Montessori Curriculum -
Scope and Sequence for Ages 3 to 12
This curriculum guide is a
simplified version of a comprehensive set of five curriculum guides
developed by Tim Seldin, president of The Montessori Foundation.
They were developed with an eye to national standards and curricular
trends in the United States, with the goal of ensuring that all
necessary skills and knowledge are covered by the practicing Montessori
educator. Parents commonly ask for written information about our
curriculum, and we hope this simplified scope and sequence is one way to
address their questions. The curriculum guides represent years of
intensive work, and they continue to be reviewed and refined in
collaboration with Montessori schools around the United States. The
complete version is available for your review at the school.
Today's rapid technological
and social change makes it increasingly difficult for us to understand
and keep pace with the modern world. This has put schools under terrific
pressure to reevaluate what should be taught in an age when no one can
predict the skills that our children will need when they reach maturity.
In the past, when our store of knowledge was relatively fixed and
limited, the most efficient education consisted of lecture, drill, and
In an era of technological
revolution and social change, the foundation of a good education is to
learn how to learn.
Our course of study
encompasses the full substance of the traditional curriculum and goes
beyond, to teach students how to think clearly, do their own research,
express themselves well in writing and speech, and to put their
knowledge to practical application.
We have organized our
course of study as an inclined spiral plane of integrated studies,
rather than a traditional model in which the curriculum is
compartmentalized into separate subjects, with given topics considered
only once at a given grade level. Lessons are introduced simply and
concretely in the early years and are reintroduced several times during
the following years at increasing degrees of abstraction and complexity.
Our course of study is an
integrated thematic approach that ties the separate disciplines of the
curriculum together into studies of the physical universe, the world of
nature, and the human experience.
This integrated approach is
one of our strengths. As an example, when our students study the ancient
Greeks in world history, they also read Homer and Bull-finch's
Mythology. Literature, the arts, history, social issues, government,
economics, architecture, medicine, science, and the study of technology
all complement one another in our curriculum.
Our school has a rigorous,
yet innovative, academic program. Although we offer a warm, supportive
academic atmosphere, we set a high level of expectation for the quality
of thought, work, and mastery of content and skills.
As children reach the
elementary years, they will be challenged to pursue a considerable
amount of library and field research both in and outside of school. We
consciously teach students how to develop effective work habits and
The following is a brief
overview of our core curriculum in the areas of language arts,
mathematics, social studies, science, sensory training, and practical
life for our students age 3 through the Upper Elementary level. Please
keep in mind that this only represents an overview of the course of
study, and is not meant to be complete. Since our students progress at
their own pace, it is not possible to divide up the curriculum by grade
levels. Also, we have not attempted, for lack of space, to include
descriptions of our curriculum in the arts, music, physical education,
and foreign language.
Reading and Language Arts
Due to our multi-age
classroom design, our youngest students are constantly exposed to the
older children in the class who are already reading. The total
environment of the Primary classes (3 to 6 years-old) tends to create
and reinforce in our young children a spontaneous interest in learning
how to read. We begin to teach reading as soon as that interest is first
Using a total immersion
approach, we help the youngest children to develop a highly
sophisticated vocabulary and command of the language.
The children are taught
through many early approaches to listen for and recognize the individual
phonetic sounds in words.
We introduce the children
to literature by reading aloud and discussing a wide range of classic
stories and poetry.
We help our youngest
students to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of the alphabet
through the 'sandpaper letters:' a tactile alphabet.
The development of the
concept that written words are actual thoughts set down on paper. (This
takes children much longer than most people realize.)
Sounding out simple three
or four-letter phonetic words. (Typically before age 5)
Early exercises to
practice reading and to gain the concept of a noun: labeling objects
with written name tags, mastering increasingly complex words naming
things that interest them, such as dinosaurs, the parts of a flower,
geometric shapes, the materials in the classroom, etc.
