Montessori Views Each Child As Unique
- Children are recognized and respected as being different from adults and as being unique individuals distinct from each other.
- Young children have “absorbent minds”–the special capacity to absorb information from their environment without concentrated effort or formal instruction.
- Montessori materials invite children to learn to read, write, and calculate in the same natural way that they learn to walk and talk–at their own pace.
- Young children go through “sensitive periods” when their interest in and ability to absorb a particular concept are greater than at any other time in their lives.
- Children have a deep love and need for purposeful work. This work helps them develop their mental, physical, social, and psychological powers.
- The Montessori approach embraces the development of “the whole child” — physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual.
Montessori Prepares the Environment for Optimal Learning
- The classroom is child-centered. All the materials are within the child’s reach.The tables and chairs are child-sized and the pictures and decorations are at the children’s eye level. Everything has a specific place on the shelves. Children are orderly by nature and having the room set this way allows them to grow in a positive way.
- The environment provides a natural sense of discipline–expectations are clearly stated and enforced by the children and teachers. Respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment forms the basis for all classroom rules.
- Children are quiet by choice and out of respect for others within the environment–the Montessori classroom allows children to return to the “inner peace” that is a natural part of their personalities.
Montessori Teaches Children in Multi-Age Groups
- Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups, forming communities in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones.
- Working in multi-age groups creates a natural social environment and fosters a sense of community in which every member is valued for his or her contribution to the whole.
- In a mixed-age classroom, children can choose friendships based on common interest, not just age.
Montessori Incorporates a Completely Different Approach to Learning
- Montessori education emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading.
- The emphasis is on concrete learning rather than abstract learning–children need to experience concepts in “hands-on” ways.
- Children work with self-correcting materials, and errors are viewed as a necessary and helpful part of the learning process. The Montessori materials help children evolve from concrete, experience-based learning toward increasingly abstract thought.
- Montessori teachers “follow the child.” They recognize that each child learns at a different pace and has different periods of interest, and they allow that individual growth to take place.
Montessori Teachers Act as Guides
- The teacher plays an unobtrusive role in the classroom–the children are not motivated by the teacher, but by the need for self-development.
- Montessori teachers keep detailed records on each child so they know when the child is ready to be introduced to a new skill or concept.
- The children are with the same teacher through each developmental stage, allowing a strong bond of trust to develop. The teacher knows where the children are in their development as they start each new school year and the children do not have to adjust to a new classroom or teaching style.
Montessori is Backed by Research
Controlling the environment, not the child
Montessori classrooms are very organized in terms of layout and how a child progresses through the materials. Children are encouraged to pursue their own interests and decide what materials to work on in a given day. Scientific research has shown that this freedom of choice within a carefully designed and ordered structure is linked to better psychological and learning outcomes.
- Children thrive on order, routine, and ritual.
- We learn best when we are interested in what we are learning about.
- People thrive when they feel a sense of choice and control.
- We learn best when our learning is situated in meaningful contexts.
- Extrinsic rewards reduce motivation and level of performance once the rewards are removed.
- Children can learn very well from and with peers; after age 6 children respond well to collaborative learning situations.
Angeline Stoll Lillard, Ph.D.
Montessori, The Science Behind the Genius
The impact of early development
In The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori wrote, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six. For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement is being formed… At no other age has the child greater need of intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection.” Modern psychological studies based on controlled research have confirmed her theory. After analyzing thousands of these studies, Dr. Benjamin S. Bloom of the University of Chicago wrote in Stability and Change in Human Characteristics, “From conception to age 4, the individual develops 50% of his mature intelligence; from ages 4 to 8 he develops another 30%… This would suggest the very rapid growth of intelligence in the early years and the possible great influence of the early environment on this development.”
Aline D. Wolf
A Parent’s Guide to the Montessori Classroom
Making theories reality
Dr. Montessori’s theories, based on scientific observation of children’s learning processes, have been borne out in classrooms throughout the world and are becoming integrated in our educational system. Today’s kindergarten classrooms use the child-sized furniture and educational materials first introduced by Montessori. Such current concepts as individualized instruction, manipulative learning, ungraded classes, multi-age classrooms, team teaching, and open classrooms reflect her early insights–a testament to her revolutionary thinking.