What Is The Montessori Method?
Montessori is a philosophy and method of education, which emphasizes the potential of the young child, and which develops this potential by utilizing specially trained teachers and special materials. Montessori recognizes in children a natural curiosity and desire to learn; the Montessori materials awaken this desire and channel that curiosity into a learning experience which children enjoy. Montessori materials help children to understand what they learn by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial experience; in this manner, the Montessori child is actually learning and not just memorizing. The Montessori Method stresses that children learn and progress at their own pace so that fast learners are not held back, and slower learners are not frustrated by the inability to keep up.
The Montessori classrooms have multi-age grouping (3 – 6 year olds). This grouping is essential in the Montessori Method of learning. There is an important learning interaction between children of different ages. The younger children learn from the older ones while the older children perfect their skills and grow in self-esteem. The older children also serve as models and assist the younger children. It is this type of cooperative arrangement that builds not only a wonderful community in the class, but extends into other social situations.
For young children, the process of work is more important than the end product. The class is set up with many manipulatives to facilitate this process. Because of this, your child may not bring home much paper work. This simply means that your child is busy working with various materials designed for this method of learning. By observing a child as he/she manipulates the materials, the teacher can evaluate the progress in various stages of development through different areas of study.
Classroom – The Prepared Environment
The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment, which has a definite order and purpose. It is designed to appeal to the young child, making available a wide range of materials, which are accessible, self-correcting and aesthetically pleasing. The work your child does is to enhance his/her development, not just academically but physically, emotionally and spiritually.
During work time the child may choose work he/she has been presented. The class appears, at first glance, to be busting with activity. A closer look will reveal a work process, which includes: making choices, concentration, the order and sequence of the work, and its completion. An unseen characteristic of the work is the discovery that the child is making which is the building block to learning.
Practical life enhances the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and coordination of physical movement. This area provides the basis for all other activities in the Montessori classroom. By perfecting buttoning, tying, pouring, scrubbing, or learning grace and courtesy, the child gains confidence and mastery over the environment. Specifically, the activities contribute to the control and coordination of movement; development of concentration skills through unlimited repetition; and the enhancement of self- esteem by contributing to the group.
This area is for the education of the senses. It is extremely vital to a young child because we learn through our senses. Children continuously develop their senses and this area helps keep their senses keen and alert to the world around them. Children explore temperature, size, weight, color, sound and taste. They take pleasure in learning a wealth of vocabulary and in connecting it to a particular sensory experience. The sensorial curriculum helps the child be in-tune with their surroundings. It sets the foundation for literacy development and observation skills.
The precision, order, and attention to detail fostered within the Practical Life and Sensorial Areas of the classroom lay the foundation for what Dr. Montessori referred to as the “mathematical mind”. The math curriculum begins with activities that lead children to understanding sequence, recognition and quantity of numbers. Children’s use of manipulatives enables them to internalize concepts. When the child works with the material, the experiences are assimilated at a deeper level, arriving at an understanding of concepts through the work.
Montessori uses a phonetic approach to language, starting with the sounds that make up words. Eventually, children start to “build” words, moving through levels of material while developing phonetic awareness. This area exposes the child to many materials and activities that will enable him/her to develop and enrich his/her oral language, written expression, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics, and children’s literature. As children’s exploration continues, they want to know more names of objects and activities in their school environment. The classroom is filled with pictures, labels, puzzles bearing the names of animals, plants, geometric figures, continents, and land forms for example.
Language skills are also closely tied to social and emotional development. Children use language skills to express feelings, make friends, play, and develop ties to important people in their lives. The multi-age grouping of the Montessori classroom lends itself to a richer and more authentic interaction between peers that are at different developmental levels. The collaboration that happens between younger and older students supports the social and emotional development of the child.
The Cultural Area is one of the five areas in a Montessori environment. This area includes biology, physics, history, geography, music, art and drama. These subjects are not presented separately, but in a way to show the child the relationships between all things. Thus, in teaching about oceans, we include plants and animals, the geography, names, and the benefits of the oceans. We create a total picture for the child so that a whole learning approach can be achieved.
In this area of our curriculum, we give abstract ideas a tangible form to help develop a greater spiritual meaning for the children. This area includes biblical stories, parables, the life of Jesus, church, and religious holidays. By the very nature of our class, we strive to build a Christian community that function in all areas of life. Students are given the opportunity to grow in faith and nurture their relationship with God.
Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an integral part of the curriculum. The teachers are trained in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and lessons are given on campus by trained teachers.
Art and Music
Art and music exercises are introduced into the environment. Various media are available such as; clay, crayons, painting, pasting, collage, etc. Students participate in singing, dancing, and creative movement.
The use of technology is integrated within the various areas of the Montessori classroom to enrich the student’s experience in the classroom. Students are able to use computer, tablets such as IPADS and the SMART board to with specialized programs and apps that are age appropriate for our children.