Saturday, August 29, 2009

a glimpse into our practical life...

I love showing these first lessons to the 3-year-olds
at the beginning of the school year.
They work so earnestly to control their movements...
their tiny fingers strain as they twist open lids,
their dear little mouths hang open in concentration,
and their whole beings radiate with pride
as they successfully complete tasks
all by themselves.

top shelf: sorting, opening bottles, fragile objects
middle shelf: spooning, tonging
bottom shelf: nut and bolt, hammering

top shelf:
pushing pipe cleaners, dry pouring, droppering

middle shelf: sponge squeezing, basting

bottom shelf: pouring water into a glass, pouring water different levels

These lessons also indirectly prepare the children for academics.
When a child holds a spoon between her first two fingers and thumb,
she prepares herself for writing.
When a child sweeps bread crumbs off a table
from left to right, top to bottom,
he prepares himself for reading.
When a child mixes up a basin of sudsy water,
she experiences the importance of sequencing.

top shelf: mirror washing, color mixing
middle shelf: bread grating
bottom shelf: lizard scrubbing

The children are able to care for themselves
and for their immediate environment.
They're developing social responsibility,
they're becoming independent...

top shelf: soap grating

middle shelf: plant polishing

bottom shelf: handwashing

Of course, the exercises of practical life go beyond these shelves.
They also include grace and courtesy...
which the children have a great sensitivity for.
"thank you"
"excuse me"
We can teach them grace and courtesy for different situations
through modeling and role play,
as opposed to prompting or criticizing.

not pictured: sweeping, dusting, dressing frames, picking up litter, snow shoveling, setting the table for lunch, using kind words, listening for silence, eating a snack, holding a book, interrupting a teacher, helping a friend, putting on a jacket, opening a door, saying hello, taking turns, feeding the bunnies, walking around rugs...


  1. A love this method of teaching.I was Director of a Preschool. the unversity shut it down becaue of funding cuts.I wish all children could learn through doing.

  2. Your PL is beautiful! One question though, the soap grating, do I see a hand mixer in the bowl? Is that what the grated soap is for? Oh (sorry!), one more - what is "Lizard washing"?

  3. Lindart: yes, that is a mixer. Good eyes! The children grate soap in the big bowl, add water, and make suds with the mixer. As for lizard washing, I always try to put out some sort of scrubbing lesson... rocks, license plates, baby dolls - this month it's a plastic lizard.

  4. I teach preschool out of my home using the Montessori Method. I only have room to have 9 practical life activities out at a time. If you could only have 9 activities out, which ones would you start with at the beginning of the year (I have 3 three year olds and 2 four year olds. Four year olds are returning students)


  5. Does your mind ever stop organizing things! It's amazing. :-)

  6. I have a question: the fragile objects, what are they and what do the students do with them? thanks.

  7. AndieF:
    for the 3-year-olds:
    1.opening bottles or boxes
    2.stringing, beads or pasta
    5.dry pouring
    6.sponge squeezing
    for the returning 4-year-olds:
    8.object scrubbing
    9.grating, soap or bread

    PS: Our stringing lesson is on the art shelf, not pictured.
    PPS: The 4-year-olds will probably want to do all the lessons you're setting up for the 3-year-olds. That's fine, of course - I just wouldn't show the 3-year-olds how to do the scrubbing or the grating just yet because those lessons require a little more organization.

    Good luck!!!

  8. mrsmelva:
    Fragile objects are beautiful, breakable treasures (jewelry, porcelain or glass figurines, etc) tucked into a special box. I'll try to take a photo of it this week. This lesson gives children an opportunity to use their "gentle hands" to touch something breakable. It's fun to put out fragile objects from nature, too (shells, leaves, pine cones, egg shells, etc).

  9. Thanks, Anne
    That's kind of what I was thinking, but I wasn't sure. I'd love to see some pictures. Your pictures of all the activities and busy-ness of the first week are wonderful. Re the pooping on the playground, one year I had a boy climb to the top of the slide and "hose it down" with pee!!!

  10. Anne! I am so glad you are back! I've missed reading you! Crazy that I started reading this when my son first went to Montessouri preschool at 2.5 and he'll be 4 in a few weeks!

    He's still not in preschool (not sure if you remember me and my long whining emails that you ever so kindly responded to), but I DO try doing things at home. It's proven difficult with two boys currently 3 and under, though! My youngest persuades the oldest to act goofier than usual and it seems like we can get NOTHING done!

    I was going to ask about the fragile objects as well, but came and read comments to find an answer! :) I am going to try this particular lesson (do you think that my 2.5 year old could do it, or am I setting myself up for failure?) since both boys have taken a liking to Cookie Monster and have the urge to pretend to eat cookies (so, in short, be destructive) with everything. So frustrating!

    Do you think that I should separate them for these types of things, or does that negate the whole purpose of practical life?

    Thank you again, for all of the time that you put in this website and for always responding. You are appreciated!


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