AN INTRODUCTION TO MONTESSORI
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” -Maria Montessori
Community life is a key element in any early years environment. The development of social skills in early childhood is essential to a child’s healthy growth towards self-esteem, independence, care and respect for the self and others. The concept is developed by allowing the child to take a leading role in their environment, through freedom of choice and movement. During the morning the child is free to choose any activity they like in their classroom. Each area has been specifically designed for their enjoyment and development. The furniture is child-sized so that they can have a part to play in where things are and help to maintain order and cleanliness. This develops a sense of belonging and responsibility and also a sense of achievement and control.
A unique aspect of the Montessori class is Vertical Age Grouping, where children of mixed ages work together in the same space. A typical class might be composed of one third two and a half year olds, one third three to three and a half year olds and one third four year olds. All of us have different personalities and life experiences (i.e. cultural, social) therefore the older child is often found teaching the younger child some new knowledge or skill they have learned (reinforcing and perfecting their own understanding) or helping the other achieve something that is just above their reach, or merely inspiring the young child to begin a new challenge. The older children develop their confidence and self-esteem while helping and teaching the younger ones.
Young children often have a greater sensitivity reminding the older child of their roots in development and are constantly questioning their work and their actions. A role model for ALL!
The classroom is prepared to meet the children’s Sensitive Periods of Learning in all areas of the curriculum
Practical life also known as ‘Activities of Daily Living’
These activities promote the child’s self-awareness and self-care and also awareness and care of their environment they include pouring, cutting, grating and sweeping and many more. This develops concentration, fine and gross motor skills and independence, and these attributes are the foundation for later learning.
Art and Creativity
The creative subjects are reflected in the art area, book corner and through musical instruments and activities. These are available to the child throughout the day.
The Sensorial Area
Using materials such as the Pink Tower, Touch Boards and Sound Boxes, the child develops his/her five senses and helps him/her gain important knowledge and language, particularly for mathematics.
The Mathematics Area
Here the child uses attractive materials to introduce the quantities 0 – 10 and then if the child is ready to continue the quantities and symbols from 11 up and introduces simple operations of additions and subtraction.
The Language Area
The area includes the popular game of “I-spy’’ to help the child become familiar with their phonic sounds and goes on to introduce writing and reading skills.
Knowledge & Understanding of the World
The subjects include Biology, Geography, History and Science, giving the child information through puzzles, models and matching exercises to help them know and understand the world they live in.
The children experience these areas through individual and group presentations following their developmental needs and interests. The subjects are connected to the topic themes that we use to introduce children to the world they live in.
The Montessori classroom allows all to follow their own individual learning programme laying foundations for the child’s later learning in a happy, relaxed and spontaneous space containing such a large variety of learning experiences that the sky is the limit!
The educational materials the children use are created at all levels so there is something for everyone in almost every area of the curriculum. If the young child chooses something too complex they will realise by trying that they cannot achieve it. The way the materials are laid out in the room allows the older children to return to more simple pleasurable activities that give them an opportunity to relax and take in the more complex and abstract academic work, which is available to them. For the younger child they can see their curriculum laid out before them (simple to complex, concrete to abstract).
A Montessori classroom should reflect life in all its realities, preparing the young child in all aspects of their development, working towards fulfilling each of their potentials. Not an easy task for parents or teachers alike but one that has been given to us by the children themselves, for their futures.