What is montessori?
The Montessori method refers to a child-centered philosophy of education designed to help children to be enthusiastic learners, good citizens, creative innovators, and capable leaders.
Inspired by the educational principles developed by Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), the modern Montessori method is based in solid developmental and pedagogical research around children’s innate learning potential at different phases of development. Where conventional education treats each child in much the same way, Montessori acknowledges that every child is different and follows each individual child on their own path of development.
The multi-year span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation–language experiences–in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.
the montessori approach is unique
how does it work?
Each Montessori classroom operates on the principle of ‘freedom within limits.’ Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs–respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials may be introduced to an individual child or a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery within small group collaboration within the whole group community.
the montessori classroom
Montessori Classrooms have a cycle of sequentially more challenging/complex materials, allowing children to grow at their own pace. This independently motivated learning fosters a strong sense of joy and individual accomplishment as children begin to question and integrate their purpose and place in the family, school, the community and the world.
The Montessori Environment is specially prepared for each student. It is safe, simple, beautiful and orderly. The classroom is a place to concentrate and is maintained and monitored by compassionate adults. It reflects a slower pace, engaging materials that spark curiosity and joy in learning, a place to foster their growing language abilities, and preparation for socializing as an individual within a group.
Safety: From the first day of school we give children the words to use to resolve conflicts and then consistently ask them to “use their words.” In a child’s world frustration can be quickly, easily, but ineffectively, expressed in pre-verbal expressions of hitting, biting, crying, grabbing. A teacher intervenes primarily to model patience, use of correct words, and proper tones of voice. As children grow through our Primary and Elementary Programs they are able to manage their conflicts with increasing confidence, kindness, and independence; always with the support of a teacher.
Concentration: This simple, yet increasingly scarce attribute is a hallmark of our classrooms and lays the foundation for a child’s character and behavior. Overdone praise, unasked-for help, or even a look may be enough to interrupt a child’s concentration and may even destroy the meaningful activity at hand. This can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched.
Simplicity: Wood, cloth, and natural materials are used as much as possible in the classroom. Our materials and their thoughtful placement and order in the overall layout of our classrooms add another layer of learning and appreciation for beauty, colors, weight, and texture.
Adults: Our roles are to prepare the environment, to present lessons to support the ever-expansive mind and person of the child, and to carefully observe each student so that we can tailor the educational experience to each individual student. We speak softly, model careful words, take a slower pace, and give simple directions. In other words, we are consciously slowing down the hectic world to a child’s pace. Teachers constantly refine approaches to meet the needs of the individual child by adjusting the environment, keeping careful records, reading new research, making new materials, reflecting and stepping back as a trained observer, and being respectful of all efforts and achievements.
Why do we call the materials and selections of those materials “work?”
Maria Montessori observed that young children love to emulate the adult world they observe. One advantage of young children being asked to “choose work” is that they have the experience that work is enjoyable. Another advantage of this vocabulary is the implicit respect for the activity in which the student is engaged. One objective of our environment is to set a child on the paths of responsibility for self, successful use of time, accountability to others, etc. All of these are necessary practices for the increased academic expectations of middle school, high school, and college, and the workplace values of the adult world.
famous names in montessori
“I do not believe there is a method better than Montessori for making children sensitive to the beauties of the world and awakening their curiosity regarding the secrets of life.”
– gabriel garcia marquez, writer
Principal founder of Microsoft Corporation.
Renowned chef, author, TV personality.
gabriel garcia marquez
Author, Nobel Prize in Literature recipient.
andrew lloyd weber
Famous theater composer.
sergey brin & larry page
Co-founders of Google.com.
Vocalist, performer, and GRAMMY Award winner.
CEO and Founder of Amazon.com.
yo yo ma
princes william & harry
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince of Wales.
World War II diarist and novelist.
Video game designer, creator of The Sims.
Daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
do montessori teachers follow a curriculum?
Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, and language—but they are presented through an integrated approach that brings separate strands of the curriculum together. We move children from concrete thinking to the abstract thinking which is vital to a child’s development. This approach to curriculum shows the correlation of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic—and to give their curiosity full rein.
how many students are typically in a class?
Montessori classroom size varies greatly from school to school. Here at DMS we believe in maintaining small-student to teacher ratios. Our student to teacher ratio usually gets no higher than 1:9. This allows our teachers to really know their students and provide individualized learning directed to each child’s skill and development. We feel all members of our community benefit from this set-up. In the Montessori model, children also teach each other- older students are proud to act as role models and younger ones feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead.
why don’t montessoi teachers give grades?
Grades, like other external rewards, have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts or achievements. The Montessori approach nurtures the motivation that comes from within, kindling the child’s natural desire to learn. A self-motivated learner also learns to be self-sufficient, without needing reinforcement from outside. In the classroom, of course, the teacher is always available to provide students with guidance and support. Although most Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely observe each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. Most schools hold family conferences a few times a year so parents may see their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment—and perhaps even their child’s self-assessment.
can montessori schools accomodate gifted children or children with other special learning needs?
An advantage of the Montessori approach—including multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests—is that it allows each child to work at his/her own pace. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support: each can progress through the curriculum at his own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to “catch up.”
how can children learn if theyre free to do whatever they want?
Dr. Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing. A Montessori student may choose his focus of learning on any given day, but his decision is limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that his teacher has prepared and presented to him. Systems to ensure quality time is spent in each area of the classroom may be utilized (work contracts, checklists). These are usually only necessary until a students is fully “normalized”. Students typically set learning goals and personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance. Montessori is “real life”.
how is creativity encouraged?
Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of acceptance and trust. Montessorians recognize that all children learn and express themselves in a very individual way. Music, art, storytelling, movement, and drama activities are integrated into American Montessori programs. But there are other things particular to the Montessori environment that encourage creative development: materials that stimulate interest and involvement; emphasis on the sensory aspect of experience; and opportunities for both verbal and non-verbal modes of learning.
From Our families
Desert Montessori is a remarkable institution and home to a wonderful community. The school has cultivated the innate curiosity in our kids and they have become self-motivated learners. Our children are thriving.
Desert Montessori helped my son blossom and grow from timid and insecure to confident, jubilant, and eager to learn. The morning transition from home to school has become smooth and worry-free.
When my 3 year old actually says ‘I want to go to school today’ in the morning, and walks happily into his classroom… it brings tears of joy to my eyes to know that we’re in the right place for him to develop into a thoughtful, caring, independent individual.