The Clanmore Voice

October 3, 2023

Archive for Montessori Elementary Program

On Metal Insets, Control of the Hand, Design and Creativity (and Anne Frank too)

posted in Montessori Education
11/07/2018  |  Comments Off on On Metal Insets, Control of the Hand, Design and Creativity (and Anne Frank too)

“To confer the gift of drawing, we must create an eye that sees, a hand that obeys, a soul that feels; and in this task, the whole life must cooperate. In this sense, life itself is the only preparation for drawing. Once we have lived, the inner spark of vision does the rest.”
Maria Montessori

Photo collection of the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Photo collection of the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Anne Frank, the Montessori child, who created this beautiful metal inset design in 1941, clearly possessed “the inner spark of vision” of which Maria Montessori spoke. But to back up a little, where would a work like this truly begin?

Extensive indirect preparation for handwriting, art and design begins with practical life and sensorial materials. These exercises support the development of gross and fine motor control, as well as the fingers used in handling a pencil or brush. They foster hand-eye coordination, concentration, pattern recognition, discrimination of shapes, colours, sizes, and textures and memory recall. The children learn to reflect upon their work and self-correct when necessary.

The metal insets, a key sensorial material, function specifically to prepare the hand for writing as art and design work begin to flourish. These materials – ten geometric shapes that each fit into corresponding frames are comprised of a square, triangle, rectangle, pentagon, trapezium, circle, oval, ellipse, curvilinear triangle, and quatrefoil.  The straight and curved line figures brilliantly correspond to the curves and angles found in the letters of the alphabet, thus preparing the hand in advance for the writing to come.

In their work with the metal insets, the children’s ability to create straight and fluid serpentine lines is refined. Lightness of touch, evenness of pressure and the motor and mental control to support this are developed. A left to right, top to bottom orientation is reinforced and proper posture emphasized. A movement towards exactitude is inherent in the exercises.

In this way…children perfect themselves in writing without actually writing.”
Maria Montessori

“Montessori points out that the ability to stay within the lines and control the pencil leads to mastery in writing the letters that have been learned by tracing the Sandpaper Letters with their fingers. These physical and mental connections pave the way to what Montessori called an “explosion into writing”.”


We’ll leave the final thought to Anne Frank:

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

top of the page

Portfolio Meetings from a Parent’s Perspective

posted in Montessori Education
05/24/2017  |  Comments Off on Portfolio Meetings from a Parent’s Perspective

Portfolio Meetings UE

The Portfolio Meetings in the Upper Elementary classroom are scheduled close to the end of the school year.  As parents, we are a guest in our son’s or daughter’s classroom for the morning and they treat us as such!

Portfolio Meetings UE
The students create their portfolio at the beginning of the year and contribute to it as the year progresses.  It consists of numerous hours spent in each area of the classroom and subject matter.

Portfolio Meeting UE
The children present their work to us in a way that promotes conversation and a deeper understanding of what happens in the classroom.  This platform allows the children to discuss their work so that parents can understand the process the child is going through. The work chosen for this meeting is selected by the children themselves out of their interest in sharing with their parents.

Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE

As a parent, I see it as a chance for my children to describe to me what they are doing and how they are doing it; how they articulate it.  Do they have an understanding of the material and how deep does that go?  Do they have a passion for this or did this project ignite a passion for something that I had no idea about? Do their eyes light up?  Are they serious and is that because they are nervous as this is their first time/experience?  Are they relaxed now as they have done this in year four and five?

Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE

Listening to your son or daughter as they describe their work grants you great access into their world.  It provides observations that will help you see them in a different way and allows you to take in, digest and aid them in being the best version of themselves.

Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE Portfolio Meetings UE

It’s amazing what you can learn from your child, especially when they have an opportunity to present to you as their guest.

top of the page

Art Through The Years At Clanmore

posted in Montessori Education
03/10/2017  |  Comments Off on Art Through The Years At Clanmore

Paint- Art Studio

Art in the Toddler Environment is a big component of the curriculum.  Expression is always available with chalk, tempera paint & water colours, coloured pencils & markers, stickers, glueing shapes on paper, stamping & dabbing.  It is through this work that allows the child freedom of expression, repetition and reflection of their work.  It is a beautiful process that incorporates mind and body with large movements aided by repetition that refines those large movements into developing control and dexterity.


Blackboard - Toddler Room

“At the Toddler level, it is the beginning of using the tools.”  Elaine Kerr-Morgan


Art - Toddler Room


Art Tower - Casa

Casa children are introduced to the elements of design such as line, colour, texture, shape and space with the Montessori materials.  There is an art tower that Elaine Kerr-Morgan our Art Specialist created alongside the casa directresses. It is a fixed material within the casa classroom.


arttower2 arttower3 DSC_0210 (2)

“Casa children are refining their hand, eye coordination.”  Elaine Kerr-Morgan

DSC_0213 casastorywriting


In the Lower Elementary community, children begin to explore using the medium of art within the classroom as they transform clay into a sculpture in a diorama in support of a project or make a mask as a visual display of culture interlaced within history. Studio time in the art room allows for this to happen throughout the week.   It becomes a tool when exploring timelines as a freedom expression.


