There are many ingredients that go into making a Montessori class magical. I think one of the more important ones is the attention we pay to grace and courtesy.
What is Grace and Courtesy?
This is the term we use to describe manners and learning what it means to be polite.
Greeting a new student
Why teach Grace and Courtesy?
Everything in a Montessori classroom is designed to respond to the child’s developmental needs. Children observe carefully and want to participate in the hustle and bustle of life around them. Learning how to be part of society and developing relationships with others is extremely attractive to children – young and old. Grace and courtesy lessons are some of the most popular lessons in our class!
How to make eye contact before speaking
How to ask if you’d like to join or watch someone else’s work
How to work together and take turns
What to say when you are offering or receiving something
How to take care of your surroundings
How to speak to someone on the phone
We sometimes use little question cards in our Oral Language area to reinforce Grace and Courtesy skills
Valentine Vehicles: Is it Kind? Questions (Source: Valentine Vehicles Preschool Pack )
Olympics: Is it Good Sportsmanship? Questions (Source: Mini Unit:Winter Games in Sochi )
As we put all these little skills together, the classroom becomes a community.
Culturally Inclusive Grace and Courtesy
There may be children in your classroom who are from cultures which consider firm handshakes and/or direct eye contact to be rude or in which it is deemed inappropriate to offer handshakes to members of the opposite sex (as can be true for many Non-Western Cultures.)
Take some time to reflect on your own opinions about manners and social graces. Consider how some Grace and Courtesy lessons might center exclusively on Eurocentric/Western ideals, such as how to greet someone, making eye contact, and shaking hands.
Recognizing our own biases and responsiveness to cultural values is crucial with Grace and Courtesy lessons. If we want our children to become culturally competent citizens of an increasingly globalized world, we must cultivate that very culture of compassionate worldliness in our schools.
How to Teach Grace and Courtesy
Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy covers everything from start to finish. Really, Deb’s book is your back-pocket resource for how to teach Grace and Courtesy. Just take a look at the table of contents:
Part I: Using the Montessori Method to teach Grace and Courtesy
Chapter 1: The Preschool Child
Chapter 2: The Elementary Age Child
Part II: Basic Social Graces
Chapter 3: Introductions
Chapter 4: Greetings and Farewells
Chapter 5: Conversations
Chapter 6: Saying “Please,” “Thank You,” and “you’re Welcome”
Chapter 7: Saying “Excuse Me” and “I’m Sorry”
Chapter 8: Coping with Problems in Public (e.g. coughing, nose blowing, grooming etc.)
Chapter 9: Bathroom Manners
Chapter 10: Cleaning Up After Yourself
Chapter 11: Having Friends Visit
Chapter 12: Being a Guest at Someone’s House
Chapter 13: Table Manners
Chapter 14: Telephone Manners
Chapter 15: Letter Writing
Chapter 16: Games and Sports
Chapter 17: Showing Respect
The index is very thorough and will help you find the lesson for almost anything you can think of in a snap. I think everyone who works with or has children should own this book. It’s available as a Kindle edition on Amazon. But you don’t have to own a Kindle in order to read it. You can easily open it on your computer and mobile devices. There are even ways to convert Kindle ebooks to PDF if you really must print it out.
Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. She is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.