There’s a reason Montessori works so well — it was developed to work perfectly with the child’s natural developmental needs, and that extends beyond the materials! Montessori materials are beautiful and brilliantly thought out, but if you don’t know how to present them, they’re close to useless. I’ve seen some common mistakes and misassumptions when it comes to how Montessori lessons should be taught for children in the first plane of development (between the ages of 0 and 6), so I put together this quick cheatsheet with 5 steps to present a lesson the Montessori way — any lesson!
Step 1: Hype it up
When you know what new lesson you want to present, make it enticing. Use beautiful materials, arranged on an open tray so your child can see all of the parts. Invite your child to a lesson: “I want to show you something…” in a whisper with a secretive look on your face will often do the trick!
Step 2: Carry the work to the workspace exactly the way you want the child to do it
That means slowly, with two hands, and to a work rug or table depending on where you want the child to do it next time. On social media, I frequently see parents/teachers sitting across from the child to present a new lesson and thus presenting the materials upside down and backwards — but that’s actually not where you want to be, because it could confuse the child who wants to replicate your movements exactly. During my training, I was taught to sit on the child’s right side because I am right-handed — this way, when I’m demonstrating the movements, my hand will not obscure the child’s view.
Step 3: Use slow, careful movements
Young children learn by doing, through repetition and movement. Demonstrate how to complete the work modeling those slow, careful movements that you want the child to use when she’s doing it. This is your main teaching tool — your movements.
Step 4: Use as few words as possible
To keep the focus on your slow, careful movements, don’t use any extra words. If you’re transferring materials between two bowls, don’t explain what you’re doing — just do it! If you’re matching the color tablets, say the color word only or a simple, “They match!”
Step 5: Invite the child to have a turn
Once you’ve completed your presentation, ask the child, “Would you like a turn?” Sometimes they say no, and that’s okay! They now know how to complete that work, and they will choose it on their own later. If they decline, you can say, “Okay. Let’s put this back on the shelf so you know where you can find it when you’re ready to do it.” Then put it back together. If they would like a turn, let them replicate your movements without your constant praise or interruptions. If they look to you for reassurance, a quick smile is all it takes. When they’ve finished, you can say, “You’ve finished! Would you like to do it again?” They can repeat as many times as they want, or you can show them where it belongs on the work shelf.
Presenting a lesson the Montessori way is a delicate dance, and it can feel intimidating at first — but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature and any other way of doing it feels clunky and loud.
If you want to learn more about homeschooling the Montessori way, my Montessori Homeschool Preschool E-Course will help you do that!