50 Ways to Keep the Montessori Spirit Alive in Your Classroom

Whether you turn the tray at the end of a lesson, go from right to left or left to right, are AMS-trained, or AMI-trained - there are many foundational elements of Montessori philosophy we can all agree on. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the minutiae - remember the essentials. Below are 50 ways to keep the Montessori spirit alive in your classroom.

  1. Do things with the child, not for them

  2. Model the behavior you’d like to see

  3. Use fewer words - guide with actions

  4. Practice grace and courtesy with the adults and children in your classroom

  5. Move precisely and with purpose

  6. Follow the child’s interest to spark and maintain curiosity

  7. Accept that every child moves at their own pace

  8. Prepare the classroom so every child can be as independent as possible

  9. Embrace simplicity

  10. Own up to your mistakes and apologize if necessary when you’ve made one

  11. Respect the child

  12. Coach the child in acknowledging and managing their emotions - this is a learned skill

  13. Protect all forms of concentration once they begin

  14. Remember it’s okay not to be perfect! It’s important to model this for your children

  15. Be kind and firm - children need love and limits

  16. Trust that the materials are self-correcting - any interference from an adult is potentially a missed opportunity for the child to conduct his own experimentation and learning

  17. Evaluate if you are in constant need of being in control - and let go of it

  18. Have a sense of humor!

  19. Give effort-based praise

  20. Trust in the absorbent mind and sensitive periods

  21. Incorporate the outdoors and nature whenever possible

  22. Encourage curiosity and exploration

  23. Provide hands-on, concrete opportunities for learning

  24. Practice Practical Life activities again and again and again!

  25. Promote peer problem solving and don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary once it begins

  26. Leave the working child unless they are hurting themselves, hurting someone else, or damaging a material

  27. Keep an ordered environment

  28. Associate movement and learning as much as possible

  29. Give children the time necessary to complete a task

  30. Observe the child - what are they interested in? Where do they need encouragement?

  31. Allow yourself to be in awe of the natural instinct each child has to learn and grow

  32. Remark on exciting things in nature and allow yourself to be amazed when a child points something out to you

  33. Model self control and mindfulness

  34. Help the child take control of their learning by answering questions with questions - “What do you think the answer is?” so they are encouraged to trust their instinct or explore and experiment to find the answer

  35. Be an active listener

  36. Speak to the child on his level

  37. Provide feeling words whenever possible

  38. Prepare the room with child sized furnishings and all materials within their reach

  39. Use proper terminology for body parts, bodily functions, names, etc.

  40. Create an atmosphere where mistakes are acceptable and part of the learning process

  41. Accept the child for who they are - it is our obligation to see the light in each child even when their behavior is challenging

  42. Partner with parents as much as and whenever possible. The child is the one that benefits when we do so

  43. Do not seek to change or affect or modify or improve any other human - observe and accept the one that exists and prepare the environment to stimulate their continued engagement

  44. Pause long enough to recognize the difference between a child wandering and a child who is seeking a momentary break in between lessons

  45. Accept false fatigue as a natural occurrence and stay calm

  46. Be grateful in the gift you have been given to share in the lives of the children in your class

  47. Create opportunities for children to be active participants in the care of their environment

  48. Surround yourself with other people who seem to understand how to speak with children - the ones who see the magic. Talk to the teachers who stay.

  49. Find companionship in expertise and expertise in time.

  50. Above all - remember “Of all things - love is the most potent.” No child can learn before they know they are loved and safe in your presence.

What the World Needs Now

“Don’t become preoccupied with your child’s academic ability, but instead teach them to sit with those sitting alone.Teach them to be kind. Teach them to offer help. Teach them to be a friend to the lonely. Teach them to encourage others. Teach them to think about other people. Teach them to share. Teach them to look for the good. This is how they will change the world.”


A few years ago I started my favorite Valentine’s Day tradition as a teacher: asking each 3, 4, and 5 year old in my class what it means when you love someone. I expected a lot of repetitive answers about buying presents, giving hugs and kisses, maybe giving someone iPad time. What I got instead, to my surprise, was a multitude of insightful responses that proved what I already suspected to be true: in their uncomplicated perception of life, children teach us so much more than we can ever teach them.

