The Montessori Method of education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori. Dr. Montessori was the first woman in Italy to become a physician in 1896. In 1901, she began studying philosophical education and pedagogical pathology. She started her first classroom “Casa dei Bambini” or Children’s House in 1907. Dr. Montessori based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes.
The Montessori method is a child-centered educational approach based on Dr. Montessori’s observations of children learning at different ages. The method is structured to work with each child’s individual development. Dr. Montessori found that the developmental needs, interests, and talents of each child are unique; therefore, their education should be also. In a Montessori classroom children are able to learn in their own way at their own pace.
From her observations, Dr. Montessori found that children have absorbent minds, meaning children experience a period of intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from their environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously. The absorbent mind is like thinking of your child’s mind as a sponge absorbing all of the information around him in the environment.
Dr. Montessori discovered that children experience sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity, during which they are particularly interested in a certain area of development and will learn with ease if the opportunity is presented. Specially trained Montessori teachers observe each child to gain an understanding of his current developmental needs and interests and to provide him with the opportunities and tools that correspond.
The Montessori approach to infant and toddler care recognizes that while babies and young children are different from adults in many ways, each is a full and complete human being who is present in the room with us, absorbing every sight, sound, smell and touch that she experiences into her deepest memories.
Commonly used Montessori terms:
The Montessori classroom is an environment prepared by the teacher for children. It provides thoughtfully prepared learning activities that complement the children’s current development and interests. The prepared environment is changed as the children in the classroom change. The environment is characterized by order and reality, beauty and simplicity.
Dr. Montessori found that children go through very specific and well defined periods of interest in certain areas of their development and that the brain is specially predisposed for learning during the sensitive period. Teachers respond accordingly to these sensitive periods—to provide an environment that meets the need of the child and further encourages the child through that specific stage of development.
The prepared activities available in the classroom are referred to as “work.” Dr. Montessori found that children learn best by engaging in purposeful activity of their own choosing. When children can choose what they do, they do not differentiate between work and play.
An uninterrupted time in the classroom schedule for the children to work with the prepared materials. A basic work cycle consists of choosing an activity, doing that activity, and returning the activity to order. That defines one unit or cycle of work. The resulting sense of satisfaction, which may last a few seconds to a few minutes, helps motivate the child to choose the next activity, thus creating another cycle of work. The development of a work cycle is an important part of the Montessori classroom.
Normal developmental milestones such as eating food for the first time, walking, helping with a task, etc. can be seen as a series of events which enable children to become increasingly independent. Teachers in Montessori classrooms gently guide children towards increasing levels of independence.
One of the areas of the Montessori prepared environment. The exercises of practical life resemble the simple work of life in the home: sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, etc. These purposeful activities help the child adapt to his new community, learn self-control, and begin to see himself as a contributing part of the classroom community.
Grace and Courtesy:
Lessons that demonstrate positive social behavior and help the child adapt to the classroom community. These lessons teach the child about manners and social skills.
When the mind is able to absorb knowledge quickly and effortlessly. Dr. Montessori said the child from birth to six years has an absorbent mind.
Control of Error:
Montessori activities provide instant feedback to the child, which offers a way of assessing his own progress. This puts the control in the hands of the learner and protects the young child’s self-esteem and self-motivation.
Three Period Lessons:
A three-step process for learning language. The first period is naming. “This is red. This is blue.” The second period is recognition. “Give me the red. Give me the blue.” The third period is the pronunciation of the word. “What is this?”