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Executive Functioning
and the Montessori Work Plan

In a Montessori classroom, the development of executive functioning skills and self-directed learning is intricately woven into the fabric of the educational approach. Maria Montessori believed that children learn best when they are actively engaged in their own learning process and have the freedom to explore and make choices within a carefully prepared environment. This approach fosters the growth of executive functioning skills, such as decision-making, managing time, organizing thoughts, initiating tasks, staying focused, regulating emotions, and solving problems, all of which are essential for academic success and lifelong learning. Classrooms at Wellan, from Beginners through Middle School, are designed to support students in developing these skills in a scaffolded, age-appropriate way.


One of the key elements in Montessori classrooms that promotes executive functioning and self-directed learning is the prepared classroom environment. Classrooms at Wellan are carefully designed with age-appropriate materials and activities that encourage children to explore, make choices, and engage in purposeful work. Materials are designed to be self-correcting, allowing children to learn from their own mistakes and develop problem-solving skills. In Beginner and Primary environments, students have the freedom to select the materials they would like to work with, and teachers support them in making appropriately challenging choices.


As students move into Elementary, they are introduced to a work plan as an additional tool to help them make purposeful work choices. A work plan is a personalized schedule or list of activities that a child plans to work on during a specific time period, usually a day or a week. Students meet with their advisor, who is one of their classroom teachers, once a week to create a list of tasks they need to complete in a given week. From this list, they can independently create a daily work plan that reflects their goals and priorities for the week. This process helps the child practice setting reasonable goals, prioritizing tasks, managing time, and tracking progress.


Allowing children to set their learning goals within the framework of a work plan fosters a sense of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Setting and accomplishing goals are essential aspects of executive functioning, as they require planning, monitoring progress, and adjusting strategies if necessary. Students work closely with their advisors to ensure they are balancing their workload, effectively tackling long-term assignments, and prioritizing based on due dates.

As students progress through the Elementary program and into the Voyager middle school program, they become increasingly independent with the work planning process. They are capable of more complex long-term planning processes and even fine-tuning the work plan structure itself to ensure it best fits their learning style and organizational approach. We have heard from many of our Voyager alumni that they feel confident and well-equipped to manage the increasing workload expectations of high school because of all the experience they have had with using and refining their work plans during their time at Wellan. 

Montessori classrooms empower students to become independent, self-motivated learners. By fostering executive functioning skills such as organization, time management, and goal setting through the use of tools like work plans, we equip children with essential life skills that prepare them for future success in academics and beyond.

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