The Upper Elementary Montessori Curriculum

“The elementary child has reached a new level of development.
Before, he was interested in things: working with his hands, learning their names.
Now he is interested mainly in the how and why…the problem of cause and effect”

Maria Montessori

                 Academic subjects are integrated into a comprehensive program designed not to teach, but to allow children to learn at their own pace.



       The Upper Elementary curriculum is a dynamic continuation of the work and studies from the previous levels. This next level of education guides the students as they move away from more concrete, fact-based learning, into an age of abstraction and reason. Fueled by exceptional strong imaginations and a desire to understand how things work, the Upper Elementary Students are well prepare for a curriculum that challenges them with advanced ideas in literature, history, science, mathematics, and language.


       As the students continue through what Dr. Montessori called the Intellectual Period, they develop intellectually, socially and morally, as active participants in their classroom communities and their own learning. Hands-on learning, coupled with more abstract work, discussions, and experiential education, create a balance of learning experiences for the active minds and bodies of the Upper Elementary student.


       Group work is highlighted throughout the curriculum, to create a productive and positive outlet for their very social students. Ongoing independent work is also vital, and allows students to challenge themselves, hone organizational skills and build a solid foundation of academic skills.

Peace, Grace and Courtesy, Service Learning


        The peaceful resolution of conflicts continues to be a goal in the Elementary classroom. The older the students become, the better they are able to resolve disputes on their own. Teachers are available to facilitate discussions between students, but props like a “talking stone” can aid students in resolving conflicts independently.


       Acting with grace and courtesy toward others is modeled by the adults, and courteous behavior and consideration for others is expected of Elementary students. Children can help one another remember to use polite language and that their actions affect others. Elementary students participate in a number of community service efforts over the course of the year, such as a Thanksgiving Food Pantry, “Read to Feed” for Heifer International, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. All students are taught to be responsible to their peers and community through their words, actions, and deeds.


Practical Life


        Elementary students engage in building practical skills such as cooking, gardening, taking care of environment, managing their materials and time, and organizing activities. Each student is accountable for completing class work in the time allotted and confers with teachers weekly to chart progress. As children move forward, they are given increasing responsibility in planning and executing their weekly tasks. In Upper Elementary, students’ practical life lessons include technology, and they learn and practice on-line research, keyboarding, email, and internet safety.




       Language is the foundation upon which we build all other elementary studies. We present the child with the practical tools for encoding and decoding words, sentences, and paragraphs, yet it is never seen as an isolated exercise. With a more sophisticated level of language comes greater refinement in its use. While students continue to benefit from concrete experience with concepts in grammar and mechanics, they explore the study of language as an on-going creative process of research, ideas, and imagination.




       As students transition from Lower to Upper Elementary, they will experience a sense of familiarity with most of the manipulative, and be introduced to new ones. Once they internalize a specific math concept, they can then move on to abstract problem solving. In addition to the manipulative, we use Montessori Made Manageable, which is a sequential set of worksheets that cover the elementary program math curriculum. They are used for both class work and homework in a supplementary nature, along with various textbooks and workbooks that compliment specific concepts and skills.


       The use of mathematics arose thousands of years ago as a tool to meet a fundamental need for order and as a practical aid in daily life situations. Only later were rules applied. Students use materials to work toward the abstraction of math concepts, naturally formulating rules and formulas themselves. Traditionally, the study of mathematics starts with the rules and the drills follow. According to the Montessori method, the rules are points of arrival, not departure. Through the student's own effort, internalization of abstract concepts is achieved.




       Traditionally, the study of geometry is undertaken in later years as an abstract series of rules, theorems, and propositions. Maria Montessori saw geometry as firmly rooted in reality, and built a curriculum for lower elementary students that uses concrete, sensorial experimentation, leading students to concepts through their own creative research. Although sophisticated in content, geometry at the upper elementary level continues to be well grounded in concrete experiences with manipulative materials. In this way, etymology is discovered, relationships and concepts are explored and researched, and the child's conclusions serve as a basis for theorems, proofs, and formulas.




       The Upper Elementary Science curriculum is based on the Full Optic Science System. FOSS is a hands-on approach to science that is compatible with the Montessori philosophy and motivates and stimulates curiosity.


       Students are introduced to many ideas and topics in science over the course of the Elementary years. Some introductory topics include chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and meteorology. More advanced study includes the scientific method, the periodic table of elements, atomic structure, biochemistry, photosynthesis, mechanics, electricity, and human biophysics. Topics in biology include the comparative study of vertebrates, botany, classification, microbiology, evolutionary biology, and human biology.


       Students learn to think scientifically by investigating, experimenting, gathering data, organizing results, and drawing conclusions based on their actions and observations. Follow-up questions to weekly experiments motivate students to think about new ideas and help them realize connections to other areas of study. Recall questions get them to remember information. Integrating questions get them to process information. Open-ended questions get them to infer, create, and solve problems. Thematic questions help them realize connections between scientific ideas and processes.


       In addition to these FOSS modules, students study both environmental and ecological science in preparation for a three-day overnight trip to Nature's Classroom.