The Montessori Method

The Montessori method treats each child as an individual. Dr. Maria Montessori considered that children develop at different speeds and should be given the opportunity to develop at their own pace. Montessori developed a philosophy that says that each child is unique, and an individual, whose needs we must accommodate. Maria Montessori was a Doctor of Medicine. She was a trained physician in Italy whose initial research involved observing children in a psychiatric facility. Most people thought these children were wild and uncontrollable.

However, further research led Dr. Montessori to discover that these children were not wild, but that were merely starved of cognitive and physical stimulation. Her conclusion in 1907 was that these wild unruly children were bored, acting out because they lacked challenges and mental stimulation. Giving them things to do to engage their mind as well as tactile materials not only improved their behavior, but it also improved their learning. With a little guidance, a healthy environment instilling love of learning, children could take control of their own environment. A Montessori child will never be bored.

Controlled Environment

In a Montessori classroom the teacher sets up the environment and guides the child to the lesson. The children then work at their own pace, maybe even taking hours or days to complete a task. Emphasis is placed on the completion of the job and not the amount of time it takes. Another Montessori innovation is the sand paper letters and numbers. Children first learn to trace letters and also learn the sound of letters before they actually learn the names of the letter. Many of the Montessori materials are color coded to represent certain meaning and values. For example this could be used to represent mathematical quantities.

The 5 Senses

Dr. Montessori believes that learning happens through all 5 senses. She called this the "Absorbent mind ". So she developed special material to actively challenge young children through the sense of touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. This requires the child to physically experience and manipulate objects in order to gain understanding.

The 3 Period Lesson

Montessori has highly developed rules on how to use these materials. The starting point is the 3 period lesson. For example when the first box of colors (a box contained three pairs of Red, Yellow and Blue color tablets are introduced to the child, the teacher does it in the following manner.

First Period
Open the box, lay out the tablets and says " This is yellow, this red, this blue, by point to each tablet.

2nd Period
The teacher asks the child " Show me blue, show me red, show me yellow "

3rd Period
The teacher point to a color and asks " what is this color.

Other Aspects of Montessori

Montessori also teachers practical life skills such as dressing themselves, washing hands, blowing their nose, moving chairs, cleaning a table, setting a table, preparing food and much more. Children are encouraged to work independently and chart their course of development. This independence helps children develop their inner compass or what is called the " Self-regulatory mechanism ".

Children can freely choose an activity that will interest them, but it must be from the special materials available within the classroom. These materials are easily accessible to the children. In a Montessori class, children of different ages and ability are mixed together.

Children like to learn from one another and teach one another. The younger children often like to be taught by the older children and the older child likes to guide and teach the younger child. This encourages nurturing, taking responsibility and leadership skills.

Unlike other teaching systems, the Montessori environment is controlled and well prepared. Individual rugs define each Childs work area. Everything is child sized including the furniture. Sizing the furniture to fit the children was a Montessori innovation. The classrooms are always neat and tidy. Each item has a place and should be put back exactly where it was removed from. Children also learn routine. That means there are set times for lunch, play, nap and work.