In this episode of Montessori Talks, Letty Rising interviews Jana Morgan Herman, an experienced Montessori educator and the National Director of a teacher training center for Endeavor Schools. Jana’s recent article in Montessori Life, titled “Mandate or Myth: The Uninterrupted Three-Hour Work Cycle,” challenges a commonly accepted Montessori concept and has sparked a debate within the community.
by Letty Rising
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This article is a summary of the podcast where Letty and Jana discuss Jana’s extensive research on Maria Montessori’s original works. The aim of the discussion is to understand the original intent behind Montessori’s lessons and materials. This episode is packed with insightful and thought-provoking content, so head over to the podcast to listen to the content in its entirety.
Maria Montessori’s Original Intent
In their conversation, Letty and Jana delve into the discrepancies they have discovered between Maria Montessori’s original writings and what is currently assumed as common practice and/or taught in Montessori training centers. Jana highlights the importance of understanding Montessori’s work to ensure that materials and lessons are accurately implemented in modern Montessori classrooms.
Uncovering the True Montessori Work Cycle vs the Montessori Three-Hour Work Cycle
After analyzing Montessori’s various works, Jana found no mention of a strict three-hour work cycle. Instead, she discovered that Montessori’s actual schedule of the day included a two-and-a-half-hour work period, with additional time set aside for collective exercises such as simple gymnastics. This finding challenges the widely accepted belief that Montessori education requires a firm three-hour work cycle.
The Montessori Work Cycle Structure
Letty and Jana discuss the true structure of the Montessori work cycle, which consists of a two-hour independent work period followed by collective exercises. The daily schedule they outline includes conversation, language games, and preparation from 9:00 to 10:00; intellectual exercises from 10:00 to 11:00; collective gymnastics at 11:00; and lunch at 11:30. After lunch, children engage in various outdoor activities.
Living is Learning
Letty and Jana emphasize that living is learning and Montessori’s idea of work differs from conventional ideas. They propose that the full three-hour work cycle encompasses intellectual exercises, simple gymnastics, and lunch. Additionally, they discuss how collective activities have evolved over time, with current practices often involving passive activities like singing songs or reading books.
The Importance of Movement in Montessori Education
Jana highlights the significance of movement in Montessori education and encourages educators to implement Montessori’s actual schedule in their classrooms. She reiterates that children are constantly learning, and the Montessori work cycle aims to foster independence and interdependence among children.
Practical Life and Interest-Based Learning
Letty and Jana discuss practical life exercises and interest-based learning in Montessori classrooms. They emphasize the need for engaging, purposeful lessons instead of relying on superfluous activities for novelty. Jana also underscores the value of gradually phasing out simple, preliminary practical life skills and incorporating more complex tasks, like cooking and cleaning, into the classroom.
Creative Follow-Up Work and Outdoor Activities
Letty and Jana explore the idea that Montessori’s original blueprint for the daily schedule may not have included a strict three-hour work cycle. Instead, it may have been a more flexible two-hour work cycle combined with other activities. They encourage educators to consider this more adaptable approach and feel free of the traditional three-hour work cycle. Furthermore, they stress the importance of practical life exercises and spending time outdoors, urging teachers to be creative with outdoor spaces and activities, even in urban environments.
Concluding Thoughts on the Montessori Three-Hour Work Cycle
In this episode, Letty and Jana challenge the traditional notion of the three-hour work cycle in Montessori education, shedding light on its true nature and structure. They assert that the original Montessori work cycle consisted of a two-hour independent work period combined with collective exercises and outdoor activities. This more flexible approach allows educators to better meet the needs of individual children, fostering independence and interdependence among students.
Both Letty and Jana emphasize the importance of staying true to Maria Montessori’s original intent behind her lessons and materials. They encourage teachers to engage in interest-based learning, gradually transitioning from simple practical life skills to more complex tasks as children grow and develop. By considering Montessori’s actual daily schedule and incorporating movement, outdoor activities, and creative follow-up work, educators can provide a more authentic and effective Montessori education for their students.
By reconsidering the traditional three-hour work cycle and embracing a more flexible, interest-based approach, teachers can create a learning environment that more closely aligns with Maria Montessori’s original vision and promotes the holistic development of each child.
Letty Rising has been involved in Montessori education for over 15 years. She holds a B.A. in Sociology, a California State Teaching Credential, and an AMI elementary diploma for ages 6-12 and an M.Ed from Loyola University in Maryland. She has held positions as a Homeschool Education Specialist, Montessori Elementary Teacher, School Director, Principal, Montessori Coordinator, and Consultant in several public and private Montessori school communities throughout the years. Letty currently supports schools around the world through professional development offerings, consulting, and mentoring.