Equipped with a better understanding of how young children learn, Montessori set out to clearly define a new method of educating children. Rather than the adult being the source of all information, she set out to create and equip an environment where the children could teach themselves and their classmates. These are the hallmarks of an authentic Montessori classroom.
A physical ENVIRONMENT designed to be accessible to the children
From the size of the chairs to the learning activities themselves, each component of a Montessori classroom is designed to create a “children’s house,” complete with everything a child needs in order to be an independent and successful learner.
Concrete, didactic, self-correcting MATERIALS
The Montessori materials are truly the stars of the classroom. From simple materials that introduce pouring grains and spooning beans to the more advanced materials that expand on complex mathematical principles, Montessori materials are designed to allow independent exploration of complicated concepts. Because the materials are carefully designed to match what we understand about children’s development, the concepts included often surpass the content we typically expect of young children.
A MULTI-AGE environment within which children typically spend three years
The mixed-age classroom allows children to learn from one another, to explore a variety of social roles in authentic ways, and to cycle through periods of extraordinary growth and reassuring rest. Over the course of three years (preschool through kindergarten), children are learners and teachers, leaders and followers, sometimes engaged in independent work and choosing to work with other children. By the end of the three year cycle, the child’s confidence, independence, and ability to collaborate with others reflects these invaluable experiences as part of a reliable community.
Specially educated TEACHERS
The teacher’s role in a Montessori classroom differs from that of a traditional educator. Montessori teachers are often called guides--they show a child how to use the materials or interact with their peers but then step back to allow the child the space to explore and discover independently. Montessori teachers also act as scientists in the classroom, carefully observing each child’s development to prepare an environment which is specifically responsive to the needs of the children it serves. They facilitate children’s curiosity by matching individual lessons to individual children.
CHILD-CENTERED rather than adult-directed curriculum
By carefully preparing the environment, equipping it with high-quality learning materials, and providing expert teachers, the Montessori curriculum can then be individualized to closely follow the interests of each child. Children choose materials which interest them and are also introduced to new materials when they are developmentally ready. The teacher observes each child carefully to determine that child’s readiness for new concepts and documents each child’s development to assure steady and balanced development.
Want to know more? Click here to read more about what makes a Montessori education so different from other models.