Learning to recognize
verbs: normally exercises in which the child reads a card with a verbal
"command" printed out (such as run, sit, walk, etc.) and demonstrates
his understanding by acting it out. As the child's reading vocabulary
increases, verbal commands involve full sentences and multiple steps:
"Place the mat on the table and bring back a red pencil."
Reading specially selected
or prepared small books on topics that really interest the child, such
as in science, geography, nature or history.
Interpretive reading for
comprehension at ever increasing levels of difficulty, beginning in the
early elementary grades and continuing until high school graduation.
Use of the library and
reference books on a daily basis for both research and pleasure.
An introduction to the
world's classical children's literature at increasing depth and
Control of the hand in
preparation for writing is developed through many exercises, including
specially designed tasks in the use of the pencil. Such exercises begin
with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery
is gradually, but thoroughly, attained.
The young children practice
making letters from the time of their first initial "explosion into
writing" at age 3 or 4:
Moveable Alphabets' made
up of easily manipulated plastic letters are used for the early stages
of phonetic word creation, the analysis of words, and spelling. They
facilitate early reading and writing tasks during the period when young
children are still not comfortable with their own writing skills. Even
before the children are comfortable in their handwriting skills, they
spell words, compose sentences and stories, and work on punctuation and
capitalization with the moveable alphabets (Age 4-6).
At first, by tracing
letters into sand.
Later, by writing on
special tilted, upright blackboards: unlined, wide-lined, and
Later, by writing on
special writing tablets, becoming comfortable with script.
Cursive writing (Typically
around age 5)
Word Processing (Normally
beginning around age 6)
Calligraphy (Whenever the
child is interested, often around age 10.)
At an early age, before
handwriting has been mastered, the children compose sentences, stores,
and poetry through oral dictation to adults and with the use of the
moveable alphabet. Once handwriting is fairly accomplished, the children
begin to develop their composition skills. They continue to develop over
the years at increasing levels of sophistication.
Preparing written answers
to simple questions.
Composing stories to
follow a picture series.
Beginning to write stories
or poems on given simple themes.
descriptions of science experiments.
Preparing written reports.
Learning how to write
By age 9, research skills
and the preparation of reports become major components of the
educational program. Students research areas of interest or topics that
have been assigned in depth, and prepare both formal and informal,
written and oral reports.
Creative and expository
composition skills continue to develop as the children advance from
level to level. Students are typically asked to write on a daily basis,
composing short stories, poems, plays, reports, and news articles.
Children begin to spell
using the moveable alphabet to sound out and spell words as they are
first learning to read. They 'take dictation' - spelling words called
for by the teacher - as a daily exercise. The sequence of spelling, as
with all language skills, begins much earlier than is traditional in
this country, during a time when children are spontaneously interested
in language. It continues throughout their education.
Learning to sound out and
spell simple phonetic words.
Learning to recognize and
spell words involving phonograms, such as ei, ai, or ough.
Developing a first
"personal" dictionary of words that they can now spell.
Learning to recognize and
spell the "puzzle words" of English: words that are non-phonetic and are
not spelled as they sound.
Studying words: involving
compound words, contractions, singular-plural, masculine-feminine words,
prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms.
The study of grammar begins
almost immediately after the child begins to read, during the sensitive
period when he is spontaneously interested in language. It continues
over several years until mastered. The idea is to introduce grammar to
the young child as she is first learning how to put thoughts down on
paper, when the process is natural and interesting, rather than waiting
until the student is much older and finds the work tedious.
We introduce our children
to the function of the parts of speech one at a time through many games
and exercises that isolate the one element under study. Montessori has
assigned a geometric symbol to represent each element of grammar. (For
example, verbs are represented by a large red circle.) The children
analyze sentences by placing the symbols for the appropriate part of
speech over each word.
Once students have
mastered the concrete symbols for the parts of speech, they perform more
advanced exercises for several years with grammar boxes set up to allow
them to analyze sentences by their parts of speech.
Sentence analysis: simple
and compound sentences, clauses, verb voices, and logical analysis of
all sorts of sentences are studied using many different concrete
materials and exercises. This normally begins about age 5 and continues
over several years.
