This is a collection of resources that speak in some way about scientific pedagogy: the method that underlies the Montessori approach. Talks include how learning about the brain (neuroscience) can inform your Montessori practice and how Montessorians can refresh or refine their practice. All of these were created by or feature Julia Volkman, Maitri Learning's founder.

 A Scientific Approach to Early Language


A scientific approach to early language learning article


This is an article Julia wrote for Mind Brain Ed's ThinkTank magazine. In a nutshell, it presents the big picture of the Montessori approach to early language learning with a little bit of research sprinkled in. The article explains how literacy develops follow five key steps:

  1. Spoken Language: Create an internal dictionary and practice using the words in it
  2. Phonemic Awareness: Learn to hear the sounds within words
  3. Letter-Sound Knowledge: Learn the symbols of an alphabetic language and the sounds that each makes
  4. Creating Words (Writing): Learn to put those sounds/symbols together to make words
  5. Reading: Learn to decode those sounds/symbols to decipher words

You can read the full article and learn more about this amazing group of language educators. The magazine was first created by the Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG) in the Japan Association of Language Teaching. Their overarching goal is to bring the neuroscience of learning to the practical method of teaching language. They are a great example of what a small group of interested people can do when they pull together.

Montessori & Neuroscience

This is a little video Julia put together to support the Montessori teacher residency at Libertas Public Montessori School in Memphis, TN. The administration and faculty there are just doing an amazing job working in a high poverty area.

Chat with Julia & Lindsay from KOTESOL

Lindsay Herron, Director of KOTESOL (Korean Organization for Teaching English as a Second Language), interviewed Julia on pedagogy, neuroscience, life-work balance, and all kinds of fun topics relevant for educators from all walks of life.

Stress and the Bilingual Brain

This is the talk Julia recorded in preparation for the virtual Japanese Association of Language Teaching (JALT)/TESOL conference in June of 2020. We were supposed to hold this live in Kyoto, Japan but, like everyone, ended up being online. You can see the actual conference presentation on the TESOL website (TESOL/JALT Virtual Symposium on Mind, Brain, and Language Education).


Learning in the Brain: Oversimplified

This is the talk Julia recorded in preparation for the opening session of the JALT/TESOL conference (see Stress and the Bilingual Brain below for details). She was limited to 4 minutes so couldn't look at dendritic branching, long-term potentiation, the role of attention, how working memory consolidates to long-term memory, or many other key topics. This is just a teaser to wet your whistle and get you interested in learning more about the brain. Enjoy!

Graduate Thesis (Harvard University)-Scaffolds and Spelling in Preschool: Using a Movable Alphabet to Measure Early Literacy

In this research study, Julia studied 78 preschoolers using the Montessori movable alphabet. Results demonstrate that young children can phonetically spell words with the alphabet more effectively than they can via handwriting. View the complete study here.

Mind, Brain, & Education: A Crash Course for Teachers

This is the video I was asked to present at the Japanese Association of Language Teacher's (JALT) conference offered by their special interest group Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). It's focus is on learning in general and online adult learning in particular.

Spoken Language Presentations & Practice

Melrose Montessori School was kind enough to let us record and post a webinar we offered on spoken language. With just a few staff members present, we walked through some key information on spoken language and then dove right into presenting and practicing a few lessons. This may be useful for parents and all members of schools with preschool-aged children. Administrators and support staff may find it especially helpful (giving ideas on what to do during transitions). For more information on spoken language, check out our pedagogy blog posts on sound games, natural conversations, spoken language basics, and spoken language detailed lessons.

Reading & Dyslexia

Here is an overview of how reading works in the brain and a little insight into the many variations of dyslexia. I shared this with my students in the Neuroscience of Learning Course (Harvard University Extension School) and they found it useful.


Who was Maria Montessori?

Here is a brief history of the beginnings of the Montessori movement. This was recorded for the Neuroscience & the Classroom course (created by the Annenberg Foundation together with the Harvard Science Media Group).

Research on Neuroplasticity

Julia's friend Nikita Matsunaga, Ph.D. (chemistry professor at LIU) was asking her about how exactly the brain changes when people master new knowledge or skills. Do the neural pathways get thicker/stronger? Well, kind of. There are physical and chemical changes that take place. For example, you'll get complex dendritic branching (so there are more physical synapses linking neurons) and you'll get more receptor sites (so neurotransmitters can be more likely to trigger an action potential). Anyway, if you are curious about this topic, here is some research on neuroplasticity originally compiled for the Neuroscience of Learning course that I help teach at Harvard (Extension School). Have fun exploring!

Preschool Parent Orientation: Brain Development and Why you care 

For several years, Julia worked with Zanetti public Montessori school in Springfield, MA to start and run a student and family orientation program. It was such a success that teacher's continue to donate two days of their prep time each August to keep it going. This is a low quality recording of the parent talk focusing on brain development and what it means for the child at home/parenting. Read more about the program and find a link to the logistics part of the talk as well as the slide deck in our pedagogy blog.


Neuroscience & the Classroom: The Montessori Approach

This clip discusses some of the science supporting the Montessori approach. (Disclaimer: There are pedagogical errors in the classroom footage. Do not use these as your exemplars!) The clip is just one in a much larger program created by the Annenberg Foundation. Take the whole course online for free here.

Neuroscience & the Classroom: Dynamic Skill Theory

Here is another clip from the Annenberg course. Here we look at how the Montessori method allows children to apply their knowledge over and over again as they build towards mastery. (Disclaimer: There are pedagogical errors in the classroom footage. Do not use these as your exemplars!)

Montessori Dynamic Skill Theory

Montessori & Neuroscience

The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) of Spain group brought me all the way to Girona, Spain (an ancient, walled city north of Barcelona...go visit!) to give this talk. Here is an audio recording of the talk I made to practice the night before we flew out. I was a little sleepy but you can still get the gist of it. May it be useful. 



Neuroscience and Conference Presentations

This is a Research Poster I presented by at the 2013 International Montessori Congress in Portland, OR. Awesome time!

The Neuroscience of Normalization

The South Carolina Montessori Association (SCMA) invited me to give this talk. They have an amazing organization in that state and are making tremendous strides in public Montessori. They also treated me like a queen: no shortage of southern hospitality! They are wonderful examples of grace & courtesy in action.

Parent Orientation

These parents were required to come into the school for preschool screening. Their children had 1-on-1 time with their teacher while the parents were stuck with me :) Instead of focusing on Montessori pedagogy, I focus on neuroscience as the door opener. People tend to listen when you talk about science/data. After 4 years, we have excellent attendance and returning parents (for younger siblings) who remember what was said before!


Special Needs: Brain-based strategies for working with the inherent variability of humans

This talk provides a brief, brain-based perspective on how humans learn, touches on the inherent variability of humanity, and goes into more detail on both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dyslexia is touched upon as well. This talk arose from my work and studies at Harvard University (Extension School) in the field of Mind, Brain, Health, and Education. ​


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