DSC_0175 (1) Copy of Lowerinclass DSC_0182

The Lower Elementary children now leave the classroom for art instruction in the Clanmore art studio.  They also experience trips out to galleries and libraries to explore artists nationally and internationally.  They immerse themselves in the language and unique style of a particular artist and are exposed to the different disciplines of art. In the studio, they explore their own unique style and make their own creations.



“Lower Elementary is about refining and exploring the elements of design so they are more developed in their minds.”  Elaine Kerr- Morgan



At the Upper Elementary level, children continue to develop their own style with design elements and principles.  They come to understand the different uses of expression within mixed media.   In and out of the classroom art intertwines with their work as they become more aware that as a society we are indeed surrounded by art and expression everywhere we go.  Principles learned like space, rhythm, balance, variety, emphasis, repetition and unity give light to understanding from a distinct perspective.  Perhaps this perspective is their own or perhaps it is a glimpse into the artist’s point of view or period of time in which the piece was created.
This is a time “where the children continue to refine their skill with different media, where they begin to understand the use of elements in cooperation with the principles of design.”  Elaine Kerr-Morgan



In Middle School expression of one’s individuality is front row for the adolescent. Art is a great outlet for this.



Over two years they explore photography, optical illusion, two point perspective, balance with symmetry, asymmetry, bilateral and radial along with installation art: visual and sound art. They study art history with a focus on historical and contemporary art with gallery visits.  Within the micro-economy program they make items for their spring and winter markets like jewellery and when studying drama they dive into set design.  Art is layered throughout the middle school years as in life; the children now begin to see it everywhere they go.



“This is preparation for high school. Solidifying the understanding principles of design and using these principles to evaluate a piece of artwork.”  Elaine Kerr-Morgan


MS (1)

top of the page

The Elementary Going Out Program

posted in Montessori Education
05/11/2016  |  Comments Off on The Elementary Going Out Program

While toddlers begin to explore beyond the home environment and casa students begin to explore the school environment in its entirety, it is the elementary children who take exploration, curiosity and drive to a whole new level in the Montessori going out program. Discover how the teachers in partnership with their students guide them on this journey.

Intellectual choice and independence are goals for the children in the Elementary program. They are life skills; keys to the universe. The children need to explore beyond the classroom and to aid in this construction, we must provide opportunities for them to go out into society and experience it.

Food Drive

Read More

Going out provides the opportunity to make choices in a safe manner as they are still under the protection of the family and the school. It provides further intellectual stimulation and contributes to the children’s growth and self-control. Going out begins at Clanmore by going to the library or to the art studio. The students then build on this foundation as they gain more responsibility outside of the classroom.

Cec _ B on train

“It has to do with the psychological characteristics and the human tendencies of the elementary children”… “one of the needs of this aged child is to be prepared to eventually take his/her place in society”. “It is more than acquiring knowledge it is about experiencing society.” CH

Kerr Street Ministries

‘Going Out’ is not a field trip that is organized by the teacher; it is part of the Elementary curriculum and has to do with the work and activities of the children in an elementary class. It is a small group of children who have done some work and have planned an outing to retrieve more information.

Remembrance Day

We cannot bring all elements of society into the classroom. The children need to explore geography, history, biology, cultural activities of society, language, social awareness and retrieve impressions that will inspire them for future work. It’s more than just acquiring knowledge, it’s about the experience and how it will launch them forward and manifest itself in ways that we can’t predict.

Erchless Estate

“They will explore the interdependencies that exist; the interdependencies of the environment, but also the interdependencies of human beings. When you take public transportation you have more appreciation of the job that these people are doing. So they begin to understand the Cosmic Plan which underlies the interrelatedness, the universe, the world and societies.” CH

The children in this plane of development are in the process of developing their moral sense.


“We are helping the children come into contact with the moral sense of existence. What is the role of humans and how we affect the cosmos”… “one assumes that people are skilled at decision making but this is not always the case. If you are not shown as a young child how to choose wisely and understand that, ‘I can choose all by myself,’ then as an adult you may have an underdeveloped Will. To develop this Will children need a chance to make meaningful choices.” RO


We speak of the prepared environment and the work that begins in the classroom as their imagination gets fired up and their intellect begins to question what else there is to find out. Essentially, two environments are prepared as now the teachers prepare the children to go out. They prepare for any particular rules they may encounter, anticipate what is expected and things specific to that outing like how to interview a person, listen to a response and ask a follow-up question.