Students continue their
study of language from the mid-elementary years onward, reviewing as
well as engaging new concepts and skills: tenses, moods, irregular
verbs, person and number, the study of style, the study of grammatical
arrangements in other languages.
Our students are typically
introduced to numbers at age 3: learning the numbers and number symbols
one to ten: the red and blue rods, sand-paper numerals, association of
number rods and numerals, spindle boxes, cards and counters, counting,
sight recognition, concept of odd and even.
Introduction to the
decimal system typically begins at age 3 or 4. Units, tens, hundreds,
thousands are represented by specially prepared concrete learning
materials that show the decimal hierarchy in three dimensional form:
units = single beads, tens = a bar of 10 units, hundreds = 10 ten bars
fastened together into a square, thousands = a cube ten units long ten
units wide and ten units high. The children learn to first recognize the
quantities, then to form numbers with the bead or cube materials through
9,999 and to read them back, to read and write numerals up to 9,999, and
to exchange equivalent quantities of units for tens, tens for hundreds,
Linear Counting: learning
the number facts to ten (what numbers make ten, basic addition up to
ten); learning the teens (11 = one ten + one unit), counting by tens (34
= three tens + four units) to one hundred.
Development of the concept
of the four basic mathematical operations: addition, subtraction,
division, and multiplication through work with the Montessori Golden
Bead Material. The child builds numbers with the bead material and
performs mathematical operations concretely. (This process normally
begins by age 4 and extends over the next two or three years.) Work with
this material over a long period is critical to the full understanding
of abstract mathematics for all but a few exceptional children. This
process tends to develop in the child a much deeper understanding of
Development of the concept
of "dynamic" addition and subtraction through the manipulation of the
concrete math materials. (Addition and subtraction where exchanging and
regrouping of numbers is necessary.)
Memorization of the basic
math facts: adding and subtracting numbers under 10 without the aid of
the concrete materials. (Typically begins at age 5 and is normally
completed by age 7.)
Development of further
abstract understanding of addition, subtraction, division, and
multiplication with large numbers through the Stamp Game (a manipulative
system that represents the decimal system as color-keyed "stamps") and
the Small and Large Bead Frames (color-coded abacuses).
Skip counting with the
chains of the squares of the numbers from zero to ten: i.e., counting to
25 by 5's, to 36 by 6's, etc. (Age 5-6) Developing first understanding
of the concept of the "square" of a number.
Skip counting with the
chains of the cubes of the numbers zero to ten: i.e., counting to 1,000
by ones or tens. Developing the first understanding of the concept of a
"cube" of a number.
Beginning the "passage to
abstraction," the child begins to solve problems with paper and pencil
while working with the concrete materials. Eventually, the materials are
no longer needed.
Development of the concept
of long multiplication and division through concrete work with the bead
and cube materials. (The child is typically 6 or younger, and cannot yet
do such problems on paper without the concrete materials. The objective
is to develop the concept first.)
Development of more
abstract understanding of "short" division through more advanced
manipulative materials (Division Board); movement to paper and pencil
problems, and memorization of basic division facts. (Normally by age
Development of still more
abstract understanding of "long" multiplication through highly advanced
and manipulative materials (the Multiplication Checkerboard). (Usually
Development of still more
abstract understanding of "long division" through highly advanced
manipulative materials (Test Tube Division apparatus). (Typically by age
Solving problems involving
parentheses, such as (3 X 4) - (2 + 9) = ?
Missing sign problems: In
a given situation, should you add, divide, multiply or subtract ?
Introduction to problems
involving tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions.
(Normally by age 7.)
Study of fractions:
Normally begins when children using the short division materials who
find that they have a "remainder" of one and ask whether or not the
single unit can be divided further. The study of fractions begins with
very concrete materials (the fraction circles), and involves learning
names, symbols, equivalencies common denominators, and simple addition,
subtraction, division, and multiplication of fractions up to "tenths".
