Friday, September 16, 2011

What's the Point of Practical Life?

In today's post I will discuss the concept of Practical Life
in the Montessori curriculum. Practical Life is the first
curriculum area taught in the Montessori program and is often the
most popular area with students. The main purpose of Practical
Life is to develop skills that prepare a child for reading, writing
and arithmetic. Therefore activities are designed to develop hand
eye coordination (when holding a spoon or sewing a button),
concentration when repeating sequences (with matching or folding
socks), and independence (by learning to pour themselves a
beverage to drink), to name a few .

Practical Life is divided into smaller sections:
1) Control of Movement which includes cutting paper, sorting an
array of items and transfer activities.
2) Care of Environment, which is their classroom. This involves
washing windows, watering plants and washing a table.
3) Care of Self, which covers learning how to button, zip, lace and
velcro clothes and tie shoes and washing hands.
4) Grace and Courtesy, which teaches children how to greet people,
prepare foods and serve them to their friends

In Montessori teaching, every lesson in Practical Life and
Sensorial prepares the child for further development in reading,
writing or arithmetic. This is accomplished by what we call,
"direct" and "indirect" aims. Indirect aims mimic aspects of
advanced cognitive skills. For example, in spooning, children
move items from the left bowl to the right bowl, mimicking reading
patterns and therefore indirectly preparing for the complex task
of reading. The direct aim in spooning are things such as
developing independence and developing concentration. One may
look at it in simpler terms as direct aims being those goals we can
not see because they come from inside the child (for example,

I'd like to share an example of how children have the need and
desire for Practical Life activities in a Montessori classroom and at
home. I had a little boy in my class one year who's mother said it
drove her "nuts" because all this child wanted to do was roll
everything in sight, including the bathroom mat outside the shower
and she had no idea where this came from. This parent attended
our information night on Practical Life and Sensorial and it was
then that she found out we roll our mats the children use to do
floor work. We practice this on a daily basis with the children
so they can master this skill. It turned out to be his favourite
thing to do :)

I'd like to finish my discussion on Practical Life with a quote from
Maria Montessori:
"If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist
them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate
them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform
themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without
assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen
objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express
their needs and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their
own efforts. All this is part of an education of independence".
(The Discovery of the Child, pg 56-57).

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