The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method of education is based on the educational philosophy and teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori. Born in Italy in 1870, Dr. Montessori became the first woman in Italy to be conferred with a medical degree. Through years of scientific observation of young children’s behaviour, Montessori developed her theory on education along with specialised educational materials. The first Montessori school opened in Rome in 1907 and today, Montessori schools are found throughout the world, educating children from birth to secondary school age.
What are the Main Components of the Theory?
Every child is a unique individual who deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. The child between birth and age six is a sensory explorer, studying every aspect of his/her environment, language and culture. During the first six years of life the child possesses a unique ability and ease to learn effortlessly from his/her environment.
Like a sponge, the child absorbs everything from the environment in which he/she is placed. Montessori called this type of mind the Absorbent mind. The young child goes through periods of learning during which they are particularly sensitive and interested in a particular aspect of the environment. We see these as windows of opportunity during which the child will learn with the greatest of ease. It is the job of the adult to meet the child’s interests at this time so as to optimize learning. Dr. Montessori called these periods of time Sensitive Periods. Children are given freedom of movement in the classroom. They may work with the activity of their choice wherever they wish. Children are given freedom to choose what activity they wish to work on and when. Independence is encouraged – We never do for a child something they can do for themselves. Each child learns at his/her own pace and is allowed to repeat an activity for as long as they wish to. Children are intrinsically motivated to learn.
There are no rewards or punishments. The child is given a certain amount of freedom within limits. The child is free to act appropriately within the ground rules but is redirected promptly if they cross the line. Self-discipline is encouraged.
What are Montessori Activities?
Allow for Hands-On-Learning. Activities give children direct, personal, hands-on contact with real, concrete models that bring abstract concepts to life. This allows the child to learn with much deeper understanding.
Allow for Spontaneous Activity. Children select the work that captures their interest and attention and teachers strive to direct their interest and attention to new challenges and areas of inquiry.
Encourage Active Learning. The child chooses their own work and continues with it for days, weeks or even months until they have mastered it to the point that they could teach it to another child.
Encourage Self-Directed Activity. The child is allowed to choose for him/herself. External reward is unnecessary, as children are naturally driven by their desire to become independent and competent beings.
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What is a Montessori Classroom?
It is child-centered. The focus is on the child’s learning, not the teacher’s teaching. The classroom is designed to meet the needs, interests, abilities and development of each individual member of the class. The teacher modifies and adapts the environment to best fit the changing needs of the child. Rather than calling it a classroom, Montessori termed it a Prepared Environment. It allows each child to progress at their own pace, moving onto the next level of learning as they are ready. It is comprised of specific educational materials developed by Dr. Montessori.
The Montessori Curriculum
Practical Life: Activities that help the child acquire the skills necessary for everyday life.
Sensorial: Activities that provide the child with opportunities in sequencing, matching, sorting, and grading, all important skills for later reading, writing and maths.
Maths: Montessori uses a concrete teaching approach where hands-on materials are used to teach concepts from simple to complex. Introducing mathematical concepts in a concrete way help in the future development of abstract thought.
Language: This is first taught on a sensorial level. We teach the phonetic alphabet.
Cultural Subjects: The prepared environment offers the child a variety of materials in the way of geography, botany, zoology, science, music and art.