Reading Comprehension (Montessori)

From Montepedia

Reading comprehension, or the ability to understand and interpret written language, is a critical skill that enables children to process information, make sense of complex ideas, and participate fully in academic environments. Montessori education approaches reading comprehension in a unique and effective way, emphasizing hands-on learning, independence, and critical thinking.

Understanding Montessori's Approach to Reading Comprehension

Montessori's approach to reading comprehension is multi-faceted. Children in Montessori classrooms are introduced to the concept of reading through phonetic sounds and visual aids, fostering a natural development of language skills. The curriculum also promotes a love for reading by providing diverse, age-appropriate reading materials and encouraging children to explore them at their own pace.

Key Elements of Montessori Reading Comprehension Instruction

  • Phonetic Awareness: Montessori schools start teaching reading by helping children understand and recognize phonetic sounds. This understanding is then built upon to form words, sentences, and eventually, full narratives.
  • Hands-On Learning: Children are given opportunities to physically interact with words and sentences using tools such as the moveable alphabet. This provides a tangible way for children to understand the structure and mechanics of language.
  • Contextual Learning: The Montessori curriculum emphasizes learning words and concepts in context, which supports comprehension. For example, vocabulary related to a particular theme (like plants or animals) is taught when children are learning about that theme.
  • Sequencing and Storytelling: Montessori students are often asked to retell stories or events in sequential order, which encourages logical thinking and the ability to understand narratives - both key to reading comprehension.
  • Self-Paced Progress: Children are allowed to move at their own pace and choose books that interest them, fostering a love of reading and natural curiosity.

The Reading Comprehension Steps in Montessori Education

In Montessori, reading comprehension is carefully nurtured and developed through a variety of steps and exercises that take place after the child has mastered decoding words phonetically. These steps include:

1. Vocabulary Development:

Vocabulary is crucial for reading comprehension. Montessori activities often involve learning new words in context. For instance, children might learn about animals or plants and their characteristics through hands-on materials and exploration, which naturally expands their vocabulary.

2. Sentence Analysis:

After learning to read words and simple sentences, Montessori students move onto sentence analysis. This helps them understand sentence structure and how words relate to each other, which is crucial for comprehension.

For instance, children might use manipulatives to understand the roles of nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., within a sentence. These could be color-coded to help the child visualize and understand the grammatical structure of the sentence.

3. Reading Aloud and Discussion:

Reading aloud is another key element in the Montessori approach. This helps with fluency and also provides opportunities for discussion, which boosts comprehension. Teachers can ask questions about the text, encouraging children to think about what they've read and express their thoughts.

4. Story Sequencing:

Story sequencing activities can also be used to improve comprehension. Children might be asked to arrange pictures or sentences to reflect the correct sequence of events in a story. This helps children understand narrative structure, cause and effect, and how to make predictions and inferences.

5. Independent Reading:

Finally, as children become more proficient, they're encouraged to read independently. This includes a range of texts, from simple stories to non-fiction books, which helps to improve comprehension across different types of text.

In all these activities, the emphasis is on making reading enjoyable and meaningful, so children develop a love of reading and a desire to understand and engage with the text.

The ultimate goal is not just to teach children how to read, but to help them become thoughtful, engaged readers who can understand, analyze, and enjoy the texts they read.

Montessori Quotes

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'" - Maria Montessori

"The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child's own natural desire to learn." - Maria Montessori

"Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment." - Maria Montessori

Research and Critiques


The Montessori method encourages independence, self-motivation, and a love of learning. It fosters an environment where children learn at their own pace and engage with what they find interesting.

Research has shown positive outcomes for children educated under the Montessori system. Lillard (2017) found that Montessori students outperformed their traditional school peers in areas like social skills, academic achievement, and positive feelings about school.

The mixed age groupings in Montessori classrooms encourage cooperative learning and allow children to learn from each other.


The Montessori method may not fit all learning styles. Some children might thrive in a more structured environment or require more guidance from their teachers.

Some critics argue that Montessori classrooms do not provide enough opportunities for imaginative play due to their focus on realistic, practical activities.

The flexibility and independence of Montessori classrooms can lead to less emphasis on traditional testing and grading, which could make it difficult for students to transition into more conventional school settings.

Comparison to Other Methods

Compared to traditional methods, the Montessori approach is more child-centered and less structured. Traditional classrooms often have a teacher-centered approach, where the teacher directs the learning and students follow the same curriculum. In contrast, Montessori education is based on individual interests and abilities, allowing children to explore subjects at their own pace. This focus on individualized learning can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the learning process.

Compared to the Waldorf method, another alternative education system, the Montessori approach places a greater emphasis on individual work and academic learning. While both methods value creativity and holistic education, the Waldorf method incorporates more arts, music, and imaginative play, often delaying formal reading instruction until around age 7. Montessori education, on the other hand, begins to introduce academic concepts earlier and places a strong emphasis on hands-on learning.

Glossary of Montessori Terms

The Glossary of Montessori Terms is a collection of specific terms and vocabulary that are related to the Montessori method of education, primarily focusing on the theory and practice for children aged 3 to 6. The jargon used by Montessori educators offers a unique insight into child development as discussed by Maria Montessori. The 'Montepedia Glossary of Montessori Terms' originated from a glossary that was compiled by the late Annette Haines from the Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis, at the request of Molly O'Shaughnessy from the Montessori Centre of Minnesota. The reason behind the creation of this glossary was to supplement O'Shaughnessy's lecture at the Joint Annual Refresher Course that took place in Tampa, Florida, in February 2001.[1] The glossary has since been expanded and updated with additional 'Montessori Terms'.

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  1. Haines, A. (2001). Glossary of Montessori Terms. Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis.