Maria Montessori introduced the exercise in Grace and Courtesy as she observed a young child’s need for order. “Montessori education includes explicit instruction on social behavior in a part of the curriculum called Grace and Courtesy, which are on par with lessons in math, music, and language” (Lillard, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, 2007, p. 198). Children are highly observant. Young children, especially, have a need to know and absorb the social behaviors they observe around them to help them understand and ease themselves into the world around them. Grace and Courtesy lessons help him/her to have the vocabulary as well as the etiquette required to build confidence and awareness of those around them. These lessons assist the child in understanding how to politely navigate not only in the classroom and amongst his peers, but also out in the world.
Parents often comment on the respectful and polite behaviors they observe in the classrooms, amongst the teachers and the children. “How do you achieve this?” they ask. “We don’t use a magic potion or wave a magic wand,” I responded. “Part of a Montessori classroom are the lessons of Grace and Courtesy. These are lessons which give them the skills and help them learn respect, patience, and etiquette.”
Children in our Early Primary and Primary classrooms are at the perfect age to begin these lessons. This is the only time in a child’s life where they are not yet self-conscious. They are willing to try anything new and will easily incorporate new behaviors into their person.
Some of the lessons in grace and courtesy would be: encouraging the child to use eye contact when speaking to someone, putting your work away, carrying one item at a time, rolling a rug, pushing your chair under the table, moving a chair from one space to another, rolling a rug, walking around a rug (or another person’s work), respecting your classmate’s work, how to ask a classmate to respect your work, how to stand up and sit down properly, how to open and shut a door quietly, introductions, introductions using titles of respect, how to shake someone’s hand, listening politely to others, raising your hand when wanting to give an answer or make a comment during Line Time, excusing one’s self when passing in front of someone or passing through a narrow space, manners for coughing, yawning, sneezing, using your quiet voice in a classroom, waiting patiently to speak to your teacher or your friend, watching respectfully, serving one another a snack, offering something to a classmate, using the terms, “Yes, Thank You or No, Thank You, and many types of movement activities which are part of the Montessori exercises of “Walking on the Line, as well as the Montessori classic…the Silent Game.
Grace and Courtesy Lessons are given to all the children in the classroom, usually in a group lesson. This allows the children to have a clear understanding as well as having a perfect opportunity to practice his new etiquette skills with others. It is the teacher’s role to give her children the correct words, and the precise movements and steps. Our children’s minds are highly absorbent at this age and will fully absorb the how, the when, and the vocabulary used in his/her classroom to make life more pleasant. In this way our Montessori children gradually build the social skills of a polite society. As they are taught through activities which help them in their interaction with their peers they meet their inner need for self-development and as their space is respected, a sense of calm and purpose settles throughout the classroom. Children begin to build themselves from within while learning to treat themselves and others with respect and dignity. Hmmmmmmmmm! Maybe it is magic, after all!
Below are great examples of Grace & Courtesy in action: Table Manners, Walking on the Line,Greeting,Waiting Patiently,Tucking in a Chair&Rolling a Rug!