What Makes Montessori Unique
The answers lay in the following:
“Whole Child” Approach
How do we help each child reach his/her full potential in all areas of life? How do we build self-confidence and motivation to explore and learn? These are the primary goal of a Montessori program. All of the activities promote the development of social skills, creative, emotional growth, and physical coordination as well as cognitive preparation. The holistic curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning and to develop self-esteem and independence. Music, arts and physical education are also incorporated to broaden the child’s senses and development.
In order for self-directed learning to take place, the learning environment, materials and social climate must be supportive of the learner. The teacher provides necessary resources, including opportunities for children to function in a safe and positive climate. Each child learns exactly where each subject matter is, how to share the resources with others and how to complete a task. The teacher thus gains the children’s trust, which gives them confidence to try new things at the child’s own pace. Success with his or her exploration builds further self-confidence and greater exploration.
Montessori materials are multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials that facilitate the learning of skills and concepts. For example, the pincer grip activities in the practical life section is fun for a young 3-year-old and actually serves to develop the child’s dexterity for writing in the future. Understanding through visualization is a significant part of the Montessori learning process. A child learns counting with actual objects and beads. S/He can see and feel how the beads lengthen as the number gets larger. S/He can see multiplication and subtraction taking place. From this foundation, s/he can easily transition into abstract reasoning.
A Montessori teacher functions as a facilitator of learning. She is a role model, designer of the learning environment, provider of resources, demonstrator, and record-keeper and observer of each child’s growth and development. She encourages and respects each child as a special, unique individual. She also provides support and education for parents and joins them in partnership to nurture the development of the child.
The Uniqueness of the Montessori Classroom
Each Montessori classroom operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules that differs from age to age and is always based on core Montessori beliefs of respect for each other and for the environment. Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they chose, either alone or in cooperation with others. Through observation of the children in the class, a teacher can determine which new activities and materials should be introduced to an individual child or to a group of children. The goal is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery and group collaboration within the whole community.
Vertical-Age (Multi-age) Grouping
Dr. Montessori observed that in general, children seem to exhibit major step-function jumps in social requirements and cognitive abilities. Also, these jumps seem to occur in 3-year increments. Children are grouped into 18 months to three years, three to six years, and junior ages. The three-year-age grouping in each class provides a family-like environment where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Repetition introduces different aspects of work previously encountered. As children master a subject the child has opportunities to teach that subject to others in his or her group.