Maria Montessori said that if she had just one area in a classroom for children to learn from, she would not pick Math, or Literacy, or anything academic – she would pick Practical Life. She believed that every other skill and knowledge area could be accessed through teaching practical life skills to children. Math? Think of measuring for recipes, or telling time, or making a change for a customer at a coffee shop. Science? The chemical reactions in baking, using simple machines for building, understanding how our bodies work so that we can care for them. Literacy? Making signs, reading a how-to guide, or writing a persuasive speech about caring for the environment. Motor skills? Cutting, pouring, scooping, mixing, walking carefully while carrying a glass pitcher, and so much more. Although Practical Life looks different at each level, it is an integral part of all Montessori classrooms at The Glen.
At Each Age Level:
How Practical Life Grows with Your Child
Last week, we talked about the importance of Practical Life to the Montessori child. Today, we will see how it develops with your growing child. In the Birth-3 classroom, Practical Life activities help children learn how to be independent in taking care of their body and their needs. For example, even the youngest children learn how to open their lunch containers, clear their plates after lunch, and wipe their faces clean. They practice these activities with shelf activities as well as “in the moment.” In Children’s House, the Practical Life activities are based upon a child’s need for order and movement, and they are designed to build independence, concentration, coordination and a sense of order. Children not only practice skills such as pouring, spooning and scooping, but also table washing, wiping their noses and walking carefully in the environment. The Practical Life skills in Elementary reflect that the children at this age are beginning to be more a part of the world around them. They learn how to take care of their classroom, including classroom pets. The Upper Elementary children learn important management and interpersonal skills such as running the coffee shop and Pizza Friday. And all Elementary children run a Community Meeting each day, in which they solve classroom problems and build community.
Practical Life in Room 203
From attending The Journey of Discovery or Parent Education Nights, many of you know how the practical life area in our classroom is set up. It is the largest area of the classroom near the door. It has three shelves of materials and a snack area. The first shelf in practical life is the transfer and movement shelf. These works range large gross motor activities such as walking on the line, to fine motor activities such as tweezing. The second shelf in our practical life area has a cafe of self and care of environment works. Some of the care of environment works include folding, sweeping, and dusting. Some of the care of self works include the dressing frames and a blowing your nose work. The third shelves contain beginning waterworks such as sponge squeezing to suds whipping to multi-step works like table scrubbing. We also introduce over the three-year cycle, ironing, clothes washing, and sewing. One area of practical life that is not on a shelf that we practice throughout the school year is grace and courtesy. The children have many lessons on how to excuse themselves, how to properly interrupt, how to open and close a door, how to respect another friend who is working and so on. To care for others and to practice grace and courtesy, we also do various food preparation works such as banana slicing and carrot peeling. The children then offer food to the other children in the classroom while practicing manners such as please and thank you.
One thing to remember about the practical life area is that it is for the process, not the product. The direct purpose of these works is to introduce life skills. The indirect purpose is to prepare the child for the other areas of the classroom by developing order, concentration, coordination, and independence.
Please see the pictures posted to the transparent classroom of the practical life area in Room 203!