Montessori Principles & History

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What is Montessori

In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori developed an educational model based on her observations of how children learn. She observed that children have “natural learning tendencies” and when placed in an environment with developmental materials, they engage in learning activities of their own choice. Under the guidance of a formally trained Montessori teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials. They cultivate concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning.

The Montessori classroom is a “prepared environment” where the child is free to discover, learn and understand concepts that develop the lifelong learner.

The materials, scientifically developed by Montessori, are arranged by subject on child-size shelves and invite the child to interact with them. Through this interaction with the materials, classmates and adults children are able to reach their intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical potential.

Maria Montessori

According to the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association website, “Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy, in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. Shortly afterwards, she was chosen to represent Italy at two different women’s conferences, in Berlin in 1896 and in London in 1900.”

Guiding Principles

  • Independent activity constitutes about 80% of the work, and teacher-directed activity comprises the remaining 20% of the work at all levels.
  • Subjects are taught in an integrated fashion. Instruction is not divided into specific time frames associated with a particular subject area or activity.
  • Teachers generally work with the same group of students for more than one year.
  • There is a balance of freedom and responsibility. Basic classroom rules dictate that a student is free to choose activities, but is responsible to structure choice and time to cover the curriculum.
  • Classroom schedules allow for large blocks of time to problem solve, observe and understand interactions, make connections in knowledge and create new ideas.
  • Classrooms are organized, where possible, with three different ages in each classroom. Younger students learn from older students and older students benefit from being leaders and mentors. This is a basic premise of Montessori education.
  • A diverse set of Montessori learning materials, hands-on activities and experiences are used to guide discovery and foster physical, intellectual, creative and social independence.
  • The classroom atmosphere encourages social interaction to enhance cooperative learning, peer teaching, and emotional development.
  • The teacher must be educated in the Montessori philosophy and methodology appropriate to the age level of the students.
  • Children are seen as internally motivated and therefore extrinsic rewards such as stickers, candies etc… are not seen in the Montessori classroom.
  • Montessori educators seek to have a classroom climate where children are not afraid to make errors and where making errors and learning from them is seen as a valuable part of developing lifelong learning.