April 19, 2017

How to teach Montessori in a Public School

More schools are choosing Montessori programs over traditional teaching programs. Montessori programs have expanded to include public school. More than ever, parents are looking for alternative ways for their children to learn. The influx of charter schools offering innovative programs leads them to choose Montessori.

The shift to Montessori has put public schools in an odd place. Many teacher preparation programs don’t offer Montessori training as part of their program. Instead, teachers need to enroll in private Montessori training accredited through one of the two main Montessori entities: American Montessori Society (AMS) and Association Montessori International (AMI). This poses a huge problem for public schools. Ideally, a teacher would hold a Montessori credential and state certification. However, a Montessori credential is not required. At least in my state, to teach a teacher must have a teaching credential from an accredited University.

Public Montessori schools by law are held accountable to teach state standards. This is another obstacle for public Montessori schools. Montessori is a pedagogy established before standards. A Montessori curriculum surpasses state standards and at times the lessons taught do not correlate with grade level standards. Montessori programs allow the child to lead the curriculum. State standards are a guide to help teachers move the curriculum along. Due to this, there is a conflict between implementing a Montessori curriculum while teaching grade level standards. This conflict magnifies in grade levels that test; even more when teachers have a multi-age classroom. Teachers often feel the need to choose between the test and teaching. These two things alone make teachers frustrated.

The answer to teaching Montessori in public schools is multi-layered. For this reason, I decided to do a series of posts to show you how to teach Montessori in a public school. Here are key strategies, I use regardless of the grade levels I’m teaching.

Interdisciplinary Units

There are many names for interdisciplinary units. This concept is very much like thematic units. A misconception teachers think is that everything must match. Interdisciplinary units are an essential part of any Montessori program. One of Montessori’s key ideas is for children to see the world interrelated by making connections between what they learn. More of this in the next upcoming posts.

Montessori Work Plan

A Montessori program encourages independent learning. Montessori is big on teaching children to self-regulate. One way I promote independence is by establishing academic goals throughout the day. This is easily done by using a work plan. A work plan is a commitment done between the child and the teacher on a daily or weekly basis. The child with the help of the teacher pick lessons that reinforce what they are learning. Work plans are introduced as early as first grade.

Three Hour Cycle

The three-hour cycle is the block of time given to students to work on lessons. Ideally, this would be uninterrupted and it includes the child working in various settings. Within the three-hour block, children can work in a small group or independently. This is where small groups and one to one instruction happens. Many public schools have state mandates that regulate how much time is given to each subject. We will touch more on this throughout the series.


Observation is the heart of Montessori. Maria Montessori success with children came from the observations and reflections made from working with them. As a teacher, observation is key to know what’s working and what’s not. The materials found in classrooms today are Montessori’s results of careful observations and reflections. Observations play a significant role in decisions teachers makes in their classroom. Observations and reflections are part of successful Montessori classrooms. I will be sharing tips on following posts to make observations part of your teaching practice.
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below on key practices used in your classroom.

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