The Montessori Method has been around for a while and is beloved all around the world. This education method provides a prepared environment for the child: A place that’s organized but still appealing visually. It utilizes elements that are realistic and simple. Everything that’s there is there for a reason: to help with the development of the child.
A classroom following this method involves children of different ages, grouped in three-year periods. This construct is necessary for promoting respect, socialization, and solidarity among the children naturally.
The prepared environment gives children the chance to focus on something that’s personally interesting to them. This means that they will freely be motivated to concentrate on the activities without interruption. Because of this voluntary choice and interest, the child “lives” harmoniously with other children in the classroom, which becomes their own tiny society.
By working with tangible materials that were carefully handpicked and designed for a Montessori class, children are given the opportunity to discover the world and learn basic cognitive skills naturally. The said materials let them identify errors on their own, which is important in fostering self-responsibility in terms of learning among themselves.
The role of the adult (teacher) is that of both a guide and an observer. He/she assists and stimulates the children, motivating them to act, think, and want on their own. This mindset helps in creating confidence and self-discipline.
The Montessori Method spans all periods of education. It can start from birth up to 18 years of age. It offers an integrated curriculum.
A Brief History of the Montessori Method
It all began in 1906 when Dr. Maria Montessori was invited to form a childcare center in the poor Roman district of San Lorenzo. This was, of course, she has established her credibility and name as an educator, scientist, physician, and a frequent judge in international competitions (on experimental psychology and scientific pedagogy). She proceeded to work with San Lorenzo’s most underprivileged and unschooled kids.
Casa Dei Bambini (Children’s House) opened on January 6, 1907. Dr. Montessori was motivated to make the center a center of a high-quality educational facility for the children — a lot of whom previously regarded as “unable to learn”.
As expected, the children were disorderly at first. But with her guidance in utilizing tools such as puzzles, they began to show interest in learning new skills and disciplines. Soon, they learned how to prepare their meals and tidy up their environment, all through hands-on learning instructions. Dr. Montessori saw that through this practice, children became more calm, focused, and peaceful, with an inner sense of care for the people and the environment around them. They soaked in new knowledge from this environment, teaching themselves in the process.
Through the use of observation and hands-on experience, Dr. Montessori continued to design learning materials for the children. A lot of these materials are still utilized in the Montessori classrooms of today, catering to children’s innate desire to learn.
The prepared environment that we mentioned earlier is one that’s open, neat, spacious, visually pleasant, simple, and real. Every single thing and element has a function and a purpose — to help with the child’s development. It should also be proportional to the height and size of the children, i.e., for toddlers and younger kids, the shelves should be lower and the tables and chairs should be the right size. Children must be able to sit on individually or in groups.
The area is organized into themes, with different spaces for different functions. Relevant and related bibliography and materials should be accessible and exposed on the shelves, letting kids check them out and explore freely. They can work on their own or in groups, giving respect to their own learning style and pace. Every kid can pick the material he/she prefers by getting it from the shelf and returning it back to its place afterward so others can use it.
This environment is designed to foster independence in discovery and learning. By giving them freedom, self-discipline follows, making it possible for each child to find activities that are best-suited to their evolutionary needs.
The classrooms are grouped in age brackets: 3 years old and younger, 3 to 6 years old, 6 to 9 years old, and 9 to 13 years. As a result, we get mixed-age classrooms that promote natural and spontaneous group dynamics, cooperation, respect, and desire to learn, through teaching one’s self and others.
Materials in a Montessori classroom are concrete and tangible, designed with experimentation in mind. These cater to the children’s diverse and individual interests while giving consideration to their current evolutionary stage. The principle lies in the belief that by handling tangible items, they can develop abstract thinking and knowledge.
These materials let kids play detective and scientist, exploring in their own inquisitive and independent way. Repetition is encouraged, which fosters focus. By isolating the challenges, where one of the materials introduces a novel and unique concept or variable (while the rest are left as they were original), the children are able to learn about errors. This “control of error” allows the materials to reveal themselves to the child when they are used correctly or incorrectly. Through this process, kids learn that mistakes are part of the normal learning process and they gain a positive attitude about errors.
The Montessori curriculum is designed to foster order, concentration, coordination, and independence in the child as soon as they step into the classroom. The outline of the room, the materials in it, and the kids’ routines daily all exist to promote the ability to teach oneself (self-regulation), whether they are toddlers or teenagers.
The lessons are also laid out in a sequence that aligns well with – and even exceeds – current learning standards. This makes sure that the learners are exposed to hands-on experiences that lead to complex learning concepts, with deep understanding as the end goal.
Instead of year-by-year school cycles, the curriculum is designed into three-year cycles. This is intended to acknowledge the fact that each child learns, develops, and masters academics at different paces. In real life, kids usually work in specific content areas in bursts and spurts. The teachers support their growth in different areas to guarantee that they are exposed to the entirety of the curriculum’s lesson sequence, providing guidance as necessary.
Each classroom is centered on the child. The learning activities are presented to each child individually, letting them progress at their own speed. The children are afforded opportunities to practice, review, or advance based on their individual capabilities and interests. They own their learning and are taught the importance of accountability for their knowledge.
Children are assessed by teachers every day, based on individual observations of the child’s interactions with other children and with their environment. The teacher aims to create an environment that stimulates the children physically, emotionally, socially, and academically. The learning plans are individualized for each child depending on his/her abilities and interests, allowing them to seek out new knowledge on their own.