Thursday, May 30, 2019

Does Montessori Teach Social Skills?

An older child helping a younger one learn letters
I've heard some parents criticize Montessori environments as not teaching social skills because of the emphasis on individual work. Sometimes parents will visit and when they see children quietly working independently, they mistakenly assume that social skills are not taught in the classroom. What they don’t necessarily see during their visit is all the work that made what they are seeing possible.

Montessori teaches children to be individuals, but responsible within a social framework. So yes, children are expected to learn how to pursue independent work, but it is within an entire social structure that helps them get along with others. 

Here are common principles and practices within Montessori classrooms that promote social development:

1. Children are expected to learn how to conduct themselves, to be responsible for themselves, including knowing basic self-care skills and how to clean up.  In general, even though they can work in small groups, they should be able to pursue independent work for quite a while each day.

2. Children are expected to respect the work of others by not disturbing or touching their work. They learn how to watch quietly if interested. They must respect that some children may not want to be watched.

3. In the classroom there is generally only one copy of a given material. This teaches patience to wait for a turn with the desired work by choosing other work to do (if someone else using it). It also forces children to choose a variety of work and not monopolize one material.

4. Skills are taught in an ongoing fashion about conflict resolution. Lessons on recognizing emotions, expressing feelings appropriately, and coming up with solutions are all taught to the group and reaffirmed on a regular basis. It is expected that after lots of guidance, that children will begin to attempt to resolve conflict on their own before rushing to the adult. 

5. Language enrichment is an important part of the Montessori classroom. Children are coached on how to speak politely with others and to express themselves. There is no “baby talk” in the Montessori classroom and children are encouraged to extend their vocabulary in many areas including using the Vocabulary Cards to learn the breeds of dogs, local bird, names of flowers, names of instruments of the orchestra, etc. There also daily singing, movement and group lessons at circle time. 

6. Politeness is emphasized in Montessori classrooms. Children learn such basics as how to get the teacher's attention and how to wait if given a signal to wait.   In group lessons, children learn how to wait while another has a turn speaking.  Children learn many social graces such as basic table manners, how to stand or walk in a line. They also learn through various responsibilities in the classroom how to be a leader as well as a follower, taking turns leading and letting others lead when it is their turn.

7. Children learn many social skills by being in a classroom of mixed ages. There is no uniform expectation that all children of a certain age will all have the same level of skills. With mixed ages, the older children often mentor the younger children and learn to accept differences. This reduces competition and conflict.

8. In Montessori classrooms there is an acceptance of diversity because no one is made to conform for the sake of conforming. All rules are in the context of respecting other people and enabling a smoothly functioning classroom. Gender norms are expanded to include flexibility in skills such as not reinforcing ideas that sewing or cleaning is for girls, and that working with tools is for boys. Cultural study throughout the year emphasizes acceptance and inclusion. Various abilities are accepted because there is no standard expectation of skill or ability.

9. Montessori classrooms promote self-evaluation and self-esteem because children learn how to judge their own progress. Many works have a goal where children are able to self-check and thus don't need to rely on another person's assessment of them. There are no daily stars or stickers or grades to motivate them.

In my own experience Montessori children are very good at communicating with both children and adults. They usually make appropriate eye contact, know how and when to ask for help. They tend to exhibit good listening skills and can engage well in conversations. They tend to have good self-confidence because of their mastery of basic tasks at school.  All in all, Montessori children learn many great social skills that serve them well in life beyond school with their friends and family as well as their community.

Marla Nargundkar,  AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta, Georgia USA 


  1. Montessori motions are self-motivated. Every kid is easy to follow their concerns, pick themselves individual activity, and rise at their private pace. Best Play School in Velachery
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  2. Yes and these activities promote the growth of self-confidence that strengthens social skills.