Montessori refers to an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, noncompetitive activities, help children develop strong self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.
The Montessori Preschool Classroom
The Montessori preschool classroom is a living room for children. Students choose his or her work from materials displayed on open shelves. Over time, children develop into a “normalized community,” where students work with high concentration and few interruptions.
Normalization is the process whereby children move from being undisciplined to self-disciplined, from disordered to ordered, from distracted to focused, through work in the classroom environment. This process occurs through repeated work with Montessori materials that captivate the child’s attention.
In the prepared environment of a Montessori classroom, learning materials are arranged on low and open shelves to encourage children to explore each set of materials. Students are free to select materials of their choice and may work for as long as the materials hold their interest, then return them to the shelf.
In their essence, Montessori materials invite activity. They include bright arrays of solid geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, and various specialized rods and blocks. Each set of objects in a Montessori classroom isolates one skill, which conveys a single concept. For example, the pink tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. Children construct a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on the top, which isolates the concept of size only, because the cubes are the same color and texture. Other materials isolate different skills and covey different concepts.
Montessori materials are also self-correcting. When a piece does not fit or is leftover, the child easily perceives the error, without need for adult correction. The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment. As the child’s exploration continues, the materials interrelate and build upon each other. For example, various relationships can be explored between the pink tower and the broad stair, which are based on matching precise dimensions.
The most important task of a Montessori preschool is to provide students with an early and general foundation that will enable them to acquire more specialized knowledge and skills throughout his or her educational journey.
The Prepared Environment
The prepared environment, a Maria Montessori concept, is designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration for the child. This environment allows for a variety of activity and movement. In a Montessori preschool classroom, a three-year-old may be washing clothes by hand while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the moveable alphabet, and a five-year-old is performing multiplication using specially designed beads. In the calm, ordered space of the Montessori prepared environment, children work on activities of their choice and at their own pace. They experience a blend of freedom and self-discipline in a place especially designed to meet their developmental needs.
The 5 Areas of the Prepared Environment
Practical Life enhances the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and coordination of physical movement.
The Sensorial Area enables the child to order, classify and describe sensory impressions in relation to length, width, temperature, mass, color, pitch, etc.
Mathematics makes use of manipulative materials to enable the child to internalize concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations, and memorization of basic facts.
Language Arts includes oral language development, written expression, reading, the study of grammar, creative dramatics, and children’s literature. Basic reading and writing skills are developed through the use of sandpaper letters, alphabet cut-outs, and various presentations allowing children to link sounds and letter symbols effortlessly and to express their thoughts through writing.
Cultural Activities expose the child to basics in geography, history, and life sciences. Music, art, and movement education are part of the integrated cultural curriculum.
The Montessori Foundation
The Montessori preschool environment unifies the psycho-social, physical, and academic functioning of the child. Its important task is to provide students with an early and general foundation that includes:
- A positive attitude toward school
- Inner security and a sense of order
- Pride in the physical environment
- Abiding curiosity
- A habit of concentration
- Habits of initiative and persistence
- The ability to make decisions
- A sense of responsibility to other members of the class, school and community
This Montessori foundation will enable your child to acquire more specialized knowledge and skills throughout his or her school career.