Montessori materials are hands-on learning tools designed to provide children with opportunities to learn through repetition and practice. In a MSR classroom, students are given lessons with these materials which focus on one skill at a time. Materials are intentionally designed to support independent learning and problem-solving. The use of materials grows in complexity as students continue to learn and develop from concrete to abstract learning.
Montessori materials are divided into different areas including sensorial, practical life, language, math, and cultural studies.
Sensorial materials provide active experiences for students to refine the senses through noticing, exploring, and categorizing. In MSR’s classrooms, some of these materials include:
● Pink Tower, solid wood cubes varying in size to teach visual and tactile understanding of dimension;
● Color Tablet Boxes representing gradients of color help develop visual discrimination;
● Baric Tablets of varying weights engage students in lifting and comparing weights to arrange lightest to heaviest;
● Thermic Tablets illustrate differences in heat conductivity and allow students to discern different temperatures;
● Knobbed Cylinders and Knobless Cylinders build concentration and dexterity.
Practical Life Materials
Practical life materials are real, everyday tools, often scaled down for little hands and stature. They teach real-life skills such as sweeping, pouring, washing dishes, setting a table or dressing. Through practical life lessons, children learn focus and concentration by following steps in a careful process. These materials also help to develop fine and gross motor skills, balance, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, independence, confidence, and more.
Both Practical Life and Sensorial activities help build the foundation necessary for learning language, math, and cultural studies in a Montessori environment.
Language: Classic Montessori materials for language development include sandpaper letters, movable alphabets, and metal insets. The use of these materials connect the students' senses with language processing by seeing, tracing, and hearing sounds to help decode and build words. The metal insets help the child to refine fine motor skills in preparation for writing. Grammar symbol materials are introduced early on as the emerging readers begin to learn the function of each word preparing them for sentence analysis work with Grammar Boxes and Charts.
Math: Beginning lessons include work with the red and blue rods, spindle boxes, bead stair, and sandpaper numbers where students learn to classify one-to-one correspondence and quantity/numeral recognition. Once a student has a strong number sense, lessons expand with other materials incorporating work on the decimal system with Seguin Boards, Bead Chains, and the well-known Golden Bead Material. This prepares them for work on the basic operations and moving to more advanced materials such as the Multiplication Checkerboard, Racks and Tubes for division, or the Geometric Cabinet for a foundation in geometric concepts.
Cultural Studies (or Cosmic Education in Elementary) inspires the child to explore both their known community, as well as the world around them. Combining sensorial experiences with geography, students begin to explore land and water with landform trays, continent globes, and puzzle maps. From the Botany Cabinet, which teaches about leaf shapes and types, to Zoology and Biome nomenclature materials, which inspire the child to explore animals in different environments, Montessori materials provide a context for the child to learn about science, history, geography, and cultures all over the world.