The Montessori Classroom
The Montessori classroom seeks to provide each child with a structured environment in which they can freely develop. Structure is important in order to set boundaries, which help the child focus on the task at hand. Freedom is necessary in order for each child to be able to develop at his own pace. And thirdly, action is necessary. It is only through direct manipulation of the environment that significant learning can occur. Through actual experiences with concrete objects the child discovers relationships and concepts, which can later be abstracted.
The Montessori materials stimulate a young child’s natural desire to learn, guiding him in a series of successful steps to confident, independent study habits. Practical life activities encourage independence by helping the child to care for himself and his environment, to develop self-control, and to learn consideration for others. The sensorial materials help the child to clarify and classify differences in the world. These exercises form the base for all future learning experiences.
Sandpaper letter, moveable alphabets, metal insets, and phonics provide the child with keys to the rich and varied world of language.
The knowledge of numbers is based on understanding, not on memory disconnected from actual fact, and provides a basis for later abstract thinking.
Art, music, history, science, and geography are included in the daily activities of the program. Social development takes place naturally within a flexible program geared to the individual rates of progress. With an emphasis on cooperation rather than competition, a spirit of joy and enthusiasm permeates the classroom.
The Teacher’s Role
Montessori believed that “it is necessary for the teacher to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much, so that she may be always ready to supply the desired help, but may never be the obstacle between the child and his experience” (Montessori, 1967).
The Montessori teacher demonstrates key behaviors to implement this child-centered approach:
Make children the center of learning because, as Montessori said, “The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook).
Encourage children to learn by providing freedom for them in the prepared environment.
Observe children so as to prepare the best possible environment, recognizing sensitive periods and diverting inappropriate behavior to meaningful tasks.
Prepare the learning environment by ensuring that learning materials are provided in an orderly format and the materials provide for appropriate experiences for all the children.
Respect each child and model ongoing respect for all children and their work.
Introduce learning materials, demonstrate learning materials, and support children’s learning. The teacher introduces learning materials after observing each child.
Individualized instruction is an instructional method that personalizes planned and prepared active and participatory lessons to the scaffold the skills and abilities of each learner matching that preparation to the developmental stage and age, physical, emotional and social characteristics, learning modalities, learning styles and individual circumstances that may entail additional classroom attention, effort and skills of the learner.