What is Montessori? An Introduction
Updated: Jul 3, 2020
The Montessori philosophy began by the Italian scientist Maria Montessori in the early 1900's. She observed children to be like sponges, "absorbing" everything around them, and learning without even being taught. She decided to create a "prepared environment", an ideal classroom for a child to learn everything they needed in order to succeed in life. The Montessori Method is utilized worldwide in classrooms to guide children as they learn through their environment.
There are 3 main characteristics to a Montessori Environment:
1. The environment should be rich in materials, specifically designed to be age appropriate by engaging the child in concrete learning.
All the materials in the Montessori classroom are meant to be explored through the senses. Research shows that young children learn best through hands-on experiential learning. By teaching children using concrete materials first, they are able to better understand more advanced abstract concepts in language and math.
2. The Montessori classroom contains mixed ages and accommodates for children from 3-6 years of age.
Incorporating a three year age range allows for children to develop a greater range of social skills. The younger children learn from the older, and the older children gain skills in leadership, patience, and empathy. All children gain a sense of community and develop a greater desire to be selfless.
The materials are also designed to meet the learning needs in the entire age range so that children can learn at their own level and pace. This opposes the traditional model of all children following the exact same curriculum and timeline of learning. Children are given more opportunities to excel and advance in areas of their interest, while taking more time to master areas that are more difficult. This allows for better retention of skills and builds a greater desire to learn.
3. Children are given 2-3 hours of uninterrupted free choice of work.
Children are given freedom to choose their work by their interests, and they work independently alongside of other children. The concept of free choice allows the child to build a greater level of independence and self-motivation that leads to self-efficacy and success in their future education. In the beginning, when the child may be unable to make good choices, it is the role and responsibility of the teacher to guide the child towards finding meaningful work and creating good work habits. The teacher introduces new work to the child as the child demonstrates readiness, and prepares individualized plans to cater to each child, and tailored to fit their needs.