Keeping it Montessori: What to Do When Schools Close – Elementary Years

March 28, 2020

The secret of good teaching is to regard the children’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the children understand, and still less to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their inmost core.
—Maria Montessori
To Educate the Human Potential, p. 11.

During this time of uncertainly, many Montessori teachers are trying to find ways to transform their concrete learning environments into abstract virtual ones. It seems a challenging prospect, especially given that in order to teach virtually, we must ask children to think in the abstract. While not ideal in a Montessori learning environment, with some thought and preparation, we should be able to guide students through their learning by focusing on those parts of the curriculum that lend themselves to oral language.

Montessori Teaching When Schools Are Closed

The Montessori cultural curriculum

Now, more than ever, is the time to connect children to the cultural curriculum. Often, we feel the need to put so much focus and attention on mathematics and language that our cultural curriculum becomes almost as an afterthought. However, there is so much information available online for the cultural subjects, your students will be able to research and learn to their hearts content.

Explore the pyramids of Egypt, European Renaissance castles, or Emperor penguins in Antarctica. The key is to give short mini-lessons online, providing just enough information to build excitement. The children can then explore the topics independently and create their own projects, which allows them to demonstrate mastery.

A quick note about internet safety: It is best to have a prepared list of approved sites if possible, to keep your students safe while online.

Explore literature

Libraries closed? Not a problem! There are several sites available that allow you to download free literature and audio books. Here are two examples:
To keep everyone engaged, use an online literature circle model so everyone feels involved in their reading. And for a fun grammar idea, upper elementary students could symbolize their favorite sentences from the literature by parts of speech or analyze parts of the sentence using sentence analysis.


Use this time to develop new writing skills. Challenge your students to keep a daily journal of their time at home. This will be something they can look back on later in life. It’s also a great time to explore some creative writing or types of poetry. They can also raise the spirits of those in the community by writing letters to family and friends. Or, reach out to a local nursing- or assisted-living home and see if they are allowing outside mail and if their residents would enjoy receiving letters from your students.

Art and music

Have budding artists or musicians? Encourage them to use this time to explore and compose in the comfort of their own home. Suggest that they create their own artwork or compose music in the style of their favorite artists. Or invite children to explore art and music through history. They can identify composers, make a timeline, or even practice a piece to perform when they get back to school – and they can perform virtually to friends and family in the meantime.

Advanced practical life

Whether we focus on care of others through the work of the family or on the care of ourselves, practical life activities have a way of grounding us. There are numerous practical life activities children can work on at home. Share a new recipe for students to try in their own kitchens. Do your students enjoy crafts? Give a crafting demonstration. Or challenge students to find all the clothes in their families’ closets that need buttons sewn on and review the steps to sewing on buttons. There are many ways children can learn independence simply by helping around the house.


Before any discussion on math, we need to remember that as in all areas of Montessori, math begins with concrete learning and this takes precedence over any abstract pencil-and-paper work. It is so tempting to have children complete math worksheets, but if they aren’t 100% ready for abstract learning, we are not providing developmentally appropriate work. Rather than rush into the next level of abstraction, focus on concepts that lend themselves to concrete learning. This would be a fun time to explore measurement, telling time, money, word problems, and logic.

There is so much more to learning than reading, writing, and arithmetic. In order to address immediate needs, we need to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t.

Visit NAMC's website and learn more about our Montessori curriculum for Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary students.

— NAMC Staff
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