The name Montessori usually refers to the educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician. Dr. Montessori observed that all children were driven by inherent tendencies which expressed themselves particularly intensely at certain ages — for example: exploration, communication, movement, and a desire for self-perfection. She developed a plan of education that would respect and follow the child’s inner guide to development and work in harmony with the child’s own natural tendencies towards independence and learning.
Basic subjects such as language, math, history, geography, biology, chemistry, geometry, music, and art are introduced in Montessori classes first in the 3-6 programs. Elementary students, by nature, want more answers to life's questions. The "how, where, what and when" questions are expanded into their environment and beyond. They want to classify, group, and get control of their world. The elementary curriculum incorporates that explosion into knowledge from questions with materials that name, classify, and redefine the natural world in which the child has joined.
NO. Although there are Montessori schools all over the world, all Montessori schools are not alike. Dr. Montessori’s vision for children spread so quickly that soon the name “Montessori” became part of the public domain and could not be given a copyright. Differences in the quality of teacher-training, school standards, and adherence to the Montessori philosophy all affect the quality of a Montessori school. Schools may be organized and governed very differently, and this too can affect what you see in the program itself.
The 3 - 6 year old classroom contains what we consider 5 different areas of learning (although they are well integrated in the experience of the children)— practical life, sensorial development, language, mathematics, and cultural studies (geography, art, music, etc.). The children receive individual and small group lessons in each of these areas and are free to work with these activities at any time. Sprinkled throughout the day are little gatherings where the children might sing songs, read a story, or celebrate a birthday or seasonal holiday. The focus is on helping the children to choose activities that are of interest to them, building a feeling of community among the children, and supporting their natural curiosity and love of learning.
The elementary classroom contains all the typical subjects other schools may have but they are interwoven together and have practical applications as opposed to just simply answering questions on a worksheet. Each day the children enjoy having time to socialize and then begin working both independently or with a friend. The students complete work they have been working on over time or begin a new venture. Later in the day time is spent enjoying a healthy lunch brought from home and then taking some time to get fresh air outside. Physical activity is built into the day by allowing for movement as the child needs but outdoors there is time for spontaneous play as well as organized games and exercise. In the afternoon the students enjoy listening to a story and finishing up any work they may have been doing earlier in the day. Throughout the day the students share in the responsibilities of the school and classroom by loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking care of class pets, sweeping, doing the laundry (table linens and hand towels) and watering the plants.
Although entrance age varies in individual schools, a child can usually enter a Montessori classroom between the ages of two and one half and four, depending on when they can be happy and comfortable in a classroom situation. They will begin the simplest exercises based on activities which all children enjoy. The equipment which they use at three and four will help them to develop the concentration, coordination and working habits necessary for the more advanced exercises they will perform at five and six. The entire program of learning is purposefully structured. Therefore, optimum results cannot be expected for a child who misses the early years of this cycle, or for one who is withdrawn before they finish the basic materials described here.
If you want children to become responsible young adults they must have opportunities to practice at a young age. A mixed age group allows children of different ages and abilities to help each other and thus learn responsibility. In a mixed age class it is not always the teacher who solves problems. In fact more often it is not. Instead it is another child. This is not possible in a class with children all of the same age and abilities.
Since no two children grow and mature in exactly the same way the materials available to the children are varied and numerous. The proper activity for the right moment is there to be introduced to the child when he is ready or chosen by him as his interest dictate. Thus, no child is held back if his skills indicate a need to move on, nor is a child pressured to keep pace with skills he is not yet ready to master. The sensitive periods of each child can be capitalized upon in a multi-age classroom.
Another observation of Dr. Montessori’s, which has been reinforced by modern research, is the importance of the sensitive periods for early learning. These are periods of intense fascinations for learning a particular characteristic or skill, such as going up and down steps, putting things in order, counting, or reading. It is easier for the child to learn a particular skill during the corresponding sensitive period than at any other time in her life. The Montessori classroom takes advantage of this fact by allowing the child freedom to select activities which correspond to their own periods of interest.
