Montessori Monday: The Montessori Clock
We know that children's development moves in particular directions, from simple to complex, from concrete to abstract. This same momentum exists across multiple domains of development: social, emotional, cognitive, artistic, physical.
In the Montessori classroom, we introduce materials first in a concrete form. Some concepts are easy to make concrete. The cubes of the Pink Tower offer a hands-on, manipulative way to understand volume and its relationship to dimension. The golden beads match unit by unit for the formation of numbers in a Base-Ten system. How, though, do we make concrete concepts which are fundamentally abstract, like the passage of time?
Some experiences, like the Montessori Timelines and the Sun Celebration help to tie the measurement of time to children's own bodies and their ability to compare and classify. In these, the child moves his or her own body or a series of small objects along a physical cycle or timeline, experiencing the comparable passing of time by the physical experience of the work.
The Montessori Clock helps students to make concrete the measurement of time, by applying the same models of counting and grouping numbers to a physical clock they can manipulate and explore. While the idea of a clockface that only includes numbers from 1 to 12 doesn't make a lot of sense to a young child, the ability to measure hours by minutes, and to count those minutes off as multiples of 5, is in keeping with their other math experiences. They can understand the ways in which a quarter hour or half hour represent fractions of time. The Montessori clock, then, helps children to understand why the difference between 6 and 8 on the clock, then, can be either ten minutes or two hours, and why we call 5:30, "Half passed," or 7:45, "a quarter to..." They can explore when things are likely to happen, and build upon their understanding of sequence to connect the real, concrete activities of their day to the abstract way we measure and label those.
Learning to "tell time," is a complicated skill for children. The Montessori Clock, like all our Montessori materials, breaks that skill down into its included parts, making it accessible to children and open to their exploration.
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna