In accordance with Montessori philosophy, an important function of an Elementary Montessori educator is to give students explicit lessons in practical life. Practical life lessons encompass what we do each day to sustain our own health and to maintain a positive relationship with our immediate community and society at large. Practical life work is important and beneficial for the elementary Montessori student, as it meets the needs of a child in the second plane of development and it develops the skills necessary for defining and finding one’s own unique, specific role in society.
Upper Elementary students routinely go outside of the classroom to extend their studies. Procedures for going out as well as expected behavior while outside of the classroom are explained to Upper Elementary students. Topics may include Grace and Courtesy while planning a going out (phone manners), how to speak to a docent or guide, how to behave at a museum etc., how to read a map, how to ask for directions, how to behave on public transportation, how to order food at a restaurant, and how to follow up your visit with a thank you note to your expert guide or docent.
Children in the second plane of development differ from first plane children in a number of ways, and the practical life curriculum speaks to these differences. The second plane is “a period for the acquisition of culture, just as the former was for the absorption of the environment” (Montessori, 1989, p. 3). The practical life curriculum delivers lessons in the acquisition of culture that are now of great interest to the child.
Practical life work develops real life skills that can be used immediately and routinely during real life experiences in an effective way. This empowering experience of mastering real life skills builds confidence in the second plane child. This development of social confidence provides a very effective model to the child for their developing academic skills and confidence. The sense of responsibility developed in practical life easily translates to academic responsibility. Students who make and follow a weekly work plan clearly know that what they plan and what they do is important and effective. Other academic skills developed through work in practical life include increased focus, lengthened attention span, improved problem-solving and critical thinking.
Practical Life work develops skills necessary for establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with the community and with society. The delivery of the Montessori curriculum, including the practical life curriculum, serves a critical social need.
An extremely important social task lies before us: activating man’s value, allowing him to attain the maximum development of his energies, truly preparing him to bring about a different form of human society on a higher plane. (Montessori, 1992, p. xiii)
The practical life curriculum effectively contributes to activating the self-value of the second plane child. Lessons in going out afford him authentic, real world experiences, validating the importance of his role within society.
Montessori, M. (1989). To educate the human potential. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.
Montessori, M. (1992). Education and peace. Oxford: ABC-Clio Ltd.