The Montessori curriculum is a scientific based curriculum. Each resource and material has been made during Maria Montessori’s time studying the children in her Casas. In the 3-6 prepared environment the classroom and the materials are divided into five sections.
The five sections are Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and, Culture. The practical life area contains activities on trays and baskets that teach the child life skills, for example sweeping, pouring, chopping and how to hold a book. The sensorial section works on refining the senses. The senses are visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, baric, thermic and, stereognostic. The language section begins with teaching stencilling and pincer grips, next teaches all the letters in a phonetic and tactile way before moving on to the pink, blue and green language series and finishing with grammar. The mathematics section begins with teaching works all the way up to multiplication, division and even long division. The culture section covers everything from botany, zoology, biology, geography, astronomy and history.
In all of the above sections there are very famous and memorable materials used to teach the concepts.
One of the most famous material is the pink tower. If you google Montessori, pick any link or website and the words ‘pink tower’ will appear very quickly. The pink tower is in the visual discrimination area of the Sensorial section. It works on the concept of height discrimination. There are ten cubes each differentiating in size of 1cm cubed. The biggest cube is 10cm3 and the smallest cube is 1cm3. The children make a tower, using the biggest block on the bottom and working up to the smallest cube on the top of the tower. This is always a favourite in the classroom and gets used every single day. Have a look at the pink tower!
Another key Montessori Material is the Movable Alphabet. This is used in almost all of the exercises in the Language section. It is a box with 26 sections in it and 4 or 5 of each letter in the boxes. It is usually wooden but can sometimes contain plastic letters. Letters are used to spell out words. We use it all the time and it means that every child can be ‘writing’ words even if they struggle with pincer grip and pencil work.
The culture section contains puzzles of the world, the continents, and the countries. These begin with the sandpaper globe and coloured globe. We then do the world puzzle, move onto the different continents and then move onto the countries. For example, we do the world puzzle, move onto the Puzzle of Asia and then move onto Map of China. When teaching geography, we begin with the biggest and move onto the smallest. We teach the solar system, then the earth, then the continents, then the countries and then the towns in that country etc.
The mathematics section is famous for the golden bead materials. The beads are used throughout the section. They start with one bead which represents a unit, a ten bead bar which is ten beads, a hundred square which is one hundred and a thousand cube with is one thousand. They children are introduced to the beads and explained what they mean and the different hierarchy and placement of numbers before they are shown the written symbol for each bead. Beads can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and for learning numbers, for example 64 has six ten bead bars and 4 units.
In the infant and toddler prepared environment, the most popular materials are the imbucare boxes. These are posting boxes with different 3D shapes to be placed in the boxes.