The schedule in a Montessori classroom may vary from school to school and teacher to teacher, but one guiding principle is integral to creating an authentic Montessori environment.
The Three-Hour Work Cycle
Dr. Montessori believed that a three-hour work cycle was very important for young children. When you first hear this, you may have a difficult time believing that a three year old can work peacefully for three hours at a time. Just like any other skill, the child needs time to practice the ability to choose work, focus and move to other activities. But the consistency in a Montessori classroom is well-suited to cultivate this process.
The three-hour work cycle simply means that a dedicated time of 2.5-3 hours is given everyday for the children to work in the classroom. During this period, many things are happening in the classroom. The teacher gives one-on-one lessons to the students as they master previous skills. The children choose lessons to practice from the lessons they have previously received. Snacks are available for the children to serve themselves and clean up. Children are simply given the opportunity to spend as much time as they would like working on an activity without the rush of moving from one thing to the next.
So how does this work practically speaking? Young children learn quickly in a Montessori classroom from the teacher and their older peers how to make positive choices during the work period. They will experience what Dr. Montessori referred to as “false fatigue” when they complete a task and do not know what to move onto next. Teachers are often tempted to jump in at this point to present the child a new activity. But a Montessori teacher allows the child to work through their unrest or distraction until the child directs themselves toward a new activity. The more a child practices this skill, the less a teacher will have to intervene to guide their steps and the greater independence the child will learn to have in the classroom.
Typical Daily Schedule
In addition to the three-hour work cycle, a Montessori classroom often has other activities on the agenda. There are many variables that determine each teacher’s ability to control their schedule. The school may have pre-determined recess slots, specials and arrival and dismissal times. Because of this, the specifics of each classroom schedule may vary, but a typical day in a Montessori classroom may look like this:
- Arrival and greeting
- Morning meeting
- Possible whole-group lesson
- Work Time with the Three-Hour Work Cycle
- Clean up
Although the details of the day may vary, an authentic Montessori program will strive to protect as much of the three-hour work cycle as possible. The children need a solid amount of uninterrupted time to work with the classroom materials and grow in their ability to make wise choices during the work period. At Fountainhead Montessori, we value the benefits of the Montessori Method. If you are in the Bay Area, schedule a tour to speak with us more about the daily activities of a Montessori student