2. What is it?
3. Is it for all children?
4. The Importance of freedom of movement and independently chosen activities.
5. The Prepared Environment?
6. Class size and mixed ages.
7. What does the Directress (teacher) do?
8. What about play?
9. Fantasy or reality?
10. Discipline methods.
11. How can parents help at home?
12. A Comparison of pre-school education.
13. Areas of learning.
14. Extra Murals.
15. General information.
THE MONTESSORI METHOD
Dr Montessori, the first women to graduate from the University of Tome Medical School, became interested in education as a doctor treating mentally handicapped children. After returning to the university ,for further study, she began her work with non-handicapped children on the in 1904. In her research, Dr Montessori noted the specific characteristics associated with the child’s interests and abilities at each plane of development. She argued that a school carefully designed to meet the needs and interests of the child would work more effectively because it would not fight human nature. Montessori taught teachers how to “follow the child” through careful observation, allowing each child to reveal his/her strengths, weaknesses, interests and anxieties, and strategies that work best to facilitate the development of the child’s human potential.
This focus on the “whole child” led by Dr Montessori to develop a very different sort of school from the traditional adult centered classroom. To emphasise this difference, she named her first school the “Casa dei Bambini” (Children’s House). There is something profound in her choice of words, for the Montessori classroom is not the domain of the adults in charge, but rather it is a carefully prepared environment designed to facilitate the development of the child’s independence and sense of personal empowerment.
It is a system of education in both a philosophy of child growth and a rational for guiding such growth. It is based on a child’s developmental needs for freedom within limits and a carefully prepared environment that guarantees exposure to materials and experience through which to develop intelligence as well as physical and psychological abilities. It is designed to take full advantage of the self-motivation and unique ability of young children to develop their own capabilities. Children need adults to expose them to the possibilities of their lives, but the children themselves must direct their responses to those possibilities.
Key principles of Montessori education are:
· Children are to be respected and treated as individuals.
· Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental ability to absorb and learn from their environment, unlike adults, both in quality and capacity.
· The most important years of growth are the first six years of life, when unconscious learning is gradually brought to a conscious level.
· Children have a deep love and need for purposeful work (play). The child works, however, not as an adult for profit and completion of a task, but for the sake of the activity itself.
· Montessori identified “the universal characteristics of childhood” from her observations of children of different cultures at various stages in their development. These characteristics can be summed up as follows:
· All children have ‘absorbent minds’ & pass through ‘sensitive periods’.
· All children want to learn & learn through play (work)
· All children want to be independent.
The absorbent mind:
A child is fundamentally different from an adult in the way he/she learns. He/she has what Montessori called an absorbent mind, one that unconsciously soaks up information from the environment, learning at a rapid rate. This capacity to learn in this way is unique to the young child and lasts for the first six years of his/her life (more or less).
During this time, the impressions made on the child’s mind actually shape and form it, and therefore have an impact on future development.
From birth to three years this process of learning is mainly passive, whereas from three to six years this process becomes active. It is at this time that new skills are acquired rapidly as well. It is imperative that at this time children are guided (safely) to experience all aspects of their environment and are given the freedom to follow what interests them the most.
From her observations of children Montessori noticed that they seemed to pass through phases when they will focus on one aspect of their environment to the exclusion of all else. They will repeat this activity time and time again, showing their predisposition to develop new knowledge and skills through their senses. It is at this time that tantrums are prevalent as it is the child’s way of saying that his/her need to learn (experience) is unsatisfied.
Sensitivity to order
Sensitivity to language
Sensitivity to movement
Sensitivity to the social aspects of life
Sensitivity to small objects
Sensitivity to sensorial learning.
Children want to learn:
It is impossible to stop children from learning at this stage in their development as it is also time when they model themselves on the adults around them and imitate this behaviour. Montessori once wrote that the hand is the instrument of the mind. By this she recognised the connection of movement and the brain. In other words, the development of the child’s mind is directly related to his/her physical movements (actions and experiences). Having identified these ‘universal characteristics of childhood’, Maria Montessori then concentrated on how best to implement these discoveries in the education of children. To do this she formulated what is now called the Montessori Method.
The main aims are:
· To facilitate the development of the child’s unique personality.
· To help him become socially and emotionally well adjusted and grow up as a physically strong and happy child.
· To help make it possible for him to develop to his full intellectual capacity.
The Montessori system has been used successfully with children aged from 2 ½ from all socio-economic, emotional, mental and physical levels. Montessori schools believe very strongly that intelligence is not fixed at birth, nor is the human potential anywhere near as limited as it sometimes seems in traditional education. We know that each child is a full and complete individual in his/her own right. Even when children are very small, they deserve to be treated with the full and sincere respect that we would extend to their parents. Respect breeds respect, and creates an atmosphere within which learning is tremendously facilitated.
