Repetition in Montessori Elementary

Maria Montessori observed a little girl who repeated her cylinder work 44 times in a row, so deep in concentration that she didn’t even acknowledge or stop working when her chair was picked up and moved. But that was about a hundred years ago, and at the 3-6 level. So how does repetition look in a 21st century elementary environment? Let’s explore!

Human Tendency for Repetition

This famed story is said to be what prompted Montessori to explore the central concept of repetition as a tenet of her method, and why later Mario Sr. classified repetition as a Human Tendency.

Dr. Montessori observed that a child’s desire or tendency to repeat works is driven by human nature and occurs spontaneously when the work aligns with a child’s sensitive period. 

There is no set number of repetitions required to define concentration, define when a skill learned, or when a lesson is complete. These moments support the children on their individual paths toward concentration at all levels.

For the adult guides, the hows, whys, and whens, of work and skillset repetition being unspecific can seem baffling at times. However, it is that lack of specificity that actually offers us the opportunities to guide each of our students individually. 

Generally, the deeper the child is in concentration, the more repetitions they will complete. But Elementary children crave novelty, so they may not want to repeat the exact same lesson in the same way over and over, especially consecutively, regardless of whether they have or have not mastered a skill or knowledge a lesson is teaching.

Montessori Freedoms

The freedom to repeat work is one of the 3 Montessori Freedoms (along with Freedom of Choice and Freedom of Movement).

In elementary we still must guide the children into their responsibility of repetition and the freedom that responsibility bestows. The child is free to repeat, but, for example, they are not free to continuously repeat a previously mastered lesson in an attempt to quickly check off a subject on their work plan. 

Repetition in Elementary

Then how does repetition manifest in the Montessori elementary, and how can we facilitate appropriate repetition? Here are 7 ways to get started!

Over time

At the 6-9 level, do not expect to observe consecutive repetition of a single material like at the 3-6 level. Instead, you can expect a few repetitions of a lesson over an extended period of time (weeks or even months).

Guided discovery

When second plane children are guided to discover lessons on the shelves and make connections between them, they are more likely to be inspired to repeat those lessons in an effort to solidify their understanding of the content. They may also be inspired to discover the cross curricular connections between the lessons, the shelf extension work, and themselves in their world.

Discover the true meaning of freedom in a Montessori environment and how it nurtures children's development. Learn about the importance of structure, limits, and authoritative guidance to foster internal freedom and self-motivated learning. Explore the different aspects of freedom, such as choice, movement, time, exploration, and communication, within the context of a Montessori prepared environment. Gain insights into creating a balanced and empowering environment that supports children's growth, independence, and success

Conversation

Elementary children are a chatty bunch. They love to talk to each other. When it comes to work chat – they engage in a form of abstract repetition when they talk to each other about their lessons. This could happen while working together, while mentoring a younger or struggling student, or at other times of day like at lunch. 

Choice is Essential

If we want to encourage repetition of a skill, it is imperative we offer Freedom of Choice in extension works. Two choices of equal challenge level, but different type and theme, per concept/key lesson on the shelf at a time is ideal.

But why only 2 at a time?

Because we don’t want to create overwhelm or choice paralysis.

Rotate and vary these choices as fits the children. This simple variety offers a jumping off point for empowered repetition, as well as all three of the 3 Montessori Freedoms!

HOKA Elementary facilitates repetition in Montessori elementary classrooms. Guides will have access to resources covering a variety of subjects while encouraging repetition.
Discover more about HOKA Elementary here.

Focus on the Process

Shift the focus from product driven tasks to process oriented experiences that include problem finding and solving, exploration, discovery, and creativity in learning.

Each part of a process (or repetition) has the power to inform learning and discovery in other realms/curricula areas. A focus on process over product teaches children that learning is ongoing throughout life.

It is cosmic learning.

Process focus is how we plant seeds for a love of lifelong learning and a desire for personal growth and knowledge. 

Imitation

The children are constantly observing us – so we must consciously and consistently model the behaviors we want to see.

Why? Because they are definitely going to repeat what they see us doing and how we are acting.

Let’s model for them information and behaviors worth repeating! Practical life and grace and courtesy lessons are amazing areas for practicing on repeat process orientation and emotional intelligence. 

Repetition of the Great Lessons

At the elementary level children are on a cosmic quest for knowledge and we are the guides, supporters, and facilitators with them on their journey!

The Great Lessons are our maps.

All 5 of the great lessons should be repeated to the whole group, together, each year of Lower Elementary. If the class is combined with Upper Elementary, the 9-12 age students get involved (and benefit from the repetition process) by helping the guides to prepare and present the lessons.

Discover engaging Montessori molecules activities for lower elementary students in this hands-on learning article. Explore 4-part cards, labeling elements, and writing molecular formulas, fostering curiosity and scientific exploration. Ignite your child's love for chemistry with these interactive learning experiences.

Variety

Repetition at the elementary level really boils down to one thing – variety.

Variety offered through different experiences and works each time, the assortment of choice and projects provide the novelty the 6-12 year old seeks while also providing the repetition they need to reach mastery of the skill.  

Conclusion

“If work comes from an inner source, it is much more intense and much more fruitful.”

The Child, Society, and the World, Maria Montessori

We can inspire children’s inner source through novelty. 

Dr. Montessori taught us that repetition is a human tendency. By providing our elementary-aged children with freedom of choice,, the students become set up for success to repeat the skills and assimilate knowledge relatively independently. Keep the focus oriented on process and variety, and watch your students choose to repeat key concepts in concentration all year long!

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