What is Montessori teaching: Everything you need to know about this unique system

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If you're wondering "what is Montessori teaching," look no further; because here is an in-depth look at this unique style of education.

In most traditional classrooms students follow an orated approach. They listen to the teacher passively, memorise the lessons and then take tests. But in a Montessori school, students are the initiators. So what is Montessori teaching exactly?

Read on, to find out.

In the Montessori system, students are considered smart enough to think critically. They learn at their own pace. They have freedom within limits. In addition, teachers only act as guides on a one-on-one basis. 

This creates a thoughtful, supportive and student-led learning environment. This experiential learning has spread across the globe. And for all the right reasons. 

What is Montessori teaching: A closer look 

The Montessori system of education was started by Dr Maria Montessori in 1907, in Italy. She was the first Italian woman to become a physician.

She first made scientific observations about children’s learning processes. Guided by her discoveries, she founded a system where experiential learning was given priority over oratory classroom learning.

Montessori has a ‘prepared environment.’ Here, children are allowed to choose activities appropriate to their age and understanding. 

Today, Dr Montessori’s casa dei bambini (children’s house) in Rome has been replicated all over the world. It includes children from all ages. 

What is the difference between Montessori and traditional teaching? 

Montessori teaching emphasizes on learning using the five senses – sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. It is not just based on listening, reading or watching.

In addition, children in Montessori classes learn at their own pace. They can also choose their own subject-based activity. This makes learning a process of discovery. Self-motivation as well as self-discipline are key.

Typically, such a system places kids into four groups including infant/toddler, primary, elementary and adolescence. However, there is a multiage grouping where younger students learn from the older ones.  

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Did you know that children in Montessori classes learn at their own pace? They can also choose their own subject-based activities.

What are students taught in these four groups? 

All the four major school groups are based on the student’s learning abilities, their age as well as chosen activities. Therefore, their learnings are aligned accordingly. Let’s take a look at what each age groups takes away from their classes. 

  • Infant/toddler: 0-3 years. This group emphasizes teachings that fine-tune motor, language and coordination skills. Activities are aimed at building confidence, promoting trust and gaining independence. 
  • Primary: 3-6 years. This group is also called the Casa or children’s house. Here, students are encouraged to work on a variety of materials to improve their mathematical understanding and develop literacy. They are also taught respect, communications skills and knowledge about consequences. 
  • Elementary: 6-12 years (lower elementary age is between 6 and 9, and upper elementary age is between 9 and 12). Kids in this group are given literary opportunities for intellectual exploration, and their interests are guided by the teachers. They are also encouraged to develop self-confidence and given a better understanding of their role in a community and in the world.    
  • Adolescence: 12-15 years, and 15-18 years. It is also called Erdkinder or farm school. In addition to their academic subjects, students are taught economic and administrative skills; as well as practical application of their class. This group emphasizes on helping a young adult understand their role in the wider context. 

What is Montessori teaching like in schools? 

Once all the students are placed in their respective age groups, their hours of learning and centres are finalized. But there is a lot more process to it. Here’s how a Montessori system typically works: 

  • The time schedule: Children under the age of six are given a three-hour uninterrupted work period each day. Older students can schedule classes and meet with their teachers for guidance when needed. 
  • Multi-age grouping: Students are put in mixed age group. These usually span between ages three to six. They are encouraged to constantly interact, solve problems together and socialize. They also participate in activities according to their ability. 
  • Work centres: As opposed to traditional classroom learning, students at a Montessori school are not restricted in seats. They are allowed to move around the centre based on their subjects. Also, they are not limited by time to finish one subject. They can study all subjects in a day, or all subjects can be studied on the same day at all levels. 
  • Teaching method: You will not find red marks in your ward’s books because that is not a Montessori approach. Student effort is encouraged and respected as is. Instead, the teacher observes the student. She can plan projects for improvement based on her observations. 
  • Student-teacher ratio: Except for infant classes, most classes have a ratio of 1:30. One Montessori trained teacher plus one assistant teach a group of 30 students. The focus is always to give one-on-one attention. The teacher’s role here is to guide a child’s exploratory interests. She won’t dictate lessons or create homework.
  • Teacher training: A Montessori teacher has to pass a written and oral examination. She can recognize a child’s interests based on his age and ability and guide him accordingly. They are also trained to enable teaching of any subject that the child understands.
  • Assessment: Traditional Montessori schools do not encourage grades or marks. Instead, a child’s progress is based on the observation of the teacher. The test of whether the child understands the subject depends on his level of maturity and knowledge of the subject. His overall happiness and personality development are also considered.

In addition to the various academic subjects, character education is also equally important in a Montessori system. So children are also taught practical life skills such as cooking, cleaning and gardening.

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A Montessori teacher can recognize a child’s interest based on his age and ability and guide him accordingly

And, children in the Montessori system are trained to be polite, helpful and a part of the community. 

Can I use Montessori style of teaching at home?   

Since the Montessori school of thought is about helping children think critically and collaborate with each other, it can work to home-school as well. 

Since children need a sense of belonging, they can easily find that in the comfort of their home by participating in everyday routines. You can begin by helping your child build self-esteem and confidence by letting them know that they can help themselves. 

However, a Montessori trained teacher can best implement its education system. That’s because she has specialized learning ‘equipment’ to prepare a favourable learning environment. 

Remember that a Montessori school of thought is based around the idea of letting kids be their own boss. So whether you encourage leadership at home or let them explore that ability at school, this system can work well to develop their overall personality.   

Sources: montessori-nw, montessori.edu, amshq

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