The First Plane of Development
Ages: Birth - Six
“The child who has never learned to work by himself, to set goals for his own acts, or to be the master of his own force of will is recognizable in the adult who lets others guide his will and feels a constant need for approval of others.”
—Education and Peace
During the first plane of development, which spans from birth to approximately six years old, children undergo significant physical, cognitive, and social development. Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method, identified this period as crucial for laying the foundation of a child's personality, intellect, and social skills.
In the first plane, children are like sponges, absorbing information from their environment. They are sensorial learners, relying heavily on their senses to explore and understand the world around them. Montessori education during this period focuses on creating an environment that stimulates and nurtures the child's natural curiosity and desire to learn. Montessori discovered that children in the first plane of development undergo sensitive periods during which their brains fire on particular areas of learning. Montessori teachers know to allow children in the first plane to indulge in the curriculum area that they are drawn to as sensitive periods provide optimum learning opportunities. From this derives the well-known Montessori expression, “Follow the child”. For this reason, following the child pertains specifically to children in the first plane of development.
One of the key aspects of the first plane of development is the development of language. Children in this age group have an innate ability to acquire language effortlessly. Montessori classrooms are designed to immerse children in rich language experiences, providing a wide range of vocabulary through conversations, stories, and exposure to written words. This early exposure to language lays the foundation for strong communication skills later in life.
Another vital aspect of the first plane of development is the development of motor skills. Young children are refining their gross and fine motor skills, learning to control their movements and explore their physical abilities. Montessori classrooms offer activities that promote the development of these skills, such as pouring, threading, and various practical life exercises. These activities not only enhance motor skills but also instill a sense of independence and confidence in the child.
Social development is also a significant focus during the first plane of development. Children learn to interact with others, develop empathy, and understand social norms. Montessori classrooms promote social interaction through activities that encourage cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving. This collaborative environment fosters a sense of community and belonging, laying the groundwork for positive social relationships in the future.
Additionally, the first plane of development is marked by the development of self-discipline and concentration. Montessori activities are designed to capture the child's interest and encourage prolonged, focused attention. Through activities like puzzles, sensorial materials, and practical life exercises, children learn to concentrate and complete tasks independently, enhancing their ability to self-regulate and concentrate on more complex tasks as they grow older.
Montessori's first plane of development is a critical period where children establish the foundation for lifelong learning. By providing a stimulating environment that addresses their developmental needs, Montessori education during this stage nurtures not only academic skills but also social, emotional, and practical abilities, preparing children to become confident, independent, and well-rounded individuals.
The First Plane at Innovation Montessori
Each Montessori plane of development is broken into two age groupings for the purposes of forming classrooms. The first half of the first plane, birth through age three classroom, is typically referred to as an Infant/Toddler or Nido program. We do not have an Infant/Toddler program currently. At innovation Montessori Ocoee we have seven primary classrooms which serve children in the second half of the first plane – ages three through six. Each of our primary classrooms has approximately thirty children ranging in age from three through six, and three adults. As we serve public and private students in shared spaces, to support an authentic Montessori experience for our families, each classroom has a state certified Montessori trained (or in training) kindergarten teacher, to whom the kindergarten children are attached, a state certified, Montessori trained (or in training) VPK teacher to whom the three- and four-year-old children are attached, and a teacher assistant.
Each Montessori primary classroom is organized into curriculum areas – math, language, sensorial, culture and practical life. Each curriculum area has shelves on which the relevant Montessori materials are arranged, sorted by concept, and arranged by increasing difficulty. A child must be presented with a lesson on a specific material before being invited to work with it independently. Teachers observe how the children interact with the materials and use those observations to inform themselves as to the children’s understanding of the concepts taught through the lesson. If the child shows mastery, then the teacher makes a note to present the next lesson in the sequence. Teachers track all their students’ progress through each of the curriculum areas.
Children engage in long uninterrupted work cycles each morning. Direct instruction, when it happens, generally lasts no more than 20 minutes, and for the rest of the time the children work independently. In Montessori we believe that children construct their own learning – teaching is not learning, it is the introduction to the concept and the spark to ignite the child’s interest. Children in our primary program do not have daily enrichments as that would interfere with their work cycle time at a point in their development when their ability to concentrate for extended periods of time is being formed.