Circle of Inclusion: The Development of Organized Work Patterns in Children

March 06, 2017
NAMC Montessori circle of inclusion developing organized work. Girl writing in notebook

In a previous blog, we discussed the value of inclusion and how Montessori’s tenet of following the individual needs of the child makes it inherently inclusive. The Circle of Inclusion Project (University of Kansas) and Raintree Montessori (Lawrence, Kansas) listed 11 specific ways in which Montessori education addresses the needs of all children, including those with disabilities. Included in this list is “The development of organized work patterns in children.” In today’s blog, Michelle kindly shares her classroom experiences to provide real-life examples of how Montessori meets that specific goal.

Carrie entered my Montessori upper elementary classroom as a sixth-year student. Brand new to Montessori and unsure of what to expect, Carrie was quiet and, as one might expect, spent a great deal of time observing her new surroundings and friends. It did not take long for Carrie to settle in to her new environment, making friends and learning the routines of the classroom. She appeared to be quite busy, but closer observations soon led me to realize she wasn’t doing very much.

I invited Carrie to show me her daily journal. As I suspected, it was full of work she wanted to do, but nothing was getting done. It was clear that Carrie was not sure where to start.

Montessori and the Circle of Inclusion: The Development of Organized Work Patterns in Children

NAMC Montessori circle of inclusion developing organized work. boys writing in journalThe Montessori environment is designed to allow students to develop concentrated and focused work patterns that allow them to study concepts in depth.

The uninterrupted three-hour work period encourages free exploration without disruption.

Starting in the early childhood environment and continuing right through upper elementary, all work has a clear beginning (set up), middle (the work itself), and end (clean up). A new material is not retrieved from the shelves until the first has been properly put away.

Students are responsible for planning their own daily work cycle.

In my Montessori elementary classroom, I encouraged the students to use a journal to record the lessons and work they wished to accomplish during the day. I found that the students who worked well independently only needed to check-in with me once or twice a week to review their plans in their journals. If students needed additional help becoming independent, I usually asked them to check-in with me daily. Some students required even more guidance, and so I encouraged them to see me several times a day until they established a more focused work period.

Carrie clearly demonstrated the need for more guidance to help her plan her daily work. For two weeks, we met every morning to set her goals for the day. We discussed her plans and then broke them down into small, manageable tasks. At first, I asked her to predict how much time she thought a task would take and to check-in with me when she finished. This way, we could monitor and adjust her plan as needed throughout the day. As she became more adept at setting her goals and managing her time, I moved our meeting time to later in the day to review what she had accomplished during the morning work cycle and decide if there was time to continue working in the afternoon or if she should work on it the next day. After a few weeks, Carrie was able to plan her daily and weekly work independently, and was happy to meet with me on Friday afternoons when I held my weekly review meetings with students.

When I met with Carrie’s parents during our parent–teacher conference, they were thrilled. They told me then, that Carrie had been diagnosed with ADHD. They had not told the school previously because they did not want Carrie to be labeled or treated differently. They wanted to know if the Montessori method would make a difference. They told me they had seen a huge improvement in her work habits at school as well as in her home life. She was able to start and finish tasks with fewer distractions and she has a more positive attitude.

NAMC Montessori circle of inclusion developing organized work. girl with curly hair smiling at camera

Showing Carrie how to record her daily goals and work plan empowered her; it gave her the ability to choose her own work and made her responsible for her learning.

Recording her goals also gave Carrie a reference that she could use when she wondered what to do next. And breaking down her work into smaller chunks of time made the three-hour work period feel more manageable. Ultimately, becoming more organized gave Carrie more control over her own learning.
Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate
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