Walking into a Montessori school is a unique experience. Why? Because the classroom structure of Montessori schools is different from what most people have encountered. For example, you're probably familiar with schools grouping children by birth year. Montessori schools tend to deviate from that model and group children within a three-year age span. This grouping makes it so children can receive instruction and guidance that speaks to their personal level of skills.
Montessori schools use this approach to classroom structure following the research of Dr. Maria Montessori, who wrote on the four different stages of development from birth to an early stage of adulthood. Each stage of child development in Montessori is referred to as a plane, and each plane of development is marked by learning and mastering different skills.
Let's take a look at Montessori's four planes of development, all different but essential to a child's development.
What Are the Four Planes of Development?
The four planes of development are important to consider when it comes to a child's education. They all represent the different stages a child goes through when developing crucial skills they will use in adulthood.
The First Plane
The first plane of development goes from a child's birth to their sixth year. During the first six years of a child's life, they are exceptionally proficient in absorbing new material. Because of this proficiency, this plane is what Dr. Montessori referred to as a sensitive period for learning. Though every child learns new skills at their own pace, the hallmarks of this stage concern developing particular skills.
A child's conscious mind is not yet awake during their first three years of life, allowing them to explore their environment through their five senses. After a child's first three years, their conscious mind awakens, and they can learn by using their hands. Typically, a Montessori school will keep this in mind and provide this age group with plenty of hands-on activities.
A sense of order marks the first six years of a child's life. This order means that methodical and practical life lessons will appeal to them in the classroom, especially since they are developing physical independence and will often try to do many activities on their own.
The Second Plane
Children are in the second plane of development from 6 to 12 years old. One of the hallmarks of this plane of development is a child's desire to form peer groups as they look outside themselves to understand the world. Children may even work with their peers to get activities done.
Children during this stage will also start showing significant physical changes that lead them to present as clumsy. This clumsiness coincides with a child's sense of order and neatness fading away a bit.
A child's imagination becomes more pronounced during the second plane of development. Because Montessori schools know this, some learning opportunities will arise from storytelling. Storytelling can appear outside of reading time in any subject — puppets and other props may even be involved.
Children during this stage will start to show an interest in gaining information about the world around them. During this period of growing interest, Montessori schools will begin to introduce children to subjects like geography, science and history on top of their language and mathematical studies.
Moral justice becomes important during this phase of a child's life. They become concerned about the fairness of things and will create rules for games that represent this sense of justice.
The Third Plane
From the ages of 12 to 18, children are in their third plane of development. During this time, social connections are critical. Children will invest quite a bit of their time and energy in their relationships with their peers. Independence from adults is also important during this stage. Children must be allowed to explore that independence during this stage while also staying safe.
Physically, children in this stage of development will sleep more than ever before. They will also crave learning experiences that are authentic to real life.
Children's sense of morality and responsibility during this time starts to become more refined.
The Fourth Plane
The fourth plane of development occurs from the ages of 18 to 24. During this time, young adults will strive for financial independence, as they are often living alone for the first time. At this time, young adults will try to find where they fit into society, whether through education or a career.
Young adults in this stage will start to explore who they are as individuals, and they will do so with the skills they learned from the first three planes of development.
How Montessori Education Encourages Development
Classes and programs in Montessori education are organized using the four planes of development rather than divided out year by year. This structure acknowledges that children of multiple ages can share particular characteristics and needs that must be considered for their daily education.
Montessori schools are structured around these planes of development, notably the first and second planes, to support their students through intense developmental change.
The First Plane
Montessori schools cater to the first plane of development by keeping classroom sizes small. Smaller class sizes allow children to receive plenty of emotional nourishment and time to learn from cognitively challenging activities. These activities will often encourage them to crawl, walk, speak and read, which are essential skills children learn during these ages. These activities will also often include directed movement, music, order, courtesy, social skills, and mathematics.
The Second Plane
During the second plane of development, children learn a lot from mimicking the behavior of their teachers. Because teachers serve as behavior models, Montessori schools train their teachers to behave as they would like the children in their classroom to act. For example, if a teacher wants the children to whisper, they would also whisper.
It's essential for children to have strong moral role models in this plane of development as well, as they also mimic social behavior. Montessori schools encourage all their teachers to live with integrity.
How Sapientia Montessori Can Help You
Sending your child to Sapientia Montessori will offer them an abundance of educational benefits, such as:
- The ability to learn at their own pace.
- Lessons that come in stages.
- Concrete and abstract lessons.
- Overlapping subjects.
- Socialization opportunities.
- Leadership opportunities.
- Multi-age class groups.
- Individualized lessons.
- Specialized materials.
- Activities that support their self-confidence, independence and self-esteem.
If you're interested in how Montessori school can help your child get the most out of their first two planes of development, visit us here at Sapientia Montessori. We have programs for toddlers, primary school-aged children and elementary school-aged children.