A Brief Biography
Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy. Until her death in 1952, she devoted her life to developing a system for educating young children. Her system has influenced virtually all early childhood programs.