  • “When you love someone you be respectful to them, give them hugs, kisses, and snacks.” - Perri, age 4

  • “When you love someone you kiss them and get married, and walk to Catch Air together.” - Avery, age 4

  • “When you love someone you give them flowers, take them dancing with you, and buy them a house.” - Reno, age 5

  • “When you love someone you wash dishes, help with dinner, fix the car, treat them nice, and snuggle with them.” - George, age 5

  • “When you love someone you talk nicely to them and say “I want to be your friend.” - Davis, age 5


This project made a few things clear to me. We can tell our children in words what it means to be considerate and kind until we are blue in the face, but the way they actually learn and internalize it is by watching us.

Second: almost none of the children I asked responded that when you love someone you buy them gifts or give them ice cream. As adults, we tend to over complicate things. Children don’t feel love through being given trivial, material items. They know that love is careful communication and spending time with someone.

As parents and teachers we needn’t try so hard to be perfect. Children feel love through our actions, our effort, and our consistent presence. We don’t need to teach them to be prodigies; to be the next Bill Gates or Lance Armstrong in order to be successful and make a difference. We just need to keep showing up and showing them with our behavior what it looks like when you love someone. We need to show them what it looks like to be compassionate and thoughtful. This is how they will change the world.

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” L.R. Knost

5 Best Books for Montessori Teachers

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”

-Haim Ginott

As teachers we are the decisive element in the classroom. It’s our empathy, approach, and patience that can cause a child to arrive sprinting into school, excited to learn, or dread coming with a growing pit of anxiety in their stomach. However, it’s easy to forget what a crucial role we play and get caught up in the monotony of recording observations and incessant redirection. Here are the 5 best books to inspire and remind you of your significance as a Montessori teacher.

  1. The Absorbent Mind. Maria Montessori - Essentially the holy grail for Montessori philosophy. Allow Maria to refresh your memory of how crucial the first 6 years of life are in a child’s development. Of how they soak everything in effortlessly and what a pivotal role the teacher plays in preparing the environment.

  2. The Tao of Montessori: Reflections on Compassionate Teaching - Catherine McTamaney. Each verse leaves you with something to ruminate on. It will remind you why your job is so essential and to be intentional each day.

  3. Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills - Jane Nelsen Ed.D. Have days where you are pulling out your hair getting children to listen and follow directions? Jane Nelsen reflects on her doubts when disciplining her children: she was either so lenient she ended up not liking her own children, or so strict she didn’t like herself. This book offers guidance on how to be kind and firm at the same time.

  4. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk - Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. A practical guide to rephrasing what you say in order to teach the behavior you want to see. A quick, easy read complete with cartoons.

  5. The Montessori Toddler - Simone Davies. Davies does an amazing job of reminding us that “toddlers can be tricky. [...] They will make you laugh. And they will probably bring you to tears. Or at least a high level of frustration.” She gracefully reminds us that raising little ones is not easy, but we are not alone in our struggles and most importantly, it’s okay not to be perfect. She gives realistic strategies to raise productive, cooperative, independent little people in as harmonious a way as possible.

I wake up every morning and jump out of bed to go to work.  I see everyday in the way a child’s face lights up when I show them a lesson, pause to listen to them, or give them a hug that what I do makes a difference. The gravity of what I do has instilled in me the belief that continual growth and improvement is essential. There is no point at which, as a teacher, you have “made it.” The only way we can ensure we show up our best selves each day and model the traits we want to see in our students is to never become stagnant in our own pursuit of learning. “It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.” - Maria Montessori

A Case for Montessori


There’s a quote that says something like “If you show a child the same thing five times in the same way and they still don’t get it...it’s not the child who is the slow learner.” Hearing this, I find myself asking why then, do we as a nation largely approach education this way? We know, based on scores, outcomes, and research that what most traditional schools are doing doesn’t work for most kids, but rather than instill and insight widespread change, we continue on with more of the same.

Traditional public schools tend to have a one size fits all approach to education. I am not much of a history buff, but it seems to mimic industrialization and the need to attempt to educate as many people at a time as possible using the same methods. It’s time to adjust with the times. It’s time we change things based on trial and error observations and adapt a more methodical, science-like approach to education.

Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy. She created all her didactic, hands-on materials based on observations of what actual children gravitated towards and what worked for them, and adjusted accordingly. All of the lessons incorporate movement, honoring a young child’s need to move his body, but making it purposeful, and thereby helping them learn better by using the mind-body connection. Montessori lessons follow a child’s interest. When a child is not interested in a subject, teachers are taught to adjust their lesson or materials to stimulate excitement, changing the environment to fit the child’s needs, rather than giving up in frustration and exhaustion when one material doesn’t suit every unique child.