(Normally by age 7-8)
Study of decimal
fractions: all four mathematical operations. (Normally begins by age
8-9, and continues for about two years until the child totally grasps
the ideas and processes.)
problems, which are used to some extent from the beginning, become far
more important around age 7-8 and afterward. Solving word problems, and
determining arithmetic procedures in real situations becomes a major
Money: units, history,
equivalent sums, foreign currencies (units and exchange). (Begins as
part of social studies and applied math by age 6.)
Interest: concrete to
abstract; real life problems involving credit cards and loans;
principal, rate, time.
Computing the squares and
cubes of numbers: cubes and squares of binomials and trinomials.
(Normally by age 10)
Calculating square and
cube roots: from concrete to abstract. (Normally by age 10 or 11)
The history of mathematics
and its application in science, engineering, technology & economics.
Reinforcing application of
all mathematical skills to practical problems around the school and in
Basic data gathering,
graph reading and preparation, and statistical analysis.
Sensorial exploration of
plane and solid figures at the Primary level (Ages 3 to 6): the children
learn to recognize the names and basic shapes of plane and solid
geometry through manipulation of special wooden geometric insets. They
then learn to order them by size or degree.
Stage I: Basic geometric
shapes. (Age 3-4)
Stage II: More advanced
plane geometric shapes-triangles, polygons, various rectangles and
irregular forms. (Age 3-5)
Stage III: Introduction to
solid geometric forms and their relationship to plane geometric shapes.
Study of the basic
properties and definitions of the geometric shapes. This is essentially
as much a reading exercise as mathematics since the definitions are part
of the early language materials.
More advanced study of the
nomenclature, characteristics, measurement and drawing of the geometric
shapes and concepts such as points, line, angle, surface, solid,
properties of triangles, circles, etc. (Continues through age 12 in
equality, and equivalence.
The history of
applications of geometry.
The theorem of Pythagoras.
The calculation of area
History & Geography
The Primary Globes (Age
3-5): specially prepared globes for the very young child that isolate
single concepts of globe study-how land and water are shown, and the
corresponding shapes of the continents that they learned from the puzzle
The Puzzle Maps (Age 3-7):
These are specially made maps in the forms of intricate, color-coded,
wooden jigsaw puzzles representing the continents, the countries of each
continent, and the states of the U.S. They are presented to the children
at an early age, and are at first enjoyed simply as challenging puzzles.
Soon, however, the children begin to learn the names of given countries,
and by age 6 are normally very familiar with the continents of the
globe, the nations of North America, South America, and Europe, along
with most of the states of the U.S. As soon as the children can read
they begin to lay the puzzle pieces out and place the appropriate name
labels to each as a reading and geography exercise.
Land & Water Formations:
materials designed to help the very young child understand basic land
and water formations such as island, isthmus, peninsula, strait, lake,
cape, bay, archipelago, etc. At first, they are represented by
three-dimensional models of each, complete with water. Then the children
learn to recognize the shapes on maps, and learn about famous examples
Transference to maps:
Introduction to written names and various forms of maps, along with
early study of the flora, fauna, landscapes, and people of the
Maps and compass:
Introduction to longitude and latitude, coordinate position on the
globe, the Earth's poles, the magnetic poles, history and use of the
compass, topographic maps, global positioning satellite devices,
An introduction to
humankind's search to understand how the Earth was formed, from creation
stories to the evidence of contemporary scientific research: origins,
geologic forces, formations of the oceans and atmosphere, continental
drift and tectonic plates, volcanoes, earth quakes, the ice ages and the
formation of mountain ranges. (Age 6)
The study of coasts and
land reliefs: hills, mountain ranges, volcanoes, valleys, plains, etc.;
their formation, animal life, and effect on people.
The study of the
hydrosphere: ocean, rivers, lakes, the water cycle. (By age 8)
Countries are studied in
many ways at all levels, beginning at about age 3-4. A number of studies
are held every year to focus on specific cultures and to celebrate life
together: an example being Chinese New Year, when a class might study
China, prepare Chinese food, learn Chinese dances, and participate in a
special dragon dance parade. Anything that the children find interesting
is used to help them become familiar with the countries of the world:
flags, boundaries, food, climate, traditional dress, houses, major
cities, children's toys and games, stamps, coins, traditional foods,
art, music, and history. This interweaves through the entire curriculum.
