Montessori teaching practices have attracted many parents interested in education that differs from traditional teaching methods. Montessori education has many qualities that have been revolutionizing school practices and school administrators are implementing Montessori practices into their programs.
Maria Montessori, a doctor and educator, studied and observed children in their learning environments. Her analysis concluded that children learn best when the knowledge they acquired is meaningful and considers their personal interests. In order to understand how effective Montessori practices are in approaching education–it’s necessary to consider the three pillars of Montessori education that are the foundation of its practice.
The first pillar of Montessori education is the importance of a prepared environment. Classrooms are thought of as places of empowerment–where joy can be found in learning.
Montessori environments have a calming presence and a sense of order. They are uncluttered spaces with plenty of natural light and soft colors. The classrooms are thoughtfully prepared and filled with activities to engage and encourage independent learning. This approach to classroom set-up avoids placing the teacher at the center of focus–rows of desks are taboo; you’ll find the space is often divided into areas for group activity and solo work spaces. The walls of these classrooms are not littered with distracting posters of colorful cartoons and imagery–instead, they are thoughtfully curated with framed photographs, famous works, and student work on display.
The essence of a Montessori classroom requires the space be accessible to all who enter to learn. Warm and inviting, a place where children can feel safe.
The second pillar of Montessori education is found in the unique materials used to support learning. A prepared environment can only be provided when the materials set out are accessible to all.
Montessori materials are specially designed to provide children with hands-on learning experiences. Children are introduced to these materials and provided with opportunities for independent exploration. The materials are attractive and able to entice their interest. The single most important aspect of Montessori materials is that each one is designed to isolate the concept being taught.
The coveted Pink Tower, for example, consists of ten pink cubes–same color and texture. The size of each cube varies and the control of error comes in that each cube can only rest on the successively smaller sized cube.
This concept isolation is found in materials used to teach concepts as simple as counting to more complex ideas like Pythagorean Theorem. As the child grows within the learning environment they form new relationships and understanding of the interconnections between each material and concept.
Teacher as Guide
The final pillar of a Montessori classroom is found in the teacher’s role. The teacher is often viewed as a guide–directing the child based on their individual needs. For many parents, this is the main reason they choose Montessori education.
Montessori classrooms benefit from being multi-age. This means that children remain in the same classroom for three consecutive years. This allows a unique opportunity for teachers and students to bond–gathering and forming lasting relationships. It also means that teachers are more in tune with the learning style of each child. This approach also serves as a way for students to connect with peers of similar ages–leading to mentoring and positive role models.
Montessori education is a more personal approach to learning. The methods used in these classrooms are designed to foster independence, strengthen curiosity, and develop skills at the individual learner’s pace.