Success at school is directly tied to the degree to which children believe that they are capable and independent human beings. If they knew the words, even young children would ask: “Help me learn to do it for myself”! The Montessori system allows children to develop a meaningful degree of independence and self-discipline, which sets a pattern for a lifetime of good work habits and a sense of responsibility. Children learn to take pride in doing things for themselves carefully and well. Montessori schools treat each child as a unique individual. Children learn at their own pace, and learn in ways that work best for them to discover and develop their own talents and possibilities.
The goal is flexible and creative.
Learning the right answers may get a child through school, learning how to become a life-long, independent learner will take her anywhere! Montessori teaches children to think, not simply to memorise, regurgitate, and forget.
Young children touch and manipulate everything in their environment. Montessori recognised and sympathised with this need as well as the need to repeat movements over and over again in order to perfect the actions. When a child continually repeats an activity he is building up automatic patterns which eventually become fixed as mental images. Children learn by doing, and this requires movement and spontaneous investigation. Children in a Montessori environment are free to move about, working alone or with others at will. They may select any activity and work with it as long as they wish, so long as they do not disturb anyone or wilfully damage anything and once they have completed their task they return it to its specific place and proceed to select another activity.
The prepared environment of the Montessori class is a learning laboratory in which the child is allowed to explore, discover, and select his/her own activity. The independence the child gains is empowering on a social and emotional basis, and also helps the child to become comfortable and confident in their ability to master the environment, ask questions, puzzle out the answer, and learn without needing to be spoon-fed by an adult.
Montessori classrooms tend to fascinate both children and their parents. They are normally bright, warm and inviting filled with plants, animals, art, music, and books.
One glance and it is clear that children feel comfortable and safe. You would not find rows of desks in a Montessori classroom. Children are typically found scattered around the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that visitors are immediately struck by the peaceful atmosphere.
As all children learn through active participation, many exercises, especially at the early childhood level, are designed to draw the child’s attention to the sensory properties of objects, within their environment: size, shape, colour, texture, weight, smell, sound, etc. Gradually they learn to pay attention, seeing more clearly small details in the things around them. They have begun to observe and appreciate their environment. This is the key in helping the child to discover how to learn. The materials are displayed on low, open shelves that are easily accessible to even the youngest children. They are arranged to provide maximum eye-appeal without clutter. Each has a specific place on the shelf. The materials are arranged in sequence from the most simple to the most complex and from the most concrete to those that are most abstract.
A normal class is made up of 15 to 35 children, including boys and girls, among all the age levels. With the strong Montessori emphasis on international education, classes usually comprise of mixed races and cultures. By consciously bringing children together in a group that is large enough to allow for two thirds of the children to return every year, the school environment promotes continuity and the development of a very different level of relationship between children and their peers, as well as between children and their teachers.
Classes tend to be stable communities, with only the oldest third moving on to the next level each year. Many pre-schools are proud of their very small group sizes and parents often wonder why Montessori classes are so much larger. Schools with smaller groups assume that the teacher is the source of instruction, a very limited resource. Often the best teacher of a 3 year old is another child, who is just a little bit older and has mastered a skill. This process is good for both children. The teacher is not the primary focus, but she encourages the children to learn from each other. The age range allows the especially gifted child the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that the child skip a grade and feel emotionally out of place.
Maria Montessori uses the term “Directress”, as the teachers are not to rule, never to master, but to guide, lead or direct the attention of the child.
The Directress works with individual children, introducing new materials and giving guidance where needed. A primary task is careful observation of each child in order to determine his need and gain knowledge needed for preparing the environment to meet each individual need.
Montessori directresses do not simply present lessons: they are facilitators, mentors, coaches and guides. Montessori directresses are rarely the centre of attention as it is not their class: it is the “children’s house”. The key aspect of the classroom is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning to meet the needs and interests of each child. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough so that they will come back on their own to work with the materials alone.
Many people are confused about the role of play in the Montessori Method: some people seem to think that children play all day and don’t learn anything. Others believe that Montessori schools are places where children are made to work all the time and are not allowed to play at all. Both are inaccurate. Studies have shown that play for a child, is an enjoyable, voluntary, purposeful and spontaneously chosen activity. It is often creative as well, involving problem solving, learning new social skills, new languages and new physical skills.
The misinterpretation of Montessori’s ideas has come from two sources. The first is the very rigid way in which some teachers have insisted on presenting the Montessori materials, leaving no room for discovery or creativity. The teacher may refer to the activities as ‘work” but they often look a lot like ‘play’ to the parent.
The second has come from Montessori’s own writings. She often used the word ‘work’ in relation to the children’s activities. When she used this word, however, she was not using it in its adult sense but was applying it to learning and development.
