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, referred to as Early Childhood. This period is defined by the young child’s “absorbent mind”, during which they seek to achieve physical independence and show interest in activities with intelligent purpose.
Dr. Montessori’s process for teaching the absorbent mind is structured through classroom activities, and grouped into four basic areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Math. The activities in these areas foster 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 independently practice spatial awareness, 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. The teacher presents activities that provide early preparation for reading and writing, utilizing materials that develop fine motor control. Once the child has established sound-symbol correspondence and a sense of letter shapes, the teacher will focus on preparing the child for reading and writing. During this time, students study vocabulary, spelling rules, and grammar, as well as practicing reading and assembling individual words into sentences and stories. Stories, books, and poems are often shared and read aloud. Wide genres of books and poetry are readily available throughout the classroom to encourage a lifelong love of reading.
Math – The math curriculum supports children’s natural interest in math, and provides 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. After establishing concepts like quantity and place value, students use increasingly abstract materials to practice and master the four numeric operations. At the conclusion of their kindergarten year, the majority of young learners will have used all four numeric operations. More advanced math may be introduced according to student interest and proficiency.
The second plane encompasses the learning period 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 in their pursuit of knowledge. The Five Stories shared include 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, referred to as Adolescence, spans from ages 12 to 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 as they explore their social and moral values.