded that Montessori education is about meeting the needs of children through developmentally appropriate materials. And while it may look like they are playing all day by pouring water, stacking the Pink Tower, using the Sandpaper Letters, and the laying out the Long Bead Chains, they are doing the real work of childhood. They are learning by absorbing knowledge through the use of all their senses, not just by writing on a worksheet. What is absorbed through the senses will become a much more solid foundation for the child. Teachers, in the meantime, can use digital cameras to record the work the child is doing and share those photos with parents. This simple, yet informative, way of helping parents understand the learning that is happening in the Montessori environment.
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 Tuesday, April 2, 2013.


  1. Hi! I've been reading everything on here and soaking it all up. I recently started out as sort of a psuedo assistant in a montessori classroom- inside of a non-montessori school. Parents, all of whom are used seeing concrete evidence of advancement, are concerned with the lack of visible progress. How can we reassure them that the classroom is, indeed, a place to learn and play? Many are placing the blame on the teacher herself, but I question whether or not its really her fault? What exactly can we do?


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