Maria Montessori’s original observations of children, over one hundred years ago, stand true today: that children are naturally good, naturally peaceful, and naturally motivated to learn. The scientific principles of observation, analysis, reflection and action helped her to develop specific materials and methods for serving children. We believe these same principles can be used in Montessori classrooms today, to serve the children in the environment and to help translate Montessori’s original vision to the demands of our modern world.
what's unique about the montessori method?
Maria Montessori imagined classroom environments within which the natural development of children informed all other teaching choices. From child-sized tables (a Montessori innovation!) to specially designed materials, many of Montessori’s original designs remain in practice today. Some of the unique qualities of Montessori you should expect to see include:
A physical environment designed to be accessible to the children: from the size of the chairs to the height of the ceilings, each component of a Montessori classroom is ideally designed to create a “children’s house,” complete with everything a child needs for his or her independence at a scale appropriate for the child
Concrete, didactic, self-correcting materials: the Montessori materials are truly the shining stars of the Montessori classrooms. From simple materials that introduce pouring grains and spooning beans to advanced materials that expand on complex mathematical principles, the Montessori materials are designed to allow independent exploration of complicated concepts. Because the materials are so carefully designed to match what we understand about children’s development, the concepts included often surpass the content we typically expect of young children. High-quality, beautiful materials entice the child to explore challenging concepts in ways that reflect specific qualities of children’s growth.
A multiage environment within which children typically spend three years: the multiage classroom allows children to learn from each other, to explore a variety of social roles in authentic ways, and to cycle through periods of extraordinary growth and reassuring rest. Over the course of three years, children are learners and teachers, leaders and followers, sometimes engaged in independent work and sometimes engaged in work with other children. By the end of the three years, the child’s confidence, self-efficacy and ability to collaborate with others reflects these invaluable experiences as part of a reliable community.
Specially educated teachers: the Montessori teacher’s role differs from that of a traditional teacher. Montessori teachers are expected to act as scientists in the classroom, carefully observing each child’s development to prepare an environment which is specifically responsive to the needs of the children it serves. Montessori teachers facilitate children’s curiosity by matching individual lessons to individual children.
Child-centered and child-directed curriculum: In an carefully prepared environment rich in high quality materials and supported by expert teachers, the curriculum can closely follow the interests and rhythms of each child. Children choose the materials of interest to them and are introduced to new materials in the classroom when they are developmentally appropriate for the child. The teacher’s role is especially important to this model: teachers must be able to observe children carefully to determine the subtle cues that indicate a child’s readiness for differing work and must document each child’s development to assure steady and balanced development.