Dr. Maria Montessori was an educational philosopher and innovator who helped pave an inspiring path for educators to follow. There is a common misconception that Montessori Schools allow children to roam free with no boundaries – this is far from the truth! There is freedom within structure of engaging, thoughtful and inspiring materials that allow children to learn at their own pace to become independent learners, whilst being observed and guided by the teacher. Through close observation, teachers are able to identify when a child is ready to acquire a new skill and the teacher can direct them to material, which will enable the child to build on new skills learnt.
Concepts of Montessori
One of Dr. Montessori’s key theories was about child development and the use of the senses to learn, grow and navigate the world, especially for the keen minds from birth to age six. This age time frame is extremely important, as it is the sensitive period where new information is absorbed at a rapid pace.
The key learning areas in the Montessori classroom are practical life, sensorial, math and language, as well as culture, geography, science and art (which may vary in different schools). The materials used in the learning areas stress the importance of gaining new skills through the senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.
A prepared environment is imperative to facilitate learning. These classrooms are welcoming spaces reflecting the child’s eye and responding to their interests and needs. A prepared environment is tidy, orderly, beautiful and calm, promoting an atmosphere where learning is engaging and – this fosters social and intellectual growth.
The age range in a Pre-K classroom is from age 3 to 6 years old, and children are organized into multiage groups. This is a wonderful benefit to children, as there are a range of materials targeted at different stages of acquiring new knowledge and information. This means your child will always have materials that are appropriate to their level as well as more challenging materials if they are ready to progress onto harder work. The younger children learn from the older students through observation. The peer-to-peer learning is enriching as it gives children the ability to further concrete skills learnt and builds confidence in their learning. The younger or newer students have a goal that they see and want to work towards and achieve.
The Montessori teacher is responsive to all children’s strengths, abilities and interests. This enables educators to respectfully enter while a child is working to inspire, demonstrate and facilitate learning. Intentional teaching is deliberate, purposeful and thoughtful. Observation and documentation allows the teacher to assess the child’s learning. This is an ongoing process and refers to gathering and analyzing information as evidence about what children know, can do and understand.
Presentations of materials are when the teacher sees that the child is ready to learn a new skill and is presented a new work. Presentation of materials or works can be done in large or small groups or individually. Once the child(ren) have been presented with the new work, they may choose the work as many times as they please.
Respect. Grace and courtesy. Peacefulness! What wonderful and important themes and ideas to be taught and modeled to children. Respect is shown through examples of how children should respect themselves, others and the environment. Manners, respectful vocabulary, and conflict resolution are just a few of the concepts covered to help children understand social structures and to grow into happy, peaceful and respectful humans of this world.
By Cara Zelas, Private Tutor