The Montessori Method is based on the premise that the child wants to learn, and where independence and order is key. The Montessori Method believes that a child will learn naturally if put in an environment containing the proper materials.
The child is treated and respected as an individual and allowed to learn and explore under the guidance of a non-intrusive teacher.
The child is provided with a choice of work areas and is not bound by time to explore a certain area. This freedom allows the child to develop concentration for long periods of time and instils in him/her a great sense of self-esteem and confidence when an activity is completed.
Thus, the freedom to learn and explore, the self-confidence developed, and happiness derived in being respected and treated as an individual, all makes learning a joyful experience and makes the child to naturally want to learn more.
Montessori Classrooms are called the "Prepared Environment" which includes the concepts of individual freedom in the context of classroom order and structure. The Montessori environment is carefully prepared to meet and respect the intellectual, emotional, and physical needs of each child.
All the material is child size and arranged very carefully in an inviting matter to attract the attention and curiosity of the child.
The materials are arranged based on the following areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language Arts, Mathematics and Cultural Subjects.
A typical Montessori Environment will have children working with materials by themselves in a quiet manner. In a corner of the room, a teacher would be giving a presentation for a group of children on a new material or assisting a child with his/her material.
The Montessori Method differs from the Traditional Method of teachings in four different ways:
Montessori Environment or classroom
The Montessori Method emphasizes that children are taught through “touch and feel” using materials which provide the child with the ability to discriminate physical dimension, provide self-correction and teach coordination unlike the Traditional Method of education that focuses on books, charts, and instructions from the teachers.
Children can freely move around in the environment, work on materials of his/her choice and talk freely if they are not disturbing other children rather than sitting at a desk, working on the material chosen by the teacher.
The Montessori Method allows child to choose the material to work and does not impose a time limit on how long a child can work on a material unlike the Traditional Method. This allows for child to master a material before he/she moves on.
In the Montessori Method, the child is responsible for his/her actions and is involved in purposeful learning of a concept or idea of his/her choice. With the freedom to learn, naturally comes responsibility – which automatically enforces discipline. In the Traditional Method, the teacher enforces the discipline, in the Montessori method, the discipline is internal.
Role of Teacher
In the Montessori Method, the role of the teacher is passive and serves as a guide for the children; the children choose the material or concept he/she wants to work on as opposed to the Traditional Method where the teacher plays an active role and sets the direction of the class and selects the material for the child to work on.
The Montessori Teachers build an atmosphere of calm and order and encourages children in all their efforts. With younger children, the Montessori Teacher plays a little more active role presenting activities but maintains a balance as to when to intervene and when to allow the children to explore.
Mixed Age Group
The Montessori Method requires that the environment or classroom consists of mixed age group of children which allow the younger children to learn from elder ones just like siblings do. The elder children act as teaching assistants and take on a mentorship role for the younger ones. This is quite different from the Traditional Method which insists on single age for all children in a class.
Maria Montessori was born in Italy, in 1870 and became the first female physician in Italy in 1896. In 1904, she was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome. During this time, she was drawn to observe how children learn. In 1906 she gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents who were disadvantaged or had special needs in the San Lorenzo district of Rome.
She established Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House”. She noticed the children’s effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, as well as their tireless interest in manipulating materials. She then started developing and manipulating the materials further to enhance the children’s ability to learn and began documenting her observations.
These observations were documented and led to the creation of the Montessori Method. She spent the remaining part of her life writing, lecturing, and teaching others about her methods. She has inspired a renaissance in the field of education that is unparalleled to this day. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times—in 1949, 1950, and 1951.
She died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.
If you have siblings at home, you will notice that the younger ones learn quickly from older ones. This is natural. Dr. Maria Montessori observed this behaviour and reasoned that this behaviour is exhibited because children relate to each other better. Thus, the typical Montessori Environment would comprise of children in different age groups. The older children would act as assistant teachers and mentors. The younger children also learn the academic and social behaviour much quicker due to this setup.
The Montessori Method provides freedom and choices of learning, enabling children to feel, understand; experiment and explore. With so much emphasis on freedom and exploration, the children can explore the environment, talk to other children, and teach other children just like an adult. Hence the child feels responsible and respected. The child knows his limits and learns in due course that if he/she is not a disturbance and behaviour is acceptable to the group, the child can explore whatever material or equipment he/she likes. If a teacher feels that a child is not coming around on his own and tends to be stuck on one material or equipment, the teacher intervenes and presents the child with other options.
The Montessori Teacher presents materials and use of equipment to a child or group of children when they are ready or express interest in learning how to use the material or equipment. After the initial presentation, the Teacher becomes an observer and guide. The materials are usually self-correcting and easy to know if a particular step done was right or wrong. After the initial presentation, the children are welcome to use the material or equipment at any time they want to do so. Repetitive use of the material enables children to master the material.
The Montessori Method believes in the philosophy of freedom to explore. When the mind explores, the most important thing required is concentration without any distractions. When the child does this for long period of time, the child begins to have focus. To develop these skills, the Montessori Method encourages only one child to work on a material till he/she feels satisfied.
After this stage is reached, sharing becomes natural as the need to work on the material is automatically decreased. At this point, the child who has mastered this material, not only shares, but also teaches other children learning the material.
The Montessori Curriculum believes that a child will be reading and writing at the age of 5. The Montessori Method prepares the child academically and socially. Children out of Montessori schools usually exhibit a great deal of concentration and has a tremendous amount of confidence. Their ability to break large problems into small ones and understand concepts and think out of the box will ensure that they have solid fundamentals that would allow them to have a strong footing when they enter private or public elementary schools.
Dr. Maria Montessori first worked with group of sixty young children of working parents who were disadvantaged or had special needs in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. From this experience she developed the Montessori method and created the Montessori materials. When these “disadvantaged” children used her materials, some of the children actually surpassed the “normal” children in traditional schools. Thus, Dr. Maria Montessori began questioning the teaching techniques of Traditional Schools. Dr. Maria Montessori thus designed materials that could be used by “normal” children which would further open up the process of learning allowing “normal” children to scale to greater heights.