The notion of task analysis is important for the Montessori teacher. This analysis breaks down every single lesson into a sequence of clear steps along with the timing that is important in introducing the steps. Largely this analysis is descriptive and practical in nature. Descriptive because the “steps” of each lesson are understood in terms of one’s own motor-sensory frame of reference. This is in contrast to an explanatory analysis that would break down the steps into all the various correlations and operations needed to explain the lesson. So, one would need to get into all the neurological, cellular, biochemical, biophysical, intellectual, rational, and moral operations involved in the lesson. This of course would be a grand undertaking and make teaching a lesson impossible in any practical sense. And so the practical enters the scene. The practical examines the steps, but then thinks through only those steps which would be difficult for the child(ren) in front of “me” to figure out the lesson. This vastly simplifies the nature of the analysis. One could for example realize that one’s arm needs to be lifted to a certain height, or maybe that one needs to stand up, but in this case, the child could already “see and do” those things, and really would remember these without any introduction. In such a case, one would not need to add it to the “tasks” that need to be highlighted to the child, with a 2 second delay before and after the task.
In addition to task analysis which breaks down the steps is synthesis. This is when one then puts the steps back together again with the right time and delays that would be important for children.
Both analysis and synthesis together allow the teacher to develop a large fund of possibilities regarding how one can “guide” any child. As well, one can then begin to see how lessons and materials are linked together, and one can do so with a fair amount of precision so that if a child is having difficult with steps X and Y in a lesson will be helped by carrying out simpler lessons that set the stage for doing X and Y. So for example, if a child is having difficult carrying a tray with a plate on it, then one might see how walking the line or walking through a room without bumping a table or how balancing something on one’s head could help the child. Similar connections arise when one begins examining every step involved in carrying out lessons in sandpaper letters or in tracing inset or linking phonemes to sounds and words in stories or in written form. The connections between materials and their lessons abound throughout a Montessori classroom.