Hallmarks of Montessori
Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity. In addition, a full complement of specially designed Montessori learning materials are meticulously arranged and available for use in an aesthetically pleasing environment.
The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.
Multiage groupings are a hallmark of the Montessori Method: younger children learn from older children; older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This arrangement also mirrors the real world, where individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.
Dr. Montessori observed that children experience sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity, as they grow. As their students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to these sensitive periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized.
In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.
In the elementary years, the child continues to organize his thinking through work with the Montessori learning materials and an interdisciplinary curriculum as he passes from the concrete to the abstract. He begins the application of his knowledge to real-world experiences.
This organization of information—facts and figures—prepares the child for the world of adolescence, when thought and emotion evolve into understanding more abstract, universal concepts such as equity, freedom, and justice.
Benefits of a Montessori Education
Montessori education offers our children opportunities to develop their potential as they step out into the world as engaged, competent, responsible, and respectful citizens with an understanding and appreciation that learning is for life.
Each child is valued as a unique individual. Montessori education recognizes that children learn in different ways, and accommodates all learning styles. Students are also free to learn at their own pace, each advancing through the curriculum as he is ready, guided by the teacher and an individualized learning plan.
Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence. Classroom design, materials, and daily routines support the individual’s emerging “self-regulation” (ability to educate one’s self, and to think about what one is learning), toddlers through adolescents.
Students are part of a close, caring community. The multi-age classroom—typically spanning 3 years—re-creates a family structure. Older students enjoy stature as mentors and role models; younger children feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. Teachers model respect, loving kindness, and a belief in peaceful conflict resolution.
Montessori students enjoy freedom within limits. Working within parameters set by their teachers, students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. Montessorians understand that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime.
Students are supported in becoming active seekers of knowledge. Teachers provide environments where students have the freedom and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions.
Self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of the Montessori classroom approach. As they mature, students learn to look critically at their work, and become adept at recognizing, correcting, and learning from their errors.
Given the freedom and support to question, to probe deeply, and to make connections, Montessori students become confident, enthusiastic, self-directed learners. They are able to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century.
Montessori vs. Traditional
- Individual students work at their own pace at their challenge level and according to their own interests
- Learning goals include love of learning, independence as a learner, self-motivation.
- Mastery of core academic skills is integrated into the study of all subject materials.
- Multi-age classrooms allow children to advance as they are ready. Older students motivate younger students and consolidate their own learning by helping them.
- A student’s natural curiosity is nurtured and sustained as a key to exploring the rich scientific and multi-cultural lessons and the beautiful materials that convey them.
- Teachers act as guides, coaches and mentors.
- Learners practice their work in the classroom where teachers can assist and give ready feedback.
- The classroom is a well-equipped learning environment with materials and resources that invite and promote independent learning. Children can move around the classroom to different work areas.
- Students are encouraged to develop higher levels of thinking – compare, contrast, evaluate, judge, ask probing questions, identify and solve problems, synthesize what has been learned and apply it to new situations.
- By creating their own work plans beginning in Lower Elementary, students learn excellent time management skills.
- Beginning in Toddlers, children of all ages learn the foundational social art of getting along with one another in a peaceful and respectful environment.
- Students of all ages develop and master skills needed for the 21st Century – creativity, cooperation, independence, global competency, and strong communication.
All students in a class work at the same pace through the same material.
- Learning goals are strongly focused on achieving good test scores and grades.
- Academic skills are often taught in isolation so that students are acquiring a skill for its own sake.
- Single age grouping offers little flexibility for children who are advanced or need more help.
- Materials studied are prescribed by the school or school district. Learning is dominated by textbooks
- Teachers primarily deliver instruction to students.
- Learners practice at home on their own and are graded on their efforts.
- Classrooms are often characterized by rows of desks facing the front of the classroom where the teacher leads the learning process. Students must stay seated during class.
- Subject areas are taught in isolation from one another.
- Students are most often asked to memorize and master facts and information that will be tested.
- Time management is not generally taught.
- Social skills are not often part of the classic traditional curriculum. When it is taught, it is more likely as an add-on rather than and integrated fundamental part of the child’s development.
- Opportunity to acquire 21st Century skills is hit or miss depending on the program.