Montessori is a highly hands-on approach to learning, encouraging children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small/large motor skills coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later abstraction.
Montessori classrooms provide an atmosphere that is pleasant and attractive to allow children to learn at their own pace and interact with others in a natural and peaceful environment.
Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a “blank slate” waiting to be written upon.
Her main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:
- Preparing the most natural and life-supporting environments for the child
- Observing the child living freely in this environment
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his or her greatest potential, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In 1906, Maria Montessori was well known enough that she was asked to head a day-care center in Rome’s rundown San Lorenzo district. She used the opportunity to observe the children’s interactions with materials developed to appeal to the senses — sensorial materials — refining them as well as developing new materials with which the children could work. This self-directed, interactive, materials-centered approach, in which the teacher mainly observes while the children select objects specifically designed to impart conceptual frameworks or skills, is a hallmark of Montessori education.
Montessori’s initial work focused on young children.
Introduction to Methodology in Practice
Many establishments throughout the world implement Maria Montessori’s approach to education for a wide range of ages.
The educational materials uses are tailored to children’s developmental needs.
One distinguishing feature of Montessori at a young age is that children direct their own learning, choosing among the sections of a well-structured classroom, including:
Practical Life includes activities of daily living such as learning to button and tie, pouring, spooning, and cleaning up after oneself. These develop concentration, self-esteem, and fine motor skills.
Sensorial materials such as the Tower of Cubes (Pink Tower), Color Tablets and Mystery Bag spotlight the use of the senses to discriminate differences in the environment.
Math materials such as the Cards and Counters and Golden Beads help children develop awareness of basic math concepts.
All areas of the classroom involve the development of language. However, there is a special Language area with materials such as Sandpaper Letters, Sound Boxes, Movable Alphabet, and Metal Insets to develop the skills for writing and reading.
Creative Arts and Crafts allow for self-expression and motor development.
Science, especially basic biology and physical science, is explored through the care of animals and simple experimental “works.”
Cultural diversity is introduced through the use of Puzzles, Maps, Flags, and cultural celebrations.
The role of a teacher is to introduce children to materials and then remain a “silent presence” in the classroom.
Montessori establishments pride themselves on catering to individual students’ personalities and needs.
Students are encouraged to teach and help each other.
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