The freedom in the Montessori curriculum and variability in evidence-based materials allows the teachers to accommodate different types of learners - whether they be kinesthetic, visual, or auditory. Many Montessori lessons incorporate all of these senses into one lesson to ensure every child absorbs the concept. Sandpaper Letters and Numbers, for example are letters and numerals on boards the child traces one at a time. They start by watching the teacher trace without saying anything, focusing on the movement and muscle sensations without yet adding in the confusion of words. Once the child has completed this, if they seem engaged, the teacher may trace the letter or number again, this time making just the letter sound or announcing the numeral on the board. The child then traces the symbol and makes the sound or numeral. Most children are shown three at a time. These three are repeated to the child before the teacher adds a level of difficulty by mixing the letters or numbers up in order. She will then ask the child to point to “1,” point to “2,” and “point to 3.” The last level of difficulty is where the teacher puts the numerals or letters back in their original order and the teacher points to one, this time without naming it, asking the child to do so. From here the child will practice the lesson with the same 3 letters or numerals several times as repetition is essential and creates neural pathways in the brain. Children in a Montessori classroom, in fact, are given however long it takes them to master them. The Montessori curriculum recognizes that what takes one child a week may take another several months, and that’s okay.

For children that need more movement to help them focus and learn, the teacher may set the letters or numbers on a rug at one end of the room, and ask the child to identify a sound or numeral before finding it’s match on a rug at the other end of the room, engaging their body and their working memory at once. This one lesson is an example of the way all Montessori lessons cater to many different types of learners, ensuring that it’s not just the naturally brightest children, for whom school comes easily, that flourish, but all children in their own time and their own way do so, when given the support and means to learn in their own way.

Not only do Montessori materials honor different types of learners, the curriculum also grants teachers the freedom to follow each child’s unique inherent interests. Instead of trying to meet certain standards and force little ones to be average in all subjects in order to achieve certain test scores, Montessori teachers are able to honor what it is that excites each child as an individual person - what sets their soul on fire. What makes them different. In this way, we hope, they can be truly great at something, fulfilled, and genuinely happy. Happy people encourage others, which spreads, and unearths other happy people. It’s our job as parents and early childhood educators to stoke and inspire curiosity - to create environments where learning is fun, done with an open mind, and instill a lifelong love of exploration. This is how we will change the world.

Building a Foundation of Feelings: The Importance of Teaching Emotional Regulation


Did you know emotional regulation is not something we are born with? You may have noticed babies and toddlers have no emotional regulation. This can exhibit itself in a few ways you are likely familiar with:

·         Tantrums

·         Hitting, biting, pushing

·         Crying

In order to regulate their emotions children must first be able to recognize what they are feeling and name it. Once they can do this they will be better able to adapt their emotions according to the situation. Optimal emotional adaptation does not always mean decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones! It is important if a child is feeling sad or frustrated we give them the language to express that and send the message that it’s okay to feel those feelings, even important to get them out, and when they are ready we are there to coach them on how to express and manage their emotions appropriately.

How can we as teachers and parents help?

  • Model emotional intelligence!

    • Remember, children are watching your interactions with other adults all the time: your co-teachers, your spouse, the waiter at the restaurant, the front desk person at school. It is healthy and okay to have disagreements – this is a time we can show our little ones how to resolve conflicts peacefully and with respect for others.

  • Treat your child with the same respect you would an adult. In order to understand what respect is, you need to show them every day, consistently what it looks like in your interactions with them. Before picking them up, for example. ask if they would like to be held. This will help teach them that their body belongs to them and reinforce the autonomy we want to instill.

  • Be kind and firm. Show empathy and connection by labeling a child’s emotions while also setting a limit.

    • “It seems like you are really frustrated right now! But it is not okay to kick a friend. If you are feeling frustrated you can come outside and kick the ball.”

  • Read books about emotions constantly! Here are some for different ages and feelings:

    • Millie Fierce by Jane Manning

    • Don’t Think about Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan

    • The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

    • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

    • When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

    • Llama, Llama, Mad at Momma by Anna Dewdney

    • I Hate Everything! A Book About Feeling Angry by Sue Graves

    • I Will Be Okay by Laurie Wright

    • When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Spelman

    • What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner.

  • Ask for help!! If a child is having a particularly difficult moment and not responding to your strategies, ask for help! Sometimes children need a change of environment or a different face to help them get through their difficult emotions so they can then process them and reflect. Teachers or other parents may have solutions you have not tried when emotions are high in the moment. We are stronger when we collaborate and put our heads together to find strategies to best support our children.