The Montessori Method

Montessori is a philosophy or method of education that respects the innate desire within all children to explore and discover their world. A Montessori teacher receives very specialized training and instruction on using the Montessori teaching materials, which encourage the child’s natural curiosity and learning experience. Dr. Montessori believed that the period from birth to six years is a time when a human being shows the greatest potential for learning. For this sensitive period in a child's life, Montessori designed the prepared environment where ...the child is set free from undue adult intervention and can live its life according to the laws of its development.

Montessori observed that all young children have:

  • A love of order
  • A love of work
  • Profound spontaneous concentration
  • Attachment to reality
  • Love of silence and of working alone
  • Sublimation of the possessive instinct
  • Obedience
  • Independence and initiative
  • Spontaneous self-discipline
  • Joy
  • The power to act from real choice, not just idle curiosity.

The Montessori teacher and Montessori equipment in the prepared environment stimulate and encourage the child to learn. Children enjoy using Montessori materials and learn not by memorization but by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial experience.

What are Montessori Materials?

The prepared environment of the Montessori classroom is supplied with didactic (self-teaching and self-correcting) materials, which are manipulated by the child. The materials are designed to foster independence, develop a healthy self-concept, encourage thinking and provide an appreciation of nature and the world. The prepared environment includes the following five areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language Arts, Mathematics and Culture.

Practical Life

The exercises of Practical Life are the foundation of the Montessori Philosophy for future academic learning. They encompass a great diversity of activities to help the child develop greater concentration and independence.

In the Montessori classroom the child has the opportunity to participate in caring for the environment, e.g., sweeping, dusting, washing tables, caring for plants etc. The child also learns to care for herself; washing hands, preparing and serving snack, folding classroom towels, dressing etc. These activities, designed sequentially, enable the child to come to realize order and logic in the classroom environment. Concentration, attention, order, independence and muscular coordination originate with this work. The child may repeat the sequence of each activity independently to develop these qualities.

Sensorial

The Sensorial exercises are comprised of a series of objects that are grouped together because they share a physical, palpable quality such as size, shape, sound or color. Each piece of sensorial material is designed to emphasize one salient quality but in different degrees that are perceptually observable. Learning to perceive minute differences between objects is an important byplay of the sensorial apparatus. To train a child's senses is to create an astute observer. Practice at judging, classifying and discriminating gives a perceptual "alphabet" with which a child can organize his/her mind and world. Montessori sensorial materials offer a wealth of concrete objects to manipulate that sequentially lead to abstract concepts. This is a long process, but the sensorial equipment provides "materialized abstractions" that are the groundwork for the concepts of number and numeral. The sensorial area gives the child a perceptual idea of basic mathematics. It is indirect preparation for the mathematics area, language area (sound discrimination, visual perception, eye-hand coordination) and the cultural area (awareness of classification).

Language Arts

The young child has a natural sensitivity for language development. Therefore, the Montessori language program begins immediately and is continuously woven into the life and work of the class. The children are free to talk to one another in the classroom, and there is always time devoted to discussion, poetry, songs and interpretation of stories. The language materials themselves aid the development of all three aspects of a child's language: speaking, writing and reading. In the area of vocabulary enrichment, the child in a Montessori classroom is exposed to tremendous vocabulary enrichment, a variety of names, leaf shapes, prehistoric animals, geometric shapes, seashells, geographical locations and famous composers. Learning to read and write requires the mastery of many skills. The child in separate exercises pursues each of these skills. Only when the child has mastered the separate skills is the child encouraged to unite them into the operations of reading and writing. The language area includes reading, writing, and grammar. Reading is presented in a very eclectic manner starting with a phonetic base, adding a sight work vocabulary and extending into a language experience program. Writing begins with use of the metal insets to gain control of the pencil and move into manuscript. Grammar is based on concrete experiences with objects, actions and descriptions. The children experience a noun, a verb, an adjective and a preposition.

Mathematics

Children must have a multitude of sensorial experiences with size, dimension and form before they are introduced to mathematical quantities and their symbols. Before formal lessons, the children need casual practice with rote counting. Once they are certain of quantity and symbol of numbers 0 through 10, an overview of the base 10 system with numbers 0-9999 is begun. Next in the sequence comes counting the squares and cubes of sets of numbers from 1 through 10. Simultaneously, children are taught simple one-digit, concrete, static addition and subtraction. Once the children can skip-count from memory, multiplication is introduced and is followed by division with no remainders. Fact memorization follows with use of fingerboards.

Cultural

The cultural studies curriculum for the 2 1/2 to 6 year-old children includes: botany, zoology, scientific experiments, geography, history, music and art. This is a cosmic approach to education that enables the child to have a sensory-motor experience based on the practical life activities, in which the child names the reality, learns to compare, grade and calculate.

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist!"

~Dr. Maria Montessori