INTRODUCTION TO THE MONTESSORI METHOD OF EDUCATION
“Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.”
The heart of the Montessori philosophy is deep respect for the young child’s natural drive and competence for learning and the right to be treated as a unique individual.
Children learn best when the environment is child-centered and hands-on to support the child’s natural desire to learn. They learn by doing rather than being filled with facts. Instead of memorizing and reciting information by rote, children learn through self-chosen, hands-on materials that are carefully designed to attract their interest and develop real understanding of what they are learning.
Through her observations Dr. Montessori realized true mental work is not exhausting, but rather it invigorates the student as well as the teacher. Children are born with great potential and it’s the adult’s job to create an environment to stimulate the children’s curiosity, to allow them to make their own choices, and to satisfy their own needs as they work and learn.
A guiding principle is to “follow the child” to support independent learning. The trained lead teacher demonstrates the use of specially designed materials through individual or small group lessons; then the teacher remains in the background to allow the children to work independently without interference unless they are struggling. This allows them to experience the joy of discovery. Because they are genuinely focused, they are more likely to stay on task. Genuine engagement supports a sense of calm and behavior is positive.
Montessori classes include mixed ages. A three-year multi-age grouping sets the stage for success at every phase of development:
- First year is the year of introduction (the foundation)
- Second year is the year of practice
- Third year is the year of synthesis
The mixed-age composition of the group encourages the children to function as a mature micro society while at the same time developing their own individual characteristics. A Montessori “Primary class” includes children from 3 to 6 years old, including their kindergarten year.
Physical development and cognitive growth are linked. “Sensitive Periods” correspond to certain ages, i.e., those stages when a child’s interests and development are best suited to the acquisition of specific new skills and knowledge.
Children take care of their personal and hygiene needs and care for their classroom environment, such as handwashing, using the toilet independently, sweeping, cleaning up spills, etc.
Concentration, determination, and purpose established in early childhood leads to confident, successful learning in school and in life. The Montessori philosophy supports children to learn how to observe, think, and evaluate and experience the joy of learning.
You won’t see brightly colored plastic toys or replicas of real materials in a Montessori classroom. Rather, the children use real tools and specially designed materials made of natural materials such as wood, metal, stoneware and glass. Montessori materials aim to stimulate all five senses.
Some examples of Montessori materials (pictured above) include:
- beads arranged in graduated-number units for pre-mathematics instruction
- wooden materials designed to train the eye in left-to-right and top-to-bottom orientation for pre-reading
- graduated series of cylinders for small-muscle development and for matching sounds and scents
“Grace and Courtesy” is a cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy. Within every young child is the need for order. The initial lessons of Grace and Courtesy center on building the classroom community through learning how to get along with others. Trained teachers present lessons and model grace, courtesy and service. Children learn to be gracious, polite, empathetic and helpful. They learn how to fit in and participate in their group learning environment as well as the community.
The Montessori method discourages the traditional measurements of achievement, such as tests and grades. Instead, assessment is based on student portfolios and teachers’ observational data. Teachers help students to make improvements to reach the specified goals for knowledge and skills in each of the curricular areas.
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