Montessori discovered that children like to move around and find it difficult to sit still. Instead of forcing children to listen to the teacher and sit still, she designed special materials for children to learn through working hands-on with the materials. Therefore, instead of learning through memorizing and worksheets, children learn through experiences with the materials. For example, in math, they learn to count, add, subtract, multiply and divide using various materials. Thus, they understand the concepts rather than memorizing. They are constantly moving when working in the classroom. There is a connection between movement and cognition.
Vertical Age Grouping
Authentic Montessori schools follow vertical age grouping. What does this mean? It means that in the classroom, you will find that children are divided in to 3 year groups as follows: 3-6 years, 6-9 years and so on…
Children learn best from one another. In a class with 3-6 years old, the 3 year old can observe and learn from their older peers. At the same time, the older ones have the opportunity to practice and solidify their learning by teaching the younger ones. They also develop leadership skills through giving lessons and leading the younger ones.
In a Montessori classroom, in addition to language, math and science, children also learn practical life activities and sensorial activities. Montessori takes a holistic approach to help the development of the child: physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.
Practical life activities enable children to learn to become more independent & responsible. These are activities that we do in our day to day life… such as spooning, pouring, tying shoe laces, washing & scrubbing etc… These activities teach children to look after themselves, which in turn make them feel confident and develop a healthy self esteem. Montessori believed that children learn through their senses. Therefore, she created materials for children to help refine their senses, in order to learn better. Materials from the sensorial area are very attractive, and these also allow for children to develop their creativity.
A distinct feature of a Montessori classroom is the carefully prepared environment. You will see all materials laid out very neatly and carefully on the shelves, and children are able to access them easily and independently. The objective is to have these materials laid out to look beautiful so children are attracted to touch, feel and work with the materials.
These materials are laid out in an order leading the child to learn from concrete to abstract. Furthermore, they are laid out in order of difficulty too – from simple to complex. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. This helps children develop a sense of order too.
Freedom within limits
In a Montessori classroom, children are given freedom. However, there are some limitations, or ground rules in place. This is why even though you see children moving around and working on different materials, there is no chaos in the classroom. Here’s how it works:
- Children have the Freedom to move – And there is a ground rule in place that prevents them from running.
- They have the freedom to choose the materials they want to work with – And there is a rule that they have to place back their material before taking another one.
- They have the freedom to socialize, to work as long as they want with a material, to work uninterrupted, to choose where they want to work etc…
These freedom makes them independent, confident, responsible and respectful children.