An Introduction to Montessori Education
Maria Montessori was an Italian physicist and educator. In 1896, her philosophy of teaching was adopted as a worldwide educational system. Her approach to teaching has been implemented by many educational settings and homes across the world. Montessori nurseries are most common in the United Kingdom, while secondary schools that use this approach are more common in the United States.
What are the main principles of Montessori?
A Montessori education strives to develop individuals who are self-sufficient, capable, and active members of society. Children are taught self-discipline and the significance of caring for themselves, others, and the environment. The Montessori philosophy emphasises respect between adults and children and promotes a calm and pleasant environment. For example, respect is shown when a child works and learns at their own pace without being distracted by an adult.
How are children taught with this approach?
One of Montessori's famous quotes is "Follow the child but follow the child as his leader". Her philosophy emphasises child-driven learning over teacher-driven learning. Teachers create and prepare interesting activities for each child based on their developmental stage in school.
The ethos emphasises the recognition of each child as a unique individual because not all children learn at the same rate. As a result, the children are given challenging tasks but activities within their reach.
What role does nature have in learning?
From birth, children take in their surroundings by looking, hearing, feeling, and tasting whatever they can get their hands on. Montessori recognised this and used natural materials as much as possible in her classes.
Materials such as wood, glass, shells, flowers, and spices are used extensively in the learning process. Wooden rattles, three-piece shape puzzles, nesting boxes, and posting boxes are all fantastic first activities for babies and toddlers that follow the Montessori learning philosophy.
What is the importance of the Montessori environment?
Play encourages children to develop a wide range of skills, including social and emotional awareness, critical thinking, imagination, and creativity, to mention a few. This is referred to as "working through play".
Montessori education involves various stimulating learning environment strategies, such as promoting choice and encouraging independence through the activities.
Children's learning can be nurtured and enhanced by providing active and engaging hands-on activities.
Children are given a "prepared environment" in which they can attain their full potential by participating in developmentally appropriate activities. It is uncluttered, inviting, and allows children to move around freely.
What are the areas of learning?
As part of the Early Years Foundation Stage, each area reflects the 'Development Matters' seven areas of learning, as set by the Department for Education. Typically, a UK Montessori classroom is divided into five areas:
A fundamental aspect of the Montessori approach is independence. For example, within a standard Montessori classroom, the Practical Life activities particularly encourage this. These activities may include the following:
Pouring from jug to jug to assist them with pouring their own drink.
Using a 'Dressing Frame' to assist them in learning how to use buttons and zips when dressing.
Setting the table so they can prepare for lunch and get used to the routine.
However, these activities are not limited to the classroom, and could be replicated at home:
Keeping a small jug of water and a cup at child height on a table, along with a sponge to clean up spills.
Provide a role-play kitchen with child-sized utensils like teaspoons, whisks, sieves, and dried pasta or lentils.
These are just a few examples of how carefully selected and prepared materials can help children gain independence and develop other skills in the Practical Life area.
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