To Montessorians the word ‘work’ and ‘play’ are synonymous: play is your child’s work, simply because it is the means by which he/she learns.
It is true that the role-play within a Montessori environment is encouraged to be reality based but this has been misinterpreted to mean that there is no imaginative play, which is an inaccurate assumption.
Montessori never denied the child the joy of imagination, but rather encouraged it. When a child enters the world, everything is brand new to him/her, things we take for granted are usually the things that a young child will delight in. The great philosopher Aristotle once wrote “there is nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses.”
The young child’s mind (under 7 years), is unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality. This is why Montessori encouraged adults to help the child develop the wonderful gift of imagination by initially basing it in reality. We live in an abundant society with a diversity of cultures and extraordinary natural heritage. For example it takes as much creative thought to visualise a North American Indian child’s life in a teepee as it does to imagine a fairy living in a toadstool. One of these however will create an understanding and therefore an acceptance of the differences in cultures without prejudice The other will have no significant meaning for the child because he will never be able to see the fairy or experience life in a toadstool.
Fantastical figures can also be quite scary as not all are ‘good’, many childhood fears are developed by these innocent stories of good and evil. The young child really believes that monsters, witches, etc exist, because that is what we, as adults, have told them. Think of the story of Hansel and Gretel. Their step mother dislikes the children and wants to get rid of them (planting the seed in the child’s mind that step mothers are horrible people who don’t like children). She convinces their father to leave the children alone in the forest (do we want our children to think that dad won’t protect them and is easily swayed), etc.
With this in mind it is understandable that Montessori chose to tell and read stories with a factual base. We try to find stories about real life events with an interesting narrative, thereby developing the child’s love for books and increasing their understanding of the world around them in a fun and imaginative way.
Types of books to read:
- One Summer Day – Kim Lewis
- My Friend Harry – Kim Lewis
- My Goose Betsy – Trudi Braun
- Fly By Night – June Crebbin
- Be Gentle – Virginia Miller
- Oscar’s Starry Night – Joan Stimson
- Little Beaver & The Echo – Amy Macdonald
- Dazzling Diggers – Tony Mitton
I believe that the main tool of effective discipline is helping the child understand why his/her action is undesirable. The concept of action=consequence is fundamental in this method. I encourage children to make choices in the classroom and to bear the consequences that follow their choice. In order to become a good decision maker you need to learn how to make a choice and this starts with making simple choices. (Which dress do you want to wear, your red dress or your blue dress?)
It is important not to label the child but rather the behaviour. At SilverOaks Montessori we use the “thinking chair” as opposed to the “naughty chair”, as the child is not naughty but what he/she has done is inappropriate and has impacted on someone else in a negative way. The child only sits on the thinking chair (which is slightly removed from the environment, so they can see what is going on but are unable to actively participate) for a maximum of minutes equivalent to his/her age, i.e. 3 years old = 3 minutes. Once the child has “thought” about his/her action the adult gives the child sympathy and love and they talk about how the situation could have been handled differently thereby giving the child tools for conflict handling.
I have found that children are able to associate well with standard people and animal behaviour. I like to use this rationalisation to discourage inappropriate behaviour by using statements like: Snakes spit, and you are a lovely little child, children don’t need to spit. Dogs bite, little boys/girls don’t need to bite, we’re lucky, we have voices and can tell someone if they are frustrating us.
It is important to identify the emotion a child may be feeling, thereby increasing his/her vocabulary and giving him/her the confidence and ability to tell you exactly what has happened or how they are feeling. I try to limit the use of the rod ‘ugly’ to it’s intended adjective status and rather give more accurate or meaningful verbs for behaviour i.e.: spiteful, nasty, horrid, irritating etc. This makes it easier for the child to identify and name inappropriate behaviour and gives the adult a fair understanding of the situation and which response would be best suited.
If the home and school environments complement each other the child will receive the maximum benefit. It is beneficial for the child that communication takes place regularly between staff and parents.
