Montessori, or the Montessori Method, is an educational approach that combines theory and practice — encompassing ideas, principles, techniques and materials which inform child-led learning programs. 

Montessori teaches children methods of inquiry. The goal is not to teach specific knowledge to children, but to help them discover how to learn. This is why we do not see the adult in the classroom as a traditional teacher, but rather as a guide — they observe the child’s interests and prepare the classroom environment to feed these interests; guiding them on use of available materials, should they choose to engage with them.

History of the Montessori Method

The Montessori Method was originally developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, in the early 20th century. Dr. Montessori spent many years observing the way children classify their world.  She noticed that if children are exposed to knowledge in a simple and sequential manner they will learn very quickly.  

After observing that young children absorb knowledge best through their senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch), Dr. Montessori developed materials that utilise sensory experiences to help tap into this experiential learning by the child. 

The resulting precise and pretty materials use the gustatory, olfactory, visual, auditory, and stereognostic senses to help the child understand and interpret the world around them and develop an inner logic. Once they have done this, they can apply that logic to complex skills like reading, mathematics, scientific inquiry, and hands-on mechanical projects.

Core components

Puzzles, maps, globes, and various card games help the children understand the way the world is constructed

Multi-age classroom

Montessori classrooms intermingle students of different ages across a multi-year age span. The purpose of a multi-age classroom is to facilitate leadership development, encourage mentorship among the children, and create natural opportunities for independence and accountability. In the multi-age classroom, children are also able to return to the same materials to explore in greater detail as they continue their development over several seasons, and years.

Montessori materials

Dr. Montessori developed educational materials that demonstrate practical and intellectual ideas. These materials, often beautifully made from natural materials (wood, metal, glass), are specially designed to facilitate a hands-on approach to learning. The way the Montessori materials present activities to the children helps them become better observers and learners. In a typical exchange, the Teacher/Guide shows the children the way the materials work, and then the children are invited to play with the materials and learn the concepts. 

In addition to the Montessori materials, when children are in the Montessori environment they learn to do activities that adults are doing.  This includes housework, use of simple tools, sophisticated language, and basic arithmetic.  They also learn about the world through geography and scientific experiments. Even though some of the subjects are complex, and the materials in-depth, students can begin to grasp the ideas, and return to the materials again and again over time.

Child-led learning

At the kindergarten age the main questions children ask are “What?” and “How?” In the Montessori classroom the environment leads the children to discover these answers for themselves, which leads to intrinsic motivation and sustained attention. Students are given agency to self-select work, and are encouraged to interpret what they experience through various media. The materials and exercises all lead to a better understanding of the adult world and the culture they live in, and the approach supports their experience of being a unique individual.

Uninterrupted work periods

Each day offers students an extended period of focused time to choose work at their own pace and without interruption. In addition to the intentional classroom design and specialised materials, maintaining a daily routine supports the development of self-regulation and concentration—learning to think about what they are doing.

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