House of Commons

An Interview with some Upper Elementary students about their ‘Going Out’ experience.

Recently you went to the Oakville Humane Society, can you tell me why you decided to go there?

We were doing a fundraiser and needed more background information on how they do things. We wanted to see the animals that we were fundraising for, these animals are sick, they have diabetes and asthma and use puffers the same way humans do. We hope to donate money and supplies.

How did you prepare for this outing?

We spoke to our teachers, called the Humane Society and scheduled a tour. Then we needed to figure out who was going to drive us and what we needed to do so we prepared questions.

What did you gain from this experience?

F- Responsibility – knowing all these abandoned animals makes me more responsible for the pets I have. I felt proud when we were there and I gained more love for animals. Other classmates have done fundraisers for PETA and it got me thinking and makes me want to help in my own way.

B- I gained more information about animals, love for animals and how to organise an outing.

N- I gained an ability to understand animals, they have different emotions and different moods. I gained more knowledge of the Oakville Humane Society and the knowledge of how to set up balance between my time on the fundraiser and my schoolwork. It helped me organise my time, time management.

What does ‘going out’ mean to you?

N- It means to venture out of the boundaries of our school environment and into the world exploring while doing our school work.

B- Leaving school and experiencing the world, learning new things and trying to help the world.

F- Going out and learning new things, venturing out of daily life to get to sprout out into something new. New experiences in unfamiliar places and it’s not a field trip, somewhere we’ve been before or where we go every month, it’s like a DIY (do it yourself) day!

Humane Society photo 2

“The fun thing about it is, you have an idea and you begin to feel that it’s getting bigger and there are no boundaries and then N passed by and wanted to help and I felt this relief. Then B heard about it and asked if he could help and then we started to get organised. Everyone comes with special qualities and we all have different roles… drawing, organising, writing and describing. What I really liked, we did it by ourselves.” F – Upper Elementary Student

Humane Society photo 1

top of the page

The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 3

posted in Montessori Education
01/28/2015  |  Comments Off on The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 3

At Home With The Elementary Child

Boy sweeping

In our previous blog posts: The Transition from Casa to Elementary, Parts 1 and 2, we discussed some of the characteristics of the child as he/she moves from the 1st plane of development to the 2nd.  Below is a chart which summarizes some of these changes as we now focus in this final post in our series on your elementary child at home.

Read More

Some Characteristics

Casa Child (0-6 years)

Elementary Child (6-12 years)

Developmental Goal

physical independence

intellectual independence

Type of Work

individual, constructing themselves

building groups, community

co-operative and collaborative

Type of Exploration

sensorial/motor explorer, interested/engaged in the present, visible facts

reasoning/intellectual explorer

use of imagination to explore what can’t be seen (history, cosmos etc.)

Type of Mind

absorbent mind (taking in from the world around them)

reasoning mind (use of intellect)


who, what, where… (naming questions)

when, why, how

(cause & effect)

Type of Understanding


working towards greater abstraction in understanding

Attitude to Possessions

hard to share

not attached to their possessions (lose things), often use trading as a way to build relationships

Social Development

home important, focus on self-construction to work towards being a contributing member of a community

greater interest in the wider community vs. home

peers extremely important,

herd instinct, need to be like everyone else, always talking

Moral issues

black and white

will accept adult viewpoint

trying to understand the grey areas, great focus on right vs. wrong

seeking to make own opinions over accepting those of adults

deep sense or justice, compassion & mercy

Personal appearance

lower elementary: no focus on physical appearance

upper elementary: physical appearance starts to matter

Emotional Display


less receptive to affection in public, especially if around friends,

less accommodating


admire those in their immediate world

hero worship, admire achievements of others

At Home With Your Elementary Child

Work with them not for them

For example, making lunches.   If children have more choice, more control and a greater sense of responsibility, they are more likely to eat what has been chosen. Talk to them about nutrition and how to make wise choices. Involve them in making grocery lists.

Reading With Your Child

Responsibility and accountability are important

Children need to have responsibility within the home. They are part of a group, the family, and they need to have a role within this group. At school the elementary children have jobs to do, and if a job does not get done, the class talks about it and strategizes.

The feeling of contribution felt by children, even at a very young age, will be carried forward by them into their adult lives.

Child Gardening

The Child in the Family: Belonging

Children want to contribute, they need to know how they can help (look to practical life for ideas). If a child feels a sense of belonging in their family, that’s a happy child!


The Family Meeting

It doesn’t have to be very long 15 – 20 minutes.
-the child’s ideas are heard
-adults concerns are heard
-a plan is worked out together → how to ‘fix’ it!


