Based on her research, observations and experiences working with children, Dr. Maria Montessori defined the four planes of development, characterized by specific sensitive periods for learning. At Love of Learning, we focus directly on the first two planes of development and an introduction to the third.
The first plane describes the period between 0-6 years of age, called Early Childhood. This period is defined by the young child’s “absorbent mind” and desire to achieve physical independence and interest in activities rooted in intelligent purpose.
Dr. Montessori’s process for teaching the absorbent mind is structured through classroom activities grouped into four basic areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Math. The activities in these areas foster the children's development of their physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities.
Practical life – Exercises help children gain a sense of accomplishment as they engage in real, meaningful work with tangible results. These purposeful activities are thoughtfully presented in a familiar, home-like environment of the practical life corner allowing children to gain independence, control of movement and coordination.
Sensorial – The sensorial curriculum provides early experiences for children to discern and compare sizes, dimensions, textures, weights, sounds, smells, colors, tastes and temperatures by using precise vocabulary. Once a child has worked with introductory material, there are opportunities for progressive exercises in sorting and classifying. The curriculum also introduces concepts related to math, geometry, and physical geography.
Language – The language curriculum begins with an emphasis on the development of spoken language and the acquisition of vocabulary. Simultaneously, the teacher presents activities that provide early preparation for reading and writing with materials that develop fine motor control. Eventually, direct preparation for reading and writing begins as the child establishes sound-symbol correspondence and a sense of letter shapes. Studying the vocabulary, spelling rules, and grammar of the English language is taught in conjunction with the expansion from reading and writing single words to sentences and stories. Wide genres of books and poetry are readily available throughout the classroom to encourage a lifelong love of reading. Stories, books, and poems are often read aloud.
Math – The math curriculum is designed to support children’s natural interest in math and provide a strong foundation in numeracy through the use of specially designed math materials. Through concrete mathematical experiences, the youngest children learn about dimension, size, number, shape and sequence. Work is arranged in a progressive and sequential display, with each activity broken down into clear steps with a corresponding material. Once the concepts of quantity and place value are established through the repeated activities with the math materials, the child begins work with numeric operations and will practice all four operations with the use of increasingly abstract materials. Most children finishing the kindergarten year will use all four numeric operations with and without exchanging with numbers up to four digits, while those with a strong propensity for math will also work with advanced math concepts.
The second plane constructs learning between 6-12 years of age, called Childhood. This period is defined by the child’s imaginative fascination with knowledge. As they enter the second phase, children express desire for intellectual independence and are inclined to explore the intersections of identities and their place in the world. Students are introduced to a Cosmic Education, providing a bigger picture through which they can orient themselves, their lives, and their worlds in their growth of knowledge. The Five Stories shared are The Story of the Universe (physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy and geography), The Story of Life (botany and zoology), The Coming of Humans (fundamental needs of man both spiritual and material, prehistory and world civilizations), The Story of Numbers (arithmetic, geometry and algebra) and the Story of Communication (world languages, reading, writing, prose poetry, drama and grammar).
The third plane, called Adolescence, begins at age 13 and lasts through age 18. This stage is characterized by self-concern and assessment, as it is a sensitive period in their lives. Adolescents have a desire for emotional independence and this plane allows for further development of critical thinking and exploring their social and moral values.