Monday, April 21, 2008

Montessori Philosophy: Understanding Normalization and the Montessori Classroom

NAMC montessori normalization classroom boy with flag puzzle
Normalization is the single most important result of our work. (The Absorbent Mind - Maria Montessori)

Upon hearing the term "normalization" for the first time, most people cringe. "What do you mean my child isn't normal?" The term normalization is a term borrowed from anthropology and means "becoming a contributing member of society" (Dr. Rita Shaefer Zener, 2006). Normalization describes the process that occurs in the Montessori classroom, where young children (usually with short attention spans) learn to focus and concentrate for sustained periods of time, while deriving self-satisfaction from their work. Normalization occurs when development is proceeding normally.

Dr. Montessori stated that there are four characteristics that show that normalization is happening:
  • Love of work - The first characteristic of the process of normalization is love of work. Love of work includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 202)
  • Concentration - To help such development, it is not enough to provide objects chosen at random, but we [teachers] have to organize a world of 'progressive interest'. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 206).
  • Self-discipline - After concentration will come perseverance . . . It marks the beginning of yet another stage in character formation . . . It is the ability to carry through what he has begun. The children in our schools choose their work freely, and show this power unmistakably. They practice it daily for years. (The Absorbent Mind p. 217)
  • Socialibility - There is only one specimen of each object, and if a piece is in use when another child wants it, the latter—if he is normalized—will wait for it to be released. Important social qualities derive from this. The child comes to see that he must respect the work of others, not because someone has said he must, but because this is a reality that he meets in his daily experience. (The Absorbent Mind, p. 223).

Montessori Philosophy: Understanding Normalization and the Montessori Classroom

How long does Normalization take?

Do many new Montessori teachers have similar frustrations? When will my children learn to share? Why do they refuse to help clean up? Why is this child running around the classroom? In essence: When will they be normalized?

The process of normalization, like a 3-period lesson, occurs in three steps- every child develops at a different pace. Children build the foundations of character and personality by following this work cycle.
  • Preparation for work – this includes gathering the materials necessary to do the work. The preparation allows the mind to begin to focus on the activity before the work actually begins.
  • The work – The works in a Montessori classroom are meant to engage the child so that she is able to focus and concentrate in depth.
  • Rest (or completion) – The work is done and the child has derived satisfaction of completing the work. This is a time of putting the Montessori materials away and sharing his accomplishments with others.

NAMC montessori normalization classroom girl writing
Dr. Montessori believed that if a child is placed in a carefully prepared environment she would learn to live in harmony with her surroundings. It is up to the Montessori teacher to prepare that environment so that the child is free to develop her personality and her mind from the opportunities that are presented to her in her classroom.

More in this Blog Series:

Related NAMC Blogs:
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 Monday, April 21, 2008.


  1. This did not really address how long the process takes.


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