Montessori Method

Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love. – Maria Montessori
 

 

Age groups

The Montessori method is typically used for preschool-through-elementary-aged students, although some schools have students up to 18 years of age. Montessori organized students in three-year age groups, reflecting what she called “sensitive periods of development” (i.e., birth-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15 years of age).

 

Teacher’s role

Generally speaking, the Montessori approach is often described as “allowing the child to be the teacher,” i.e., letting the child choose his or her own direction and pace for learning. The teacher, accordingly, is there to facilitate and observe.

 

Child-centric focus

The Montessori method sees each child as an individual, tailoring the learning process to students’ personal and intellectual needs. In addition, Montessori stressed the need to see that children think and learn differently from adults, and that they should be trusted to make their own decisions and lead the efforts in their own education, rather than having subjects dictated to them.

 

Environment

In addition, experience of the outside world and the environment is important in the Montessori method. Since it’s often difficult to provide unlimited access to the outdoors, Montessori classrooms typically feature small pets, live plants, indoor gardens, and so forth.

 

Montessori concepts

Some important tenets of the Montessori method include:

 

·        Children are capable of self-directed learning

·        Teachers must observe, rather than dictate

·        Children have “sensitive periods” of development, during which their minds are especially receptive to learning specific skills or knowledge

·        Children are particularly able to learn from birth to about age 6

·        Children are masters of their classroom environment

·        Because they learn through discovery, children need learning materials – such as alphabet sets, blocks, and science experiments – that will allow them to correct their own mistakes, rather than needing to be corrected by the teacher

·        Children often learn during periods of intense concentration, and should not be interrupted by the teacher during these periods

·        Children need tactile input to learn: Rather than having a teacher lecture about a subject, they need to actually touch the letters, shapes, and materials they are learning about

 

Six areas

There are six broad areas of learning in the Montessori curriculum. Within each area, children start with simple activities and tasks that lead to more-advanced and complex skills and concepts:

 

1. Practical life – helping children develop and care for themselves, others, and the environment. Activities for young students might include washing dishes, cleaning tables, pouring and scooping, dressing themselves, and washing their hands. Children also learn a sense of order (i.e., how these activities fit into daily life) and begin absorbing language and fine-motor skills. Clean-up equipment, such as brooms and dustpans, are always at hand: If children spill or break materials, they are encouraged to learn responsibility by cleaning up after themselves.

 

2. Sensorial – focusing on touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Materials for learning, such as color tablets, are designed to help the child focus on the concept being taught. In addition, materials used early on are linked to materials later used to teach advanced concepts, such as mathematics. The “pink tower,” for example, is a device based on the 1-cm cube. Young children use it to learn about shapes and numbers; older students use it again to learn about the metric system.

 

3. Culture – understanding the concepts of continent, country, and state, and many different countries. Children use flags and maps to learn about different parts of the world. In addition to learning about other countries and where they’re located, students learn about other cultures and governments.

 

4. Science – drawing on children’s natural curiosity. A child might be interested in birds, and learn the different body parts of a bird, the life cycles of different types of birds, and, from there, the life cycles of various animals.

 

5. Language – developing vocabulary, writing, and reading. Typical Montessori materials include sandpaper letters that children trace to learn the shape of each letter. In later years, students learn about different parts of speech using grammar symbols (different shapes representing nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so forth) and use these symbols to learn sentence construction.

 

6. Mathematics – transitioning from a concrete understanding of shapes and numbers to abstract mathematical concepts. For example, 3-6year-olds typically work with something called the “trinomial cube” to learn colors and shapes. In the 6-9 classroom, the trinomial cube is once again used, but this time to learn algebra, e.g., (a + b)3 = a3 + 3a2b + 3ab2 + b3.

 

Three steps

Children use learning materials only after seeing a teacher or other student demonstrate their proper use, and then can use the materials in any way they like. Students can repeat the activities as often as desired, because repetition is considered vital to learning.

 

A three-step process is often used to show children how to use learning materials:

 

  1. The first step is teaching the name of the material. For instance, a teacher may have a child trace letters and say, “This is /m/. This is /s/.”
  2. The second step is aiding the child to recognize different objects. For example the teacher might say, “Show me /m/. Show me /s/.”
  3. In the third step, the teacher verifies that the child can positively identify the material by name. For instance, the teacher might point to “S” and say, “What is this?” When the child says, “ssssss,” then he or she has truly learned the letter’s shape and sound.
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