Study of the regions ,
culture, and natural resources of the United States, including
geography, climate, flora and fauna, major rivers and lakes, capitals,
important cities, mountains, people, regional foods, traditions, etc.
This begins in the primary and continues at increasing depth at each
The detailed study of one
nation at a time. Focus moves over the years from one continent to
another, as the children's interest leads them. All aspects of the
nation are considered: geography, climate, flora and fauna, major rivers
and lakes, cities, mountains, people, food, religions, etc.
Natural Resources of the
Production: How natural
resources are used by humankind.
Imports and Exports: The
interdependence of nations.
History & the needs all
The basic needs of man are
food, shelter, clothing, defense, transportation, culture, law, religion
or spiritual enlightenment, love, and adornment. (This study begins at
age 5-6 and continues throughout the curriculum.)
The concept of time and
historical time is developed through many activities and repeated at
deeper complexity from age 5:
Telling time on the clock
Time-lines of the child's
Time-lines showing the
activities of a day, week, month, year
Time-line of the Earth's
Time-line from 8,000 B.C.
to 2,000 A.D. to study ancient to modern history
The story of the evolution
of the planet and its life forms over the eons is first studied at about
age 6, along with an overview of human history. This is repeated
throughout the curriculum in increasing depth of study.
Each year the child
continues to study and analyze the needs, culture, technology, and
social history of various periods in history. The trends of human
achievement are charted, such as the development of transportation,
architecture, great inventions, and great leaders.
By age 8, students begin
to study the earliest humans, ending with an introduction to the first
farmers. They consider early societies in terms of how they organized
themselves to meet the common needs of all peoples: food, clothing,
shelter, defense, transportation, medicine, arts, entertainment,
government, and religion.
The Upper Elementary level
(ages 9-12) history program follows a three-year cycle of thematic
study. Students study whichever themes are being presented that year
regardless of their age. In year 1 of the cycle, the class will focus on
the creation of the universe, formation of the earth, evolution of life,
and early human civilizations. These topics were first introduced at the
lower elementary level. At this level, students will go into
considerably greater depth and prepare increasingly sophisticated
projects and research reports.
Continuing the three-year
cycle of thematic history study at the Upper Elementary level (ages
9-12), in year 2 of the cycle, the class will focus on ancient
civilizations, including the Mesopotamian cultures, Greece, Rome,
ancient China, Byzantium, ending with an introduction to the Middle
In the third year of the
three- year cycle of thematic history study at the Upper Elementary
level (ages 9-12), the class will focus on American studies, including
an introduction to the history of the United States, American folk
culture, technology, children's literature, government, and geography.
The class will also consider Pre-Colombian Central and South American
cultures, the Native American peoples of North America, the age of
exploration, and the immigrant cultural groups who came to America from
Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
living and non-living things. (Age 3-4)
animals and plants; basic characteristics (Age 3-5)
Observation of animals in
First puzzles representing
the biological parts of flowers, root systems, and trees, along with the
anatomical features of common animals. These are first used by very
young children and puzzles, then as a means to learn the vocabulary,
then are related to photos and/or the "real thing," then traced onto
paper, and finally with labels as a reading experience.
naming, and labeling the parts of plants, trees, leaves, roots, and
naming, and labeling the external parts of human beings, insects, fish,
birds, and other animals.
Introduction of the
families of the animal kingdom, and identification and classification of
animals into the broad families. Introduction to the basic
characteristics, life-styles, habitats, and means of caring for young of
each family in the animal kingdom. (Age 5-7)
Introduction to ecology:
habitat, food chain, adaptation to environment and climate,
predator-prey relationships, camouflage, and other body adaptations of
biology study: the names and functions of different forms of leaves,
flowers, seeds, trees, plants, and animals. This usually begins with
considerably more field work collecting specimens or observing.
