How Montessori Works
Dr. Maria Montessori based her method of teaching children on several concepts. All of these concepts are used in varying degrees by different Montessori practitioners.
- Inner guidance. All children have inherent inner directives from nature that guide their development.
- Freedom of self-directed learning. The Montessori method allows children to choose their own activities, which lets children experience self-directed learning.
- Prepared Environment. The right conditions around children support their natural development. The environment is arranged according to a subject area, and children are free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work with a piece of material. At any one time in a day all subjects — math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc., will be being studied, at all levels.
- Observation and indirect teaching. This teaching style consists of observing the child engaging in activities that follow their natural instincts. Controlling the environment, not the child, contrasts sharply with the ordinary teacher’s role in implementing a pre-determined curriculum. At Battle Creek Montessori, teachers are striking a balance of following the child’s readiness and interests while also following the state curriculum guidelines.
- Absorbent mind. The young child (0–6) has an absorbent mind which naturally incorporates experiences in the environment directly into their whole basic character and personality for life. This is unique to young children and allows them to learn many concepts easily. After the age of about six, this absorbent mental faculty disappears. The child then enters the 6-12-year-old period where exploration of the world around them and use of imagination are key.
- Multi-age grouping. Children learn from each other in a way that supports their independent self-directed activity. There is constant interaction, problem-solving, child to child teaching, and socialization. Children are challenged according to their ability and never bored.
Scientific research has shown that:
- Cognition is optimized when movement is consistent with thinking.
- We learn best when we are interested in what we are learning about.
- Extrinsic rewards reduce motivation and level of performance once the rewards are removed.
- People thrive when they feel a sense of choice and control.
- We learn best when our learning is situated in meaningful contexts.
- Children can learn very well from and with peers; after age six children respond well to collaborative learning situations.
- Children thrive on order, routine, and ritual.
*Angeline Stoll Lillard’s, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.
|View the child holistically, valuing cognitive, psychological, social, and spiritual development
|Views the child in terms of competence, skill level, and achievement with and emphasis on core curricula standards and social development
|Child is an active participant in learning – allowed to move about and respectfully explore the classroom environment
|Child is a more passive participant in learning
|Teacher is an instructional facilitator and guide
|Teacher has a more dominant, central role in classroom activity
|A carefully prepared learning environment and method encourages development of internal self-discipline and intrinsic motivation
|Teacher acts as a primary enforcer of external discipline promoting extrinsic motivation
|Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to students’ learning styles and development levels
|Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to core curricula benchmarks
|Three-year span of age grouping
|Same-age and/or skill level grouping
|Grace, courtesy, and conflict resolution are integral part of daily Montessori peace curriculum
|Conflict resolution is usually taught separately from daily classroom activity
|Values concentration and depth of experience; supplies uninterrupted time for focused work cycle to develop
|Values completion of assignments; time is tightly scheduled
|Child’s learning pace is internally determined
|Instructional pace usually set by core-curricula standard expectations, group norm, or teacher
|Child allowed to spot own errors through feedback from the materials; errors are viewed as part of learning process
|Work is usually corrected by the teacher; errors are viewed as mistakes
|Learning is reinforced internally through the child’s own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success
|Learning is reinforced externally by test scores and rewards, competition and grades
|Care of self and environment are emphasized as integral to the learning experience
|Less emphasis on self-care, spatial awareness, and care of environment
|Child can work where he/she is comfortable and the child often has choices between working alone or with a group
|Child is usually assigned a specific work space; talking among peers discouraged
|Multi-disciplinary, interwoven curriculum
|Curriculum areas usually taught as separate topics
|Progress is reported through multiple formats: conferences, narrative reports, checklists and portfolio of student’s work
|Progress is usually reported through conferences, report cards/grades, and test scores
|Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other
|Most teaching is done by the teacher and collaboration is an alternative teaching strategy
|Child is provided opportunities to choose own work from interest and abilities, concepts taught within context of interest
|Curricula organized and structured for child based on core curricula standards
|Goal is to foster a love of learning
|Goal is to master curricula objectives