What Is Montessori?
Montessori philosophy was developed in Italy in the early 1900s by Dr. Maria Montessori who believed that children are natural learners. Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits and respect for a child’s natural development. It is a student centred approach that encourages creativity and curiosity and leads children to ask questions, explore, investigate and think for themselves.
Children direct their learning, at their own pace, under the guidance of a trained teacher. Learning is accomplished through all 5 senses. Children are active learners – they learn by doing rather than by simply listening, watching or reading.
Essential Elements of Montessori Education:
- Mixed Age Classrooms: Ideally in a 3 year span. This promotes peer teaching and learning. Younger children gain from the older student’s advanced skills and the older children solidify their learning as they model and teach what they know to the younger students.
- Freedom within limits: Students are able to choose activities from a prescribed range of options. Montessori philosophy believes that children should have more say in what they learn and that they’re capable of self-directed learning within a prepared environment that is tailored to their needs.
- Specialized Materials: Materials that were developed by Montessori are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting. They are designed to help children explore subjects like math, geography or writing with concrete materials before moving on to abstract ideas. Children are able to explore and learn at their own rate because the materials are self-correcting. It is a model of discovery where children learn concepts from the materials.
What’s different about a Montessori education?
- In a Montessori classroom children learn using all 5 senses and through the process of discovery. Rather than simply listening, watching and reading, children use materials and are guided and assisted by the teacher.
- Ideally, Montessori classrooms are made up of 3 age groupings so children have an opportunity to learn at each stage. The youngest children in the class benefit and are stimulated to learn from the older children. The oldest children model and teach the younger students, which helps them master concepts they have learned.
- Co-operative learning is fundamental. Children are able to work on their own or collaboratively in groups. Rather than rows of desks with children sitting on their own, it is common to see children working on the floor with a mat or at a table, alone, with a partner, or in a group.
- Montessori Materials throughout the classroom create the prepared environment. These hands-on, self-correcting, sensorial materials help the children visualize concepts and make them concrete.
What is the curriculum in the Montessori program?
- Our Montessori classrooms teach the BC Curriculum, but present it using the Montessori philosophy.
- Concepts are presented from concrete to abstract to help develop a child’s understanding.
- Montessori incorporates the ‘cosmic curriculum’ – a universal scope of lessons that presents and explores how everything is interconnected.
- Materials are generally divided into the following categories:
- Practical Life: caring for themselves and for their environment
- Sensorial: concrete and tangible examples of what they have experienced. For example, the red rods are of equal diameter and only differ in length. The first of the 10 rods is 10 cm long and the last is 1 meter. This allows the child to concretely experience length and understand long and short.
- Language: materials provide for vocabulary, spelling, creative writing and the development of reading and writing.
- Mathematics: materials start with concrete examples of number symbols and quantity then progress in difficulty (odds/evens, fractions, etc.) and become more abstract.
- Culture: materials teach geography, history, science, and biology.