Study of evolution and the
development of life on the Earth over the eons. (Age 6 and up)
Study of the internal
parts of vertebrates: limbs, body coverings, lungs, heart, skeleton,
reproduction. (Age 5-8)
Advanced study of plants
in class, greenhouse and garden: experimenting with soil, nutrients,
light, etc. (Age 6 and up)
More advanced study of the
animal kingdom: classification by class and phyla. (Age 7 and up)
The plant kingdom: Study
of the major families of plant life on the Earth and classification by
class and phyla. (Age 7 and up)
Life cycles; water,
oxygen, carbon-dioxide, and nitrogen. (Age 7 and up)
Introduction to chemistry:
Begins at age 6 and continues throughout the elementary science
The three states of matter
Basic atomic theory
How elements are created
through stellar fusion
Elements and compounds
Mendelov's table of the
Basic molecular theory:
Building atomic models
Physical and chemical
Research into the elements
and continued study of the periodic table
Introduction to chemistry
Animal behavior: detailed
observation. (Age 9 and up)
Anatomy: Systems of the
animal and human body. (Age 9 and up)
Health and nutrition. (Age
9 and up)
Ecology: Advanced study of
the interrelationships of life forms. (Age 9 and up)
Development of skills in
careful observation, recording and describing, and use of increasingly
sophisticated techniques of measurement.
Development of skills
using common scientific apparatus: microscopes, telescopes, hand lens,
collecting field specimens, dissecting, preparing displays.
Development of field
science skills: tracking, listening, observing.
Development of scientific
inquiry skills: forming hypothesis, designing experiments, recording
Study of the great
inventions; machines and technology and their effect on society
Study of the great
Introduction to the
physical sciences: (Age 10-12)
Geology and mineralogy
Astronomy and cosmology
Elementary physics: light,
electricity, magnetic fields, gravity, mass.
Preparing and analyzing
all sorts of graphs and data displays; basic statistics.
Practical Life Skills
One of the first goals is
to develop in the very young child a strong and realistic sense of
independence and self-reliance. Along with love and a stable
environment, this is the child's greatest need. This area of the
curriculum focuses on developing skills that allow the child to
effectively control and deal with the social and physical environment in
which he lives. There is a growing pride in being able to "do it for
myself." Practical life begins as soon as the young child enters the
school and continues throughout the curriculum to more and more advanced
tasks appropriate to the oldest students.
Early Tasks (Age 3-5)
Learning home address and
Pouring liquids without
Carrying objects without
Carrying liquids without
Walking without knocking
into furniture or people
Using knives and scissors
with good control
Using simple carpentry
Putting materials away on
the shelves where they belong when finished
Working carefully and
Dusting, polishing and
washing just about anything: floors, tables, silver
Sweeping and vacuuming
floors and rugs
Caring for plants and
Folding cloth: napkins,
Simple use of needle and
Using common household
tools: tweezers, tongs, eye-droppers, locks, scissors, knives
Simple cooking and food
Weaving, bead stringing,
This process continues
logically so that older students will learn such practical tasks as:
Caring for animals
Cooking complex meals
Working with tools
Making simple repairs
Basic auto maintenance
Getting around on their
own: Metro, buses, cabs, hiking
Computing tax forms
Making consumer purchase
decisions, comparison shopping, budgeting
Maintaining a checkbook
Applying for a job
Earning spending money
Mastering test taking
Caring for young children
Running a small business
These are exercises in
perception, observation, fine discrimination, and classification that
play a major role in helping our children to develop their sense of
logic and concentration. They begin at age 3 and are a major area of
concentration typically through age 5.
Discrimination of length,
width, and height
Discrimination of volume
Discrimination in multiple
Discrimination among color
geometric shapes for shape and relative size
Discrimination among solid
geometric shapes by sight and touch
Solving of complex
abstract puzzles in three dimensions
intensity and nature of sounds
Discrimination of texture
Discrimination of weight
temperature by touch
Discrimination of scents
Which, in the older
students, lead to such exercises as:
Precise observation of the