- Montessori in the home – Paula Polk Lillard
- Montessori play and learn – Lesley Britton
- Maria Montessori her life and work – E.M Standing
- The Child in the family – Maria Montessori
- The World of the Child – Aline D. Wolf
- Parenting with Love and Logic – Foster Cline MD and Jim Fay
- Children Are From Heaven – John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus)
A comparison of pre-school education:
|Child chooses materials.||Teacher sets curriculum.|
|Child sets own pace.||Teacher sets pace.|
|Child is free to discover on his own.||Teacher instructs child.|
|Emphasis on the concrete.||Emphasis on the abstract.|
|Reality based role-play.||Fantasy based role-play.|
|Specific placement of materials, helps refine child’s natural sense of order.||Random placement of materials hinders development of this sense of order.|
|Child centred learning environment.||Curriculum centred environment.|
|Child provides own stimulus to learning.||Teacher provides stimuli to learning.|
|Self-education through self correcting materials.||Teacher is the main control of error.|
|Recognition of sensitive periods.||All children treated alike.|
|Multi-sensory materials to develop specific skills.||Play materials for non-specific skills.|
|Liberty to move freely, self and furniture||Rigid rules not to move furniture and to sit in designatedmplaces.|
|Liberty to speak quietly so as not to disturb others.||Silence is on many occasions forced.|
|Directress guides child to think for him/her self and make sound decisions.||Children not thought of as capable of making decisions.|
|Responsibility for decisions made is encouraged.||Expected to follow teacher unquestioningly.|
|Disorderly conduct in class is regarded as the directress’ fault; she seeks it out and corrects it.||Children are punished for disorderly behaviour even if the fault lies with the teacher’s incapabilities.|
In the Practical life area, children carry out familiar home activities such as sweeping, polishing, pouring, preparing foods, etc. These activities are designed to help the child achieve independence and confidence through meaningful activities with real life objects. These activities help develop co-ordination, concentration, independence, hand dexterity, patience, grace, courtesy, care of the person and his/her environment.
The sensorial apparatus encourages the child to understand his environment while learning through his senses. Each piece of didactic material isolates one quality, such as colour, weight, shape, size, texture, sound, smell, taste, etc, which enables the child to take in impressions with true understanding and gives purpose, order and structure to the child’s learning. Montessori materials all have control of error, which allows the child freedom to correct his mistakes unaided.
This auto correction technique develops perseverance and a positive self image and attitude towards mistakes.
The Montessori Method has many activities designed to help the child progress naturally towards the development of skills necessary for reading and writing. The child learns to control wrist movements and perfect the pincer grip necessary for writing. The child is introduced to reading slowly by first learning the phonetic sounds of the alphabet, which leads to building short phonetic words. The child progresses at his own pace to reading longer phonetic words. Children in the Montessori environment are introduced to the different parts of speech and grammar by participating in fun games with the directress and other children.
The Montessori child is introduced to mathematics in the same way as all the other subjects, simple to complex and concrete to abstract. By working with specially designed materials the child is able to work with concrete quantities and then match abstract symbols. The child is introduced to the various operations in mathematics in a simple and fun manner. By working with the concrete materials a solid foundation is formed for later algebraic and geometric work.
In the Montessori environment the child is exposed to various cultural subjects (geography, history, biology, science, music and art) to feed his/her imagination and understanding of the world around him/her. By being introduced to different cultures and lifestyles, the children’s moral and intellectual nature is elevated resulting in enlightenment and enjoyment of each other’s cultures. The cultural activities also help the child to understand his role in the world and that he is in fact, a very important part of the whole system.
Extra murals will take place during and after school and will be conducted on the premises. A variety of activities with qualified instructors will be available to enhance the child’s creativity and gross motor development.
Activities planned include:
Swimming lessons, computer literacy, horse riding, playball and Ballet. Information and enrolment forms for each of these will be available at the school.
A4/A3 Scrapbook (covered and labelled)
1 large box of tissues
1 container liquid soap
1 pack of thick wet wipes
1 bottle sunscreen factor 20+
2 Toilet rolls
2 Paper rolls
Arrive in comfortable clothes and shoes, please keep in mind when buying shoes for your child, velcro ties or slipons are easier for them. Provide a change of clothes. Shoes are not to be worn in the school, hence the slippers. Parents to please pack a small lunch box daily for your child, making it as simple and healthy as possible.
Please mark all your child’s belongings clearly, as the school can not be held responsible for lost items. Parents are requested not to allow children to bring toys to school, as children become distressed if a favourite toy is broken and parents are displeased if an expensive toy is lost. Sweets will not be allowed in school.
It is customary at the school for the child greet their teacher on arrival and especially on departure, please encourage your child with this courtesy. Children will not be allowed to depart with any unauthorised person without proper notification, telephonically or written.
Sick children are to be kept at home. Parents will be notified immediately if their child shows any signs of illness. Medicines must be clearly marked with your child’s name and specific instructions. Medicines MUST be handed to the teacher and not left in bags or lockers.
Children are welcome to celebrate birthdays at school. Parents are asked to let us know in advance so we can prepare a special birthday ring for the child.
Parents are invited to join us in this special celebration if they are able.
Communication between staff and parents is vital to ensure the well being of the child.
Could parents please inform staff of any changes that may be taking place in the child’s life e.g. moving house, separation of parents, new baby or death in family, etc.
If parents have any concerns for their children, an appointment can be made at any convenient time after school hours with their child’s directress.
Written reports on the child’s progress will be issued at the end of the second and fourth term. Parents’ evenings will be held at the end of the second and fourth term, for a verbal, one on one feedback on the child’s progress, this will give both staff and parents a chance to socialise with each other.