Pre-Reading Activities

There is nothing as beautiful as the sound of a young child speaking. They are just learning how to articulate, choose the words that make sense, and put those words together in a logical order. It is easy to want them to stay that precious forever! But of course, our job is to prepare them for life and aid their developing independence. But how do we do that and when? 

The truth is that young children (before age six) are in a sensitive period for language development. They are eager and interested not only in learning the names of everything they see, but also in learning what the heck those little squiggly lines (you know, the ones we look at when we read) are all about!  When they are as young as 2.5 to 3 years old, they become keenly interested in learning to distinguish all the sounds within every word, the sounds that letters make, and how those sounds fit together. 

So, the time is ripe to support their natural interest! Just as when they were younger, we continue to offer them the best spoken language possibilities we can by reading aloud together, reciting tongue twisters and poems, singing, telling stories, listening to music, and more. But, as children grow, they can also benefit from specific materials designed to not only build their vocabulary, but to inspire them to express their thoughts.

April 08, 2023 by Julia Volkman

What is a Montessori Material?

fruit 3-part reading cards

We hear a lot of talk about the Montessori materials, but what exactly are those materials? How do we determine if something "qualifies" as Montessori or not? 

There is actually a list of characteristics that must be considered when creating a Montessori material. Dr. Montessori developed this list because she knew that science is always advancing. The materials she developed in the early 1900s would necessarily need to evolve as our understanding of the world and human development grew.

March 28, 2023 by Julia Volkman

Montessori Research Pool!!

Do you want more high-quality research on Montessori? The Montessori Research Pool can help! Through a collaborative effort, a new, University-based Montessori Research Pool has been created.

How to be included

If you are interested in participating in Montessori research, you can become part of the Montessori Research Pool by filling out this form! We are looking for Montessorians from all walks of life, with or without a training credential. If you are involved in Montessori in some way, we'd love to include you!

Note: Signing up does not mean you will be included in a research study; it just gives researchers a way to contact you and request your participation. You can opt-out at any time.

Why we need this

There is a tremendous need for more high-quality Montessori research. The Montessori Research Pool will allow researchers to find a broad range of participants that precisely match their study’s focus (e.g., parents, homeschoolers, people working with dementia, early childhood, adolescence, in public/private schools, administrators, etc.). 

How you can help spread the word

qr code for the Montessori research pool

Please include this sign-up link in your communications and share the QR code in your presentations. Together, we can create the foundations researchers need to delve deeper into the Montessori method!


The database will be managed by the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Researchers can gain access to the database by presenting their ethics board (IRB) approval to the University.

Interested researchers should contact  

March 20, 2023 by Julia Volkman

The Planes of Neurodevelopment

At the AIMS (Association of Illinois Montessori Schools) conference this past weekend, I was honored to meet with about 500 educators and administrators and teach about where Dr. Montessori's theory on the planes of development meets our current understanding of neurodevelopment.

julia speaking about the sensitive periods

The weather was a bit tentative for travel before I left, so I pre-recorded my talk in case the snow and ice prevented me from physically making it there. Luckily, my travels went smoothly but since I had this recorded anyway, I figured I might as well share it with you!

The key stages of child development in Dr. Montessori's view are divided as follows:

February 26, 2023 by Julia Volkman

Matching Cards in Action

sports equipment matching cards

Okay, it's true, I'm always giving the children in my life Maitri Learning materials as gifts. This Thanksgiving, when 18 of us gathered at my sister's house, I gave my great-nephew Edison the Sports Equipment Matching cards lovingly housed in our cerulean blue two-pocket cloth pouch (yes, blue is his favorite color). And, of course, we played with them a lot!

Edison is 4-years-old and is very interested in learning the names of everything. He was really curious when I first gave these cards to him. He immediately opened the pouch and started taking them out. Then he became 100% focused on trying to remember the names of the ones he knew and learn the names of the ones he didn't. And that, just as Dr. Montessori taught us, is the first step: vocabulary comes before the matching work. 

February 13, 2023 by Maitri Sales

All the ways to teach vocabulary

all the ways to teach vocabulary in Montessori

There is a long history of research looking into the importance of spoken language as foundational for learning to read and write. But, this isn't just about reading literacy, it's also about social cognition and connection. This is backed up both by science of reading research and by neurobiological research (Hong et al., 2018; Marks et al., 2019; McBride-Chang, et al., 2005; Romeo, et al., 2018; Rueckla et al., 2015; Zoll, Feinberg, & Saylor, 2023). 

So, it is a clear priority of all of us who work with young children to intentionally focus on developing their vocabulary, background knowledge, and spoken language capacity. But, outside of Montessori environments and the world of specialists (like speech language pathologists), there is very little explicit work done with children to develop vocabulary. 

This is a vast oversight that we can rectify quite simply. Here is some guidance from our Language Teacher Education Album⁠ on what we can do.

February 05, 2023 by Julia Volkman

THE Interview (part 2): Paula Lillard Preschlack on The Montessori Potential

Here it is, the second video recording my amazing interview with author Paula Lillard Preschlack! In this second in the series video, we talk about:

montessori interview paula lillard preschlack
  • The Eight Character Traits that we are striving to develop in our children.
  • How we can help children RE-engage and deal with the overwhelming sense of helplessness they feel as the burden of the future is placed on their shoulders
  • How do we tell the difference between when a child is repeating something and we're not sure if it's skillful or unskillful? How does it come into play with our work with families?
February 01, 2023 by Julia Volkman

Podcast: How Current Brain Research Shapes Our Work in the Montessori Classroom

greenspring center for lifelong learning

Julia was absolutely thrilled to chat with her old friend and inspiring Montessori leader, Tamara Balis. They recorded another episode for the Greenspring Center for Lifelong Learning's podcast.

This podcast takes some of the everyday experiences we have with young children and connects them with neurodevelopment. We speak about:

January 19, 2023 by Julia Volkman

THE Interview (part 1): Paula Lillard Preschlack on The Montessori Potential

julia volkman interview with paula lillard preschlack

What is it like to grow up in a famous Montessori family and then work in a best-in-class Montessori school for 25 years? You can learn all the ins and outs in Paula's new book, The Montessori Potential, which is coming out in a few weeks.

Paula and I had a fantastic talk recently getting into what Montessori theory looks like in real life both at home (parenting) and in schools (teaching). This video is the first in the series recording that conversation. In this first in the series video, we talk about:

  • Growing up as a Lillard (yes, she's Angelline's baby sister and Paula Polk Lillard's daughter)
  • What does it really mean to be "Montessori" and do we have a branding problem?
  • How did she evolve as a Montessori leader and author?
  • How does observation influence our work as parents and educators?
  • Common mistakes that parents make in understanding what our children are really showing us
January 17, 2023 by Julia Volkman

The Montessori/Dwyer Language Approach for Early Childhood

Montessori Dwyer language program

Dr. Montessori originally developed her method for helping children learn Italian, a completely phonetic language. But it was Muriel Dwyer who used that method to tackle the complexities of non-phonetic languages like English and Swahili. Muriel Dwyer was a brilliant AMI Teacher Trainer who worked extensively in both London and Africa (in the Swahili language). 

The Dwyer approach is founded in the traditional AMI language approach but has a few key adjustments. Here are the big ones: 

January 03, 2023 by Maitri Sales