Technology of Montessori Teaching

" ... a technological science...addressed directly to the needs of man
in developing: to the child..."

Dr. Maria Montessori from Child in the Family, p.68

Lee Havis presenting 2003 IMS technology at the Danbury workshop in April, 2006. 4 ½ hr. audio cd and accompanying 36 page study guide. Complete set $49.95. Order from IMS

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click below to play a sample from the Danbury Audio cd


Since 1979, IMS has been seeking to identify and detail the exact technology for Montessori teaching that brings about true normal development in children. In 2003, this research led to a surprising discovery of a comprehensive technology that anyone can now use to conduct true natural Montessori teaching in a precise and reliable manner.

The technology is designed for use in true natural Montessori teaching as a scientific way of being to control the environment not the child. Using the technology is the functional equivalent of follow laws of nature with children to bring about their true natural development.

The distinctive 2003 technology of Montessori teaching consists of a set of 10 techniques, 20 protocols, 3 lesson presentations and a number of safe words. In essence, the techniques are what to do, and the protocols are how to use these techniques in practice with children. The safe words provide specific guidance to craft and control the use of verbal techniques with children. Lesson presentations are forms of interaction between the teacher and child, combining the various techniques, protocols and safe words into recognizable patterns of activity. The technology is summarized as follows:

These are a set of ten specific actions to use in Montessori teaching — a sort of periodic table of basic elements to effectively control the environment. They are listed here from light to heavy, the lighter ones being generally more favorable and frequently employed.

1. Eye contact
2. Proximity
3. Distraction
4. Clear Direction
5. Patient Waiting
6. Repetition
7. Cooperative Touching
8. Reflective Language
9. Questioning
10. Imagination – previsioning

The techniques function in the Montessori context only as they are employed according to the pertinent protocols.

The twenty protocols of Montessori teaching indicate how to apply the various techniques. They function as a sort of catalyst to release the power and effect of the techniques in practice. These protocols control the use of the techniques with children, and are listed here in order of their general importance, starting with those that have most wide and frequent application, ending with those of more limited use.

1. Well-being of Total Environment
2. Least Amount of Adult Involvement
3. Present Moment
4. No Negative Attention to Misbehavior
5. Don’t Correct Child
6. Basis of Interest (ask; touch/look)
7. Model Good Behavior
8. Eye contact before Talking
9. Don’t Interrupt Concentration
10. Be Friendly — Get Acquainted
11. Enhance Independence
12. No Rules for Children
13. Emphasize Main Point(s) — Isolate Variable
14. Child Watching
15. Same Routines all the Time
16. Take out Everything
17. From the Shelf
18. Lay out Randomly
19. Simplify Complexity — Hint
20. Confirm Accuracy — Clarify/Expand

The verbal techniques of reflective language, clear direction, and questioning, require special attention, to avoid detrimental tendencies of negativity that would violate such protocols as #4 and 5 above. You must therefore practice using safe words in situations of stress or frustration with children, to avoid the ordinary impulsive tendency to use destructive, negative language instead.

Safe Words
Speaking with children is certainly necessary at times. However, it can be the most dangerous part of Montessori teaching, since we easily make mistakes in our language that are hard to notice and correct. For example, using such negative words as “no” and “don’t” is common and automatic for many in the face of a child’s serious misbehavior. The safe words are a resource of specific examples of positive language you can use in place of the most common types of negative, judgmental language in conventional conversation with children. Some of the most useful “safe words” are:

Come over here, Let me show you something (distraction — clear direction)
Take my hand (cooperative touching — clear direction)
Where does this go? (questioning)
Watch (when child says “I don’t know” to something to do — clear direction)

Using the technology, you must combine the techniques, protocols and safe words into specific forms of interaction with children. A sequence or combination of these interactions is referred to here as a “lesson presentation”.

Lesson Presentations
In Montessori teaching, a “lesson” is any interaction between the adult and child. A lesson presentation refers to using techniques, protocols, and safe words in a conscious, intentional manner to achieve some specific purpose. There are three main categories of lesson presentation.

1. Resolving Misbehavior
2. Sensorial Introduction
3. Nomenclature (Seguin 3-period lesson)

The resolving misbehavior lesson presentation relates to any interaction whose purpose is to resolve some type of behavior that is not consistent with true normal being. It involves analyzing a misbehavior scenario, by first distinguishing the “hub” child at the center of the scenario from its surrounding environment. Then, you must control the environment by removing its detrimental influences by using various techniques as moderated by the various protocols that apply. The environment consists of physical objects, other children and adult personality around the central hub child in question.

The resolving misbehavior lesson presentation is common in the beginning stages of Montessori teaching, especially as you are interacting with new children in the environment. The process of interacting with children is like polishing the environment, beginning first with heavier polishing techniques, and then gradually using lighter ones as the children show more self-discipline and order.

As children become calm and orderly, they begin to concentrate with materials they choose in the environment. Based on their specific interest, you can then use the sensorial lesson presentation, to show that particular piece of work. With this sensorial lesson presentation, you must carefully minimize any negative influence of your presence, giving maximum attention to the child’s independent use and experimentation with the materials thereafter.

The nomenclature lesson presentation is for showing children a relationship between specific words and their corresponding concept or physical attribute in the environment. Most importantly, this is used for showing letter-sound knowledge and blending in the process of learning to read. This lesson is also known as the three-period lesson, which Dr. Montessori employed from the prior work and experiments of Dr. Eduard Seguin. The Seguin three-period lesson can be used to show the relationship between many concepts and objects throughout the whole range of academic subject matter.

Using this technology to remove detrimental influences in the environment, young children will eventually normalize as well as develop knowledge about many academic subject areas. In Montessori education, this knowledge is set up in the main categories of practical life, sensorial, math, and language. However, many cultural subjects, such as science and geography are included as well, to ultimately cover the entire range of useful knowledge in the universe.

The technology is treated in much greater detail and precision during its presentation in IMS workshops. A good summary is provided in the Danbury workshop audio cd and study guide, which you can order through IMS. A full written presentation of the technology is planned for an upcoming book, entitled "Technology of Montessori Teaching".

Experiences with IMS Technology

Cheryl McGowen
(IMS student, Morgan Hill, CA)

I am a teacher at a Montessori school in Morgan Hill, CA .. and have been taking the IMS course for some time now. I find the techniques, protocols, as well as safe words very beneficial to the environment where I work. I am able to stand back, observe the class and notice the adult personality while not focusing on a hub child and intervening in situations that arise.

By applying the tools that I have learned through the course, problem scenarios such as gathering the children for a short circle or dismissal is not chaotic when I use techniques such as eye contact and patient waiting. Its wonderful to have practical and peaceful tools to apply to everyday scenarios that arise in the classroom.

Citlalli Bustamante
(IMS student, Ontario, Canada)

I own a home daycare and have applied the technology that I have learned from the IMS course education. The techniques that have worked best with my group are eye contact, patient waiting and distraction.

When eye contact has been used (without showing disapproval) misbehavior has stopped. For example, one day an 18 month old girl was putting her foot on the table during lunch time. She looked at me and I looked back at her and she just put her feet down. A few days ago two young toddlers were pulling a toy back and forth. I just watched to see what would happen. An older toddler approached and started to use the toy properly. .. Right afterwards, the younger ones started to imitate what the older toddler was doing. Since the toy is long enough, the three of them were able to work simultaneously on different parts of it.

Patricia Brophy
(IMS student, Lynchburg, VA)

I am beginning to feel my personality change as I am using the technology. .(In one scene of loud, fasting moving activity) I felt I must go up and warn the adults of possible impending disaster from my grandson's behavior. On my way walking home, I thought to myself, 'I totally was not living it the moment. I allowed myself to get upset and behave in unnecessary ways. Next time I am going to think longer before I act.' This is where I felt a change.I have begun to see the normal child in my grandson coming out. For example, one night, after he had been reading the Hobbit in his room, he came into my room and performed the little song within the text. It was then I saw his normal child.