This is a matter of philosophy, not economics. If you want children to become resourceful and responsible they must have opportunities to solve their own problems. The more adults in the class, the fewer opportunities for the children. The ratio we adhere to is what Maria Montessori found works best in well functioning classrooms. It was specifically established to allow the children to become independent and self-confident. One of the primary goals of a Montessori education is to guide children toward independence. For this reason, Montessori classrooms are deliberately larger than many other environments for young children, and include children of mixed ages working collaboratively with very little adult interference. Children in Montessori classrooms learn to work independently, to make intelligent choices based on their interests and abilities, and to rely on peers for help, encouragement and guidance.
It is our goal to have children internalize good behavior, not just respond to an adult. To do this we again are focused on respect, responsibility and resourcefulness. But children do not come to us with all of these qualities in place. When a child behaves in a manner that is unacceptable he is held accountable with a logical consequence, one that is related to the misbehavior.
For example, if a child chooses a particular material and is using it incorrectly, perhaps even damaging it, he will at first be redirected to use it appropriately. If this does not remedy the problem the child will be told to put the material away and may not be able to use it again for several days.
We do not use time outs. If a child is consistently running in the class endangering himself and others, he might be asked to stay with the teacher or to stay seated at a table. But this problem was related to movement, thus the consequence is the restriction of movement. This is not the same as the notion of a time out.
Our Montessori classroom has only one rule: to take care and be respectful of everyone and everything. If the rule were to be practiced by everyone, it would make for a more harmonious world. Our teachers are aware of the importance of self-discipline. They have robust enthusiasm for learning, a deep respect for all life, kindness, humor, gentleness and patience. The nature of the Montessori materials and activities, along with the freedom of the prepared environment, help the child to realize and develop his or her sense of self-direction, independence, confidence, cooperation and self-control.
Many parents ask how their child can make a successful transfer from Montessori to a conventional school. The habits and skills, which a child develops in a Montessori class, are good for a lifetime. They will help them to work more efficiently, to observe more carefully and to concentrate more effectively, no matter where they go. If they are in a stimulating environment, whether at home or at school, their self-education - which is the only real education - will continue.
Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they've been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. Once the child learns the ground rules to the classroom they adapt quite well.
They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings.
Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop good self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.
Traditional Approach to Education
Montessori Approach to Education
|Children grouped chronologically||Non-graded (two or three year age span)|
|Class seated at desks much of time||Students “work” at tables, group lessons on floor with freedom of movement|
|Class, as a group, studies one subject at a time||Children pursue their own self-paced curriculum, individually or in small groups, in various parts of environment|
|Class schedules and frequent interruptions limit child’s involvement||Long blocks of time and relatively few interruptions permit invaluable concentration|
|Postponement of cognitive development until first grade||Critical cognitive skills developed before age six|
|Basal readers (traditional “see and say”) or “whole language” (non-traditional “see and say”)||Phonetic-based, multi-sensorial; more flexible writing and reading opportunities|
|Teacher “corrects” pupils’ “errors”||Children learn from peers, self-correcting materials; teacher’s role as a guide|
|Children are different. Some can learn - others cannot||All children can learn. They are the same all over the world|
|No implicit trust and respect for every child||Implicit trust and respect for every child.|
|Teacher centered||Child centered|
|Teacher is transmitter of knowledge||Children learn through their own discovery and experience|
|Homogeneous grouping||Multiage grouping for community atmosphere|
|Answers are provided by teacher||Children correct themselves through control of error|
|Time periods allotted||No time restrictions|
|Some are held back, some are pushed ahead||Each child learns at his/her own pace|
|Children are dependent on the teacher||Children work independently|
|Teacher-directed with very little choice||Children are self-directed and make their own choice|
|Subjects are compartmentalized||Subjects are intertwined|
|Rewards and punishment (grades)||Self-motivation|
|Teacher acts as external enforcer of discipline||Prepared environment and method encourage self-discipline and personal responsibility|