The Montessori Method is an educational philosophy that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. It is a science-based, child-centered, comprehensive approach to education that supports the emotional, social, and academic growth of students through integrated learning opportunities. Montessori education encourages independence with an emphasis on developing intrinsic motivation, focus, self-control, mindfulness, and personal responsibility. Children work at their own pace and learn through hands on activities in a thoughtfully prepared, multi-age classroom environment. A standards-based, comprehensive curriculum is used by trained teachers to create an individualized learning plan for every child that meets their unique needs.
The Montessori teacher is a guide in the classroom. Instead of lecturing and encouraging the memorization of facts, the Montessori teacher inspires students to ask big questions, then shows them where or how to find the answers. Often working with students one on one or in small groups, they are constantly observing and making notes to better inform their instruction. Teachers record progress and direct students along their individualized paths by giving personalized lessons in all subject areas. In their intentional preparation of the learning environment, they provide appropriate work which supports the developing abilities of every student.
Contrasting a traditional classroom where one grade level is taught, often one subject at a time, the Montessori classroom is a multi-age learning environment where academics are highly individualized. Each child is doing something different, yet all are engaged in purposeful work. Multi-age classrooms offer opportunities for children to learn from and support others. They also allow every child to progress at his or her own pace. To meet the needs of a multi-age classroom, learning materials in the classroom are designed to reach a range of abilities and can be used to teach a variety of skills.
The Montessori materials are designed to be attractive and engaging. These scientifically-designed learning tools are created to be self-correcting and are sequenced intentionally so a child can move appropriately from concrete concepts to abstraction in any subject area. As a child demonstrates mastery of a skill, they are given a lesson on the next material in the sequence. This allows a child to anticipate their progression as they move along the shelves for each subject area.
These areas or “avenues of study” have a specific space in the classroom where shelves with related activities are available for students. A child can move from one subject to another and engage with materials from any avenue during the work cycle.
Grace and courtesy are cornerstones to the Montessori philosophy. Recognizing and practicing these principles at circle time and during morning meeting sets a respectful tone within the classroom. As a community, students recognize the need for cooperation and participation in order for everyone to be safe and successful at school. Students and teachers work together on the first days of school to create “Peace Agreements”- a set of expectations that are agreed upon by all members of the classroom. There are discussions when these agreements are broken. Logical, natural consequences are given when appropriate, and redirection is seen as a learning opportunity.