What is the Montessori Method of Education
The Montessori Method is both a philosophy of child development and a rationale for guiding such growth. It is based on two important developmental needs of children:
- The need for freedom within limits
- A carefully prepared environment which guarantees exposure to materials and experiences.
Through these developmental needs, the children develop their intellect as well as their physical and social abilities. The Montessori method of education is designed to take full advantage of the children’s desire to learn and their distinctive ability to cultivate their own capabilities.
The main premises of Montessori education are:
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who differ from each other.
- Children possess a sensitivity and intellectual ability to absorb and learn from their environment that are unlike those of the adult both in quality and ability.
- Children develop in stages that are unique in characteristic and aim from the stages before and after.
Children have a deep love and desire for purposeful activity. They work, however, not as an adult for the completion of a task, but the enjoyment of an activity itself. It is this activity which enables them to achieve their most important goal: the development of their individual selves.
Why are Montessori groupings kept in 3 year cycles?
Montessori defined 4 stages of development and labelled them as the 4 planes of development, noting that within these stages, the development is intense at the beginning, consolidates and then tapers to the next.
Key to all the planes of development is the individual’s need for independence. This is expressed differently throughout the planes.
These Planes of Development are the basis for the three-year age groupings found in Montessori classes: ages birth to three, three to six; six to nine; nine to twelve; twelve to fifteen; and fifteen to eighteen
First Plane – Age 0 – 6 – Early Childhood (Individual Creation Of The Person)
- Characterized by the “Absorbent Mind” in which the child’s mind is like a sponge, absorbing all that is in the environment.
- At age 0-3 this is unconscious
- At age 3-6 this is conscious
- Characterized by “Sensitive Periods” which include the intense need for: Order, Language, Refinement of the senses, Movement
- Children of this stage are concrete thinkers
- During this stage there is the construction of the physical person
- At this stage children prefer to work alone
- Physical independence is the main desire now – “I can do it myself!”
- The child wants to be free to work independently within a structured environment doing real activities with an intelligent purpose.
- The child’s natural ability appears through freedom in the prepared environment.
Second Plane – Age 6 – 12 – Childhood (Construction Of The Intelligence)
- Characterized by reasoning with imagination and logic.
- Intense thirst for knowledge which is so great that if allowed, the child will seek exposure to many things that have been left to secondary and college in the past.
- They have a sensitive period for social order and relationships
- Are uniquely sensitive to moral justice and fairness
- “Cosmic Education” – the child wants to know about the whole and his/her place within it and can appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and people.
- It is at this point they thirst for the Five Great lessons – the Story of the Universe, the Story of Life, the Story of People, the Story of Numbers, and the Story of Communication
- 6-12 is known as the “bridge” to abstraction – or the transition from concrete to abstract thinking
- Prefers to work in groups
- Intellectual independence is the main desire now – “I can “think it” myself”.
Third Plane – Ages 12 – 18 Adolescence (Construction Of Social Self)
- Characterized by self-concern and self-assessment.
- At this stage adolescents are involved in critical thinking and re-evaluation and experimentation.
- This is a transition period both physically and mentally.
- The young adult is beginning to try to find a place in this world, sensitive period for exploring the world on their own
- Characterized by construction of social and moral values, extreme social sentiment
- “Erd Kinder” or “Children of the Land” – Montessori envisioned the child practising for life in society by working together in a live in community.
- Cultural development which has been ongoing is solidified in this plane.
- Emotional Independence from adults – “I can stand on my own”.
Why are Montessori Materials so unique?
- The materials are the “teacher” of the child
- They are the result of Montessori’s observations of the kind of things children enjoy and return to repeatedly. These observations supported her in creating many of the multi-sensory, sequential and self-correcting materials you see in the modern Montessori classroom.
- The materials entice children to use them and in their use they facilitate the learning in a concrete and lasting manner.
- Materials and activities are designed so that each new step is built upon what a child has already mastered. This contributes to children’s healthy emotional development regarding learning, by removing the negative experience of frequent failure. A child grows with the understanding that it can successful master each activity it chooses.
What does a Montessori teacher do
In Montessori education we prefer to call teachers directors or directress as their role is not to dictate and control lessons or groups, but to direct the children towards materials, ensure the environment is prepared and that they themselves are prepared to meet the needs of the children. The aim of this is to foster and protect the child’s desire to explore and learn. The teacher serves as a guide and is the link between the child and the environment.
Adults in the Montessori environment ensure the child’s effort and work are respected. There is neither punishment nor reward because Montessori observed that children expect neither. Their reward is in the happy completion of a job itself and the natural respect that it commands.