Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Montessori Grace and Courtesy in Lower Elementary Classrooms

Social peace and harmony can have only one foundation—man himself. This is the task of education. We must make it possible for the individual to be free and independent. ~ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
NAMC montessori grace and courtesy in lower elementary classrooms stacking hands
To be graceful is to be pleasing, agreeable, and demonstrate goodwill. The Montessori elementary classroom is ripe for teachable moments in grace and courtesy that will help a child in situations throughout his life. With these lessons, the Montessori environment is productive and supportive.

The Montessori academic course of study in the lower elementary classroom revolves around the idea of Cosmic Education, or the idea that everything is connected and interdependent upon one another. Just as the universe is seen as a whole community, the lower elementary Montessori classroom is a community of learners which follow very clear ground rules that ensure the success and freedom of all students.

The mantra to “follow the child” is ingrained in the Montessori teacher. The Montessori environment is specially prepared with focus on the individual. Students have the freedom to move about the classroom, exploring and learning as their interest is piqued. Even so, individuals find themselves in the center of the Montessori community. To ensure success, Montessori teachers establish very clear ground rules.

Montessori Grace and Courtesy in Lower Elementary Classrooms

Though the rules may vary from school to school, they clearly spell out the need to treat others as you would like to be treated. In other words, they encourage children to be respectful of all creatures and all things.

While the rules may appear to be simple, the Montessori teacher does not assume that children automatically know what it means to be respectful. This is discussed and demonstrated in great detail in the Montessori classroom. The expectation is that through modeling and practice, children will learn to live and work together in peace and harmony. Montessori students are shown what it means to cooperate, how to be a friend, how to express anger in a positive way, and how to solve problems. The lessons in grace and courtesy provide a foundation on which to build and they set a tone of mutual respect and kindness.

Because children are emotional beings and learning to express themselves, the lessons in grace and courtesy also give Montessori students the tools they need to validate their feelings. When feelings are hurt, they are able to call upon what they've learned in these lessons to practice peaceful conflict resolution. Teachers and peers act as guides and mediators, modeling appropriate behavior and language. Over time, Montessori students become more adept and proficient at handling difficult social situations.

The ideas of justice and fairness are fundamental concerns of the elementary child. The culture in the Montessori environment is built upon caring, respect, and consideration for others. An important component of that is creating a diverse cultural, racial, and linguistic environment. We do this through the lessons of grace and courtesy as well as cultural geography. Children learn that all the people on earth have basic needs that must be met. Cultural differences are celebrated and the uniqueness of different culture, language, background, race, and religion is honored.
NAMC montessori grace and courtesy in lower elementary classrooms parent tea party
As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Children enjoy role-playing social situations and offering advice to the “actors”. Learning appropriate social behavior can also be achieved by hosting parent “teas”. Children can be encouraged to write invitations, greet guests, serve refreshments, and write thank you notes. There are ample opportunities to develop grace and courtesy in the elementary Montessori environment.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy are found in the NAMC 6-9 Advanced Practical Life Manual. See also: Montessori Grace & Courtesy: Infants/Toddlers & Preschoolers
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 Wednesday, March 10, 2010.


  1. Respect is something that is discussed in our classroom on a daily basis. It is expected that children will show respectful behaviour towards each other, towards the teacher, towards their environment and towards the equipment. The children often discuss what respect means to each of them and this is really important, because it strengthens their own understanding and gives peers and new children the opportunity to develop their own ideas of what respect means.
    When experiencing behaviour that is not respectful, I find that it is often enough just to calmly ask the child "do you think that what you said was respectful?" In this way, the child is given the opportunity to assess their own behaviour and will more often than not realise that what they have said/ done is not appropriate or acceptable.


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