What are your family’s core values? Discuss what these are and what what they mean.  Your children will carry these values with them.

Enjoying Nature

See also our post on The Social Curriculum at Clanmore Montessori School which references Diane Gossen and The Theory of Restitution.

top of the page

The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 2

posted in Montessori Education
01/19/2015  |  Comments Off on The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 2

Who is the elementary child?

Social Development

The elementary child’s need to expand beyond the home environment translates as well to a need for expanding social relationships. Peers become extremely important to elementary aged children; they are constantly building relationships.

DSC_0627 (1)

There is a ‘herd instinct’ within them, they naturally form groups, they want to be with their friends and questions of how to build community become extremely meaningful. Their constant talking is really evidence of this focus on building relationships.

[epand title =”Read More”]

These children want to be like their friends, fads come to the fore, and to be accepted by the group is extremely important. From their perspective, rejection by their peers is one of the worst things that can happen. In the classroom, materials and concepts are often introduced in group presentations. There is a cooperative, collaborative focus as opposed to a competitive one. This too is part of how the children are learning to build community, learning how to get along with diverse personality types and with those who do or do not always bring out the best in them.


When there is conflict, it is important that the adults in these children’s lives do not co opt these opportunities for growth. It is important that the children learn how to work it out themselves (with guidance where necessary).

[Clanmore’s Social Curriculum based on Diane Gossen’s Theory of Restitution provides a framework for how to handle social situations. All elementary students are introduced to the principles of Restitution annually and practice them throughout their time at at the school, and beyond.]


Hero Worship Elementary children are looking for people to admire. They may be inspired by older children, but they can just as easily be inspired by unnamed heroes, for example those individuals who have done things to improve the quality of our lives. In their worshiping of heroes they question what is their role and what are they going to do to help humanity?


Michael “Pinball” Clemons with a Clanmore Student

It is worth considering who we introduce and expose our children to. Who they may look to as a hero.

Our next blog post, The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 3 will focus on

A Home With The Elementary Child.



top of the page

The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 1

posted in Montessori Education
01/06/2015  |  Comments Off on The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 1

Who Is the Elementary Child?

Intellectual Independence

In the first six years of life children undergo tremendous change as they strive towards their developmental goal of physical independence. While the next six years of life are physically more stable, beneath this stable surface is a strong driver guiding the child towards intellectual independence.

Elementary Grammar Exercise

Read More

Sometimes dubbed the “age of rudeness”, the 6-12 year old child is full of questions and rarely takes what is said at face value. They want to know why things are the way they are as they question their way towards constant intellectual growth. They are actually developmentally designed to do this at this age, they are meant to question.

DSC_0990 (1)

While in the first six years of life children are fully engaged in the present, learning through their senses, the six to twelve year old child approaches the world through the reasoning mind.


To real experiences, past, present and future, they are able to apply the power of their imaginations. In contrast to fantasy play, this is an imagination which happily ponders such ideas as ‘what would life have been like…..’. History consequently starts to take on importance.


While Casa children are starting to venture beyond the home environment, elementary children want to take on the universe. Their minds want to explore it all.


Moral Development

Concurrent with this quest for intellectual independence, elementary aged children are also in a period of tremendous moral development.  As they try to reason things out and increase their moral understanding they are often heard to exclaim “it’s not fair”. Frustrating as this may be for the adults in their lives, it is simply evidence of the reasoning mind puzzling over moral questions.  Again, elementary aged children following their developmental mandate.

DSC_0717 (1)

It should be noted that elementary children will test boundaries as part of their moral development. There are exploring where the line falls. This requires the adults in their world to follow rules which are put in place. Failure to do so results in moral ambiguity which the elementary child quickly picks up on, learning that we don’t really mean what we say. Not ideal when these children are forming their sense of morality.


Grey areas are where morality truly arises. These are the areas these children are trying to reason out, and it is these areas and the questions that arise therefrom that we should be discussing with them. Their intellect is the driving force here.

Tattling is also a feature of this stage of moral development. Really it’s just the elementary child checking in with you, confirming that someone did something wrong. In their minds they think it is wrong and they just want to know that they are correct.

Elementary children also need to know that just like in math for example, if they make a mistake, and they will, they can fix it. Justice, morality, compassion, mercy – these are topics which fascinate six to twelve year olds and which are even more pertinent to them as they become socially driven.


The label social butterfly is apt; they are all over everything, although this fleeting nature will dissipate somewhat as they enter more fully into the developmental period. As a consequence of their heightened compassion, elementary children want to help others.


They are motivated to fundraise for causes they believe in for example, and so it is timely for this desire to be nurtured and encouraged.

Our next blog post, The Transition from Casa to Elementary: Part 2 will focus on

Who Is The Elementary Child?  Social Development


top of the page