How Montessori Works
Dr. Maria Montessori based her method of teaching children on several concepts. All of these concepts are used in varying degrees by different Montessori practitioners.
Inner Guide. That which enables the child to choose the work which will best assist his development.
Freedom within limits. Montessori classrooms are carefully and thoughtfully designed to encourage children to move about freely and choose their own work, within reasonable limits of appropriate behavior. Those limits are the classroom ground rules, and enable children to exercise their own free will while ensuring their chosen activities are respectful of others and their environment.
Multi-age classrooms. One of the hallmarks of the Montessori education is that children of mixed ages work together in the same class. Age groupings are based on the Planes of Development as identified by Dr. Maria Montessori. Multi-age groupings enable younger children to learn from older children and experience new challenges through observation; older children reinforce their learning by teacher concepts they have already mastered, develop leadership skills, and serve as role models.
Observation. Observation in the Montessori classroom is a tool that is used by the adult to follow the child (to assess their abilities and readiness for materials), and developed within the child (during their early years) to help them classify, store, order, and works towards their inner needs.
Absorbent mind. From birth through approximately age 6, the young child experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows them to “absorb” learning from their environment quickly and easily without conscious effort.
Prepared Environment. The Montessori classroom is an environment prepared by the adult for children. It contains all the essentials for optimal development but nothing superfluous. Attributes of a prepared environment include order and reality, beauty, and simplicity. Everything is child-sized to enhance the children’s independent functioning. A trained adult and a large enough group of children of mixed ages make up a vital part of the prepared environment.
Scientific research has shown that:
- Cognition is optimized when movement is consistent with thinking.
- We learn best when we are interested in what we are learning about.
- Extrinsic rewards reduce motivation and level of performance once the rewards are removed.
- People thrive when they feel a sense of choice and control.
- We learn best when our learning is situated in meaningful contexts.
- Children can learn very well from and with peers; after age six children respond well to collaborative learning situations.
- Children thrive on order, routine, and ritual.
*Angeline Stoll Lillard’s, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.