Lexicon of Montessori Terms


Dr. Montessori’s original Italian term was “Casa de Bambini” or children’s house.  Our pre-school rooms are therefore called Casa’s in deference to both tradition and the idea that it is a warm home not a sterile classroom.  The casa room involves three different age groups:

Half Days                    2.5 – 3.5 years approximately  (9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)

Double Session           3.5 – 4.5 years approximately  (9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Full Day                      4.5 – 5.5 years approximately  (9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Allegro In Between

A program designed to provide care for our half day children from 12:00 – 3:30 p.m.  It combines the Montessori expectation of behavior with baking, experiments, outside exploration and much more including naps.  We accept approximately 15 half day children into this program every year. 

Absorbent Mind

The first plane of development, from birth to age 6, where the child has the capability to absorb a large amount of information about their environment through their senses.  During the this plane of development children acquire language, develop motor and cognitive skills, copy the social skills of adults, and learn expectations of how the world will treat them.  

Concrete to Abstract

A logical, developmentally appropriate progression that allows the child to come to an abstract understanding of a concept by first encountering it in a concrete form, such as learning the mathematical concept of the decimal system by working with the Golden Beads grouped into units, 10s, 100s and 1000s.

Control of Error

Montessori materials are designed so that the child receives instant feedback as they work, allowing them to recognize, correct and learn from their mistakes without adult assistance.  Putting control of the activity in the child’s hands strengthens his self-esteem and self-motivation as well as his learning. 

Coordination of Movement

Focusing on coordination and control of movement is especially important during the preschool years. Young children are in their sensitive period for refinement of movement from ages 2-4.   

Cosmic Education

A Montessori approach that develops an awareness in the child that everything in the universe is connects connected and interdependent, forming a harmonious whole and that they are a contributing part to that whole. 


Focuses on Social Studies, Science and Geography.  Activities include learning about the continents and flags of the world, land and water forms as well as parts of plants and animals and many other exciting hands on experiences that broaden their view of their world.


Behaviour commonly seen in children that is the result of some obstacle to normal development.  Such behaviour may be commonly understood as negative (a timid child, a destructive child, etc.) or positive (a passive, quiet child).  Both positive and negative deviations disappear once the child begins to concentrate on a piece of work freely chosen.

Grace and Courtesy

Children are formally instructed in social skills they will use throughout their lives.  For example, saying “please” and “thank you”, interrupting conversations politely,  and requesting, rather than demanding assistance, and greeting guests warmly.

Human Tendencies

A central tenet of Montessori philosophy is that human beings exhibit a predisposition towards exploration, orientation, order, abstraction, work, self-perfection, communication and spiritual life.  The tendencies are universal, spanning age, culture, and racial barriers; they have existed since the dawn of the species and are probably evolutionary in origin.  “Montessori stresses the need to serve those special traits that have proven to be tendencies of man throughout history.”  (Mario Maria Montessori, 1966, p. 21)


Not depending on another.  Normal developmental milestones such as weaning, talking, etc. can be seen as a series of events which enable the child to achieve increased individuation, autonomy and self-regulation.  Children naturally seek to become more independent throughout the four planes of development.  We always strive to give each child the joy and independence of “doing it myself”.

Indirect Preparation

The way nature has of preparing the intelligence.  In every action, there is a conscious interest.  Through this interest, the mind is being prepared for something in the future.  For example, a young child will enjoy the putting together of various triangular shapes, totally unaware that because of this work his mind will later be more accepting of geometry.  Also called remote preparation, the deeper educational purpose of many Montessori activities is remote in time. 

Indoor voice

The calm, quiet voice that we use to communicate with each other.  It is the voice of reason, discussion and shows an awareness of our environment and those around us.   It is the voice we always use inside of our building. 


The language curriculum is phonetic in nature and utilizes games and powerful teaching tools to help children learn to decode phonetic words, high frequency/sight words, diphthongs and digraphs.  It is powerful in promoting early reading and writing skills using a variety of games and activatesactivities.    


