Maria Montessori introduced Grace and Courtesy lessons after observing children’s need for order and to satisfy the desire to be successful participants in their social environment. She said, “A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises of grace and courtesy, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.”
Examples of grace and courtesy lessons in a Montessori classroom include many things, from care of self and care of the environment to learning the kind and gracious way to handle all manner of situations. Children around the age of three are interested in and inclined towards social interactions. In Montessori, we call this a “sensitive period.” The preschool years from 2 1/2 to 6 are the perfect time to emphasize the teaching of grace and courtesy; during these years children have social receptivity to the learning of manners.
Lessons in Grace and Courtesy are designed to help children adapt to social environments. These lessons assist children in their social development and independence and give them self-confidence in how to behave in a social environment. They also serve to help children be aware of and respect the needs of others.
In the Montessori classroom, the first lessons of Grace and Courtesy help children to realize that the world does not revolve around them. Children become less self- centered. Grace and Courtesy lessons isolate the specific courtesy and each child takes turns practicing the lessons. Some of the lessons include showing how to greet one another, how to speak in turn, how to eat or drink properly, how to knock at a door and wait, and how to pass in front of someone.
Lessons are given either in small groups or individually, and often involve role playing. The teacher takes advantage of the many opportunities that present themselves throughout the day. As we know, children are keen observers of their environments, including the adults and other children around them, and they naturally take on being kind and courteous, especially as the older children so wonderfully model good behavior.
Parents are the first and most important teachers of proper manners. Although social interaction in a school situation is different from that at home, parents play an essential part in preparing children for their social life outside the home. Many opportunities arise in family life including social interactions with friends and extended family. Children delight in using their best manners. This gives self-confidence and poise. Learning how to behave in social situations will benefit children for a lifetime. I encourage you to be sensitive yourself, and to find opportunities to use good manners – I promise your children will love it!
Blog post written by: Beckey Chastain, Primary Directress at CMS