In kindergarten as in elementary school, children often have a hard time finding their way around the week, the months and the time in general. Fortunately there is in the Montessori pedagogy a great tool to help the youngest to differentiate past, present and future: it is the timeline. It is in fact a linear calendar, a paper frieze to be completed as the days go by. But how do you actually use this tool? How does this help the child to find his way through time? To answer these questions, I explain in this article what the Montessori timeline is and how it works.
The Montessori timeline: principle and operation
In kindergarten, the Montessori timeline is also called ” time beam “. This tool takes the form of a calendar horizontal, except that the names of the days of the week are left blank, only the numbers appear.
Find your way through the week by completing the timeline daily
In kindergarten, the principle of operation of the time line is simple. 365 boxes are numbered, one for each day of the year. Since it is a calendar, the count is not made from 1 to 365 but from 1 to 30 for the month of September for example, then it starts again from 1 to 31 for October and so on.
Each day, the child is thus invited to stick the label bearing the name of the corresponding day of the week on the frieze. For older children or for those who are starting to read and identify sounds, we can ask to independently find the right label among those available.
By doing this work daily, the child gets better and better perceive the passing time and go gradually memorize the names of the days of the week. He sees concretely what belongs to the past (the labels already stuck on), where is today (the label that we stuck on during the day) and what has not yet happened (the boxes remained blank).
Identify the months and seasons in kindergarten using the time beam
With the timeline, the child will begin by differentiating the past day, the present day and the future days. Then he will integrate that it is organized according to an always identical rhythm of 7 days: the week. Once he has perceived this, we will be able to help him find his way in the month, then in the seasons to finally arrive at a whole year.
For each month, bands of different colors may appear along the line to help identify their lengths and durations. Certain timeless beams remain neutral, others incorporate decorations. For example, you can find fir trees and snowflakes throughout December or schoolbags throughout September. The idea is to allow the child to anticipate and to give him visual clues to know what will happen in the weeks or months to come. Thanks to these clues, he can also succeed in finding a past event.
Display a Montessori timeline
As we have seen, the Montessori timeline is relatively long since it has 365 cells. At home and at school, it is therefore necessary to anticipate the hardware installation of this tool.
Where to install the timeline at home or in the classroom?
The timeline is most often installed horizontally but it is also possible to create a vertical tool.
To make your choice, it is important to have in mind one essential thing: signage must be visible and accessible to all children concerned. In other words, we do not fix a time line 1.5 meters above the ground in a nursery class. The little ones should have it at least at eye level to properly observe it and succeed in attaching the day of the week labels to it or see you doing it.
It is also essential to maintain the characteristic which makes this calendar so special, in other words the fact that it is linear. The frieze is long and can therefore occupy an entire wall, or even more depending on the configuration of the room. This is precisely what allows the child to visualize the length of the months and the year. It would therefore be a shame to display the months one by one as you go, as with a classic calendar.
To save space, you can always install the strips horizontally one under the other instead of fixing them end to end along several walls. This solution allows you to install the complete frieze and optimize the available space.
What events to display on the timeline?
The timeline is more than just a calendar. It allows you to create a souvenir album throughout the year and also to anticipate certain important dates. We will therefore display several types of events along the line.
For help a child navigate the months and seasons, we can start by pasting small finds or memories as time passes. For example, we can display a photo taken during an outing or a dead leaf found in autumn. This helps the child to remember the different moments lived in the near past.
We will also help visualize upcoming events by fixing, for example, photos of family members or friends on their birthdays. To symbolize a departure on vacation, you can fix the image of a small parasol above the D-day. You also have the possibility of displaying the recurring outings such as the day of the races, a weekly sporting activity, etc. This allows the child to perceive the near future and to observe the regularity with which certain activities take place.
For facilitate locating between the start and the end of the week, we can finally choose to offer labels of different colors for weekend days. For example, Monday through Friday labels can be white and Saturday and Sunday labels gray.
The timeline after kindergarten
We can largely continue to use the post-kindergarten time beam, as long as it helps the child to find his way between past, present and future. Until elementary school, it is not uncommon to find children who still have trouble finding their way through the months and seasons. It is learning that is built over time. This tool was therefore still very useful at that time. As you grow up, however, you can make it evolve and offer to come and write the name of the day of the week on a daily basis instead of sticking a label. And you, do you use the timeline with your children?