The Montessori materials are attractive, simple, child-sized and self-correcting. Most materials used are tactile and the children will learn through their senses. They will learn from simple to complex, always providing a challenge and a thirst for more.
The learning materials in a Montessori classroom are divided into five distinct areas:
Dusting, polishing shoes and washing dishes sound like drudgery to adults, but for children these are interesting tasks because they allow for engagement in meaningful, purposeful activity. While having fun using real objects, children perfect their coordination and become absorbed in an activity. They develop attention to detail and lengthen their concentration span. Finally, they learn an awareness of order and sequence while developing good working habits that foster their independence and personal and social responsibility.
"I smell cinnamon...oh, that's garlic!" The smelling bottles, the sound boxes and the color tablets, to name a few, are Montessori sensorial materials designed to isolate physical qualities of the world. Grading and comparing sounds, colors, textures, sizes and shapes help the child to organize the sensorial impressions he/she receives. Sensorial materials are sequential and provide a foundation for both mathematics and language. More importantly, because these materials provide continual exercise of observation, comparison and judgment skills, they lay the foundation for active intelligence and conscious knowledge.
Language materials work to develop speaking and listening skills as well as writing and reading. Oral language activities happen every day and include games such as I Spy and Listen and Do, literature and the sharing of stories. The letters of the alphabet are presented individually as the child learns the sound and formation of each on a sensorial level, through the use of sandpaper letters, phonetic objects and related materials. Reading follows the child's construction of words from individual sounds with the moveable alphabet quite naturally.
Math is presented through extensive use of exciting concrete materials. The child's sensorial training enables him/her to identify and differentiate the idea of quantity, an abstraction built into the Montessori materials. The child gains the concept of numbers and its application in mathematical operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Art is viewed as a form of self-expression. Various media, such as oil pastels, watercolors, paint, chalk, pencils, clay and a variety of papers, are available. Singing, dancing and opportunities for making rhythm and music take place regularly and spontaneously. These activities are integrated into the prepared environment and children gain an appreciation of the arts as a natural part of the physical world.