Montessori Terms

Absorbent Mind: The ability and ease with which a young child unconsciously learns from his environment. The child has the unique capacity to absorb the materials with which he is surrounded, much like a sponge.

Sensitive Periods: The critical times in a child’s development when he is especially receptive to a particular type of learning. For example, the sensitive period for language learning is from birth to about age six. During this time, a child’s ability to absorb his mother tongue (and other languages, too) is most evident.

Control of Error: The Montessori materials making obvious to the child, upon completion of an exercise, the mistakes he has made, thereby allowing him to correct his errors.

Cycles of Activity: Both a process and a goal whereby a child learns to choose a particular activity and follow it to the end of fulfillment and completion; sometimes called the work cycle.

Freedom: The special liberty afforded a child under the Montessori philosophy, which allows the child’s quiet inner discipline to develop as it is supplemented with liberty and respect for the rights of the individual and society.

Independence: The quest of the emerging child for freedom and self-development, accomplished by overcoming obstacles and dependence on others.

Inner Directives: The unique will natural within a child that enables him to choose the work that will best assist his development.

Isolation of Difficulty: The concentration on one particular aspect of a task or exercise in order to better understand it. This is accomplished by (a) isolating the thought or part you are teaching; (b) ordering isolating tasks; and (c) demonstrating step-by-step sequential gradations of thought.

Normalization: The special quality that children attain when they achieve responsibility, strive for independence, and acquire the discipline and control necessary for a healthy life of learning.

Order: The precise need of young children that is often unrecognized. Order isolates an activity in the process and helps children interpret messages from the environment. Incorporated in all Montessori Materials, order enables a child to feel more in control, at peace, and capable of drawing meaning from his life.

Prepared Environment: The atmosphere created to free children to learn through activity in peaceful and orderly surroundings that are adapted to each child’s size and interests.

Tactile Sense: An important aspect of a child’s need for exploration. The sense of touch is an integral part of many Montessori learning materials, which are specifically designed to be touched, arranged, assembled, in short, to be handled. In a non-Montessori (unprepared) environment, a child who needs repetition, mobility and the feel of his environment often hears instead, “hurry up,” “let me do it for you,” “keep still,” and/or “don’t touch!”

Child’s Love of Repetition: Recognized by Dr. Maria Montessori as a natural process of learning. After a child has finally completed an activity, he may want to repeat it again and again, and the Montessori approach allows for that. An imperceptive adult may believe the child is tiring himself unnecessarily and forces him to stop for “rest.”