Dr. Montessori realized that all children have a “Mathematica Mathematical Mind” and that when they are given the opportunity to explore math in a concrete way, through “hands-on” materials, abstract math concept become easier to comprehend.  Curriculum is based on the Decimal Numeral System or Base Ten Mathematical System.  All materials are based on abstract concepts and create concrete learning materials that children use independently.  Covers recognition of math patterns, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division – short and long, fraction work and skip counting. 

Mixed Ages

One of the hallmarks of the Montessori Method is that children of mixed ages work together in the same class, . Age-groupings are based on developmental planes.  Children from 3 to 6 years of age are together in the Casa; 6 – 9 years share the lower elementary, and the upper elementary is made up of 9 – 12 year olds.  Because the work is individual, the children progress at their own pace; there is cooperation rather than competition between ages. 


The identifying of an item through its scientific names.  Usually cards on the Culture shelves revealing the parts of items.  (i.e. parts of a frog, tree, river system)


A natural or “normal” developmental process marked by a love of work or activity, concentration, self-discipline, and joy of accomplishment.  Dr. Montessori observed that the normalization process is characteristic of human beings at any age.

Planes of Development

Four distinct age periods in a child’s life of growth, development, and learning that build on each other as children and youth progress through them: ages 0 – 6 (the period of the “absorbent mind”); 6 – 12 (the period of reasoning and abstraction); 12 – 18 (when youth construct the “social self,” developing moral values and becoming emotionally independent); and 18 – 24 years (when young adults construct and understanding of the self and seek to know their place in the world).

Point of Interest

Montessori realized that if children spent too long on a complex task or failed to master the necessary details, the exercise would cease to interest them.  Therefore she suggested that points of interest be interspersed throughout each activity.  These points guide the child toward his or her goal and stimulate repetition and interest by offering immediate feedback, or what Montessori called “control of error.” The child’s performance becomes refined through trial and error, the points of interest acting as signposts along the path to success.

Practical Life

The Montessori term that encompasses domestic work to maintain the home and classroom school room environment; self-care and personal hygiene; and grace and courtesy.  Practical life skills are of great interest to young children and forms the basis of later abstract learning.

Prepared Environment

The teacher prepares the environment of the Montessori classroom with carefully selected, aesthetically arranged materials that are presented sequentially to meet the developmental needs of the children using the space.  Well-prepared Montessori environments contain appropriately sized furniture, a full complement of Montessori materials, and enough space to allow children to work in peace, alone or in small or large groups. 

Sense of Order

Structure and Order order in the Montessori classroom environment accurately reflect the sense of structure and order in the universe. By using the Montessori classroom environment as a microcosm of the universe, the child begins to internalize the order surrounding them, thus making sense of the world in which they live. 

Sensitive Periods

A critical time during human development when the child is biologically ready and receptive to acquiring a specific skill or ability- such as the use of language or a sense of order-and is therefore particularly sensitive to stimuli that promote the development of that skill.  A Montessori teacher prepares the environment to meet the developmental needs of each sensitive period. 


These activities develop and refine the 5 senses:  sight, sound, touch, taste and smell and builds a foundation for speech, writing, and math through the use of sensorial materials.  The exercises also bring order to the barrage of sensorial impressions the child experiences from birth onward. 

Tailor Sit

Sitting on the floor with your legs crossed.  We use this method of sitting in most circles and teaching situations. 

The Three Period Lesson

A 3 step technique for presenting information to the child.  In the first – the introduction or naming period – the directordirector demonstrates what “this is.”  (The directordirector might say ‘This is a mountain’ while pointing to it on a 3 dimensional map.  In the second – the association or recognition period – the directordirector askes the child to “show” what was just identified (“Show me the mountain.”).  Finally, in the recall period, the directordirector asks the child to name the object or area.  Moving from new information to passive recall to active identification reinforces the child’s learning and demonstrates their mastery. 

Use Your Words

We want children to communicate through words instead of other vocalizations or physical reactions.  For example if you are unhappy than then you need to express that using language without a physical response.

Walking Feet

In an indoor environment we always use walking feet.  Again it shows an awareness of and respect for the environment and the people around us.  It teaches us civility of behaviour but also aides the child in controlling and becoming aware of their own physicality.


Purposeful activity.  Maria Montessori observed that children learn through purposeful activities of their own choosing; Montessori schools call all of their child’s activities “work.”