Montessori is a comprehensive approach to education with the fundamental belief that a child learns best within a social environment that supports and respects each individual's unique development. The Montessori environment contains specially designed sensorial "materials for development". Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, thereby cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Montessori's Guiding Principles
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
- Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
- Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials.
What makes a Montessori education unique?
The primary goal of a Montessori program is to help each student reach his or her full potential in all areas of life. Activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The curriculum, under the direction of a specially trained teacher, allows students time to experience the joy of learning,
develop self-esteem, and provides experiences from which students construct their own knowledge.
Montessori teachers present lessons to individuals or small groups of students and limit lessons to brief and very clear presentations. The goal is to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will independently explore, practice, and master the lessons.
Mixed Age Groupings
Montessori classrooms are organized to encompass a three-year developmental span with each program designed to address the characteristics of that stage. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning.
The three-year span in each program allows more experienced children to share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation – and language experiences – in the Montessori classroom.
The Role of the Teacher
Montessori teachers typically work with one, two or small groups of students at a time, advising, presenting a new lesson, or quietly observing the class at work. Teachers closely monitor each student's progress. Working with each student for two or three years, they come to know students' strengths and weaknesses, interests and personalities extremely well.
The Montessori teacher functions as a designer of the environment, resource person, role model, demonstrator, record-keeper, and meticulous observer of each student.
Level of Student Independence
Students can be found working in all areas of the classroom, be it alone or in small or large groups. Students are given clear expectations, correct procedures, and a formal system to help keep track of what has been accomplished and what needs to be completed.
Preparation of the Environment
Montessori classrooms are organized into several curriculum areas, including: language arts (reading, literature, grammar, creative writing, spelling and handwriting); mathematics and geometry; everyday living skills; geography, history, science, art, music, and movement. Each area is made up of a wide variety of materials on open display, ready for use as the students are ready for them.
The whole learning environment – the classroom, materials and social climate – is designed to facilitate exploration by the child and the growth of responsibly independent learners.
Creativity and imagination are nurtured in a Montessori atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Students, from toddler to teenager, are able to learn and express themselves in very individual ways.
Music, art, storytelling, movement and drama are integrated throughout the curriculum. When information is processed in an active, musical, or artistic way—such as with graphs, posters, drawings, mapmaking, songs, and performance—the knowledge becomes permanent and strengthens the creative part of the brain.
"One can pass quite close to the child and yet not see him."
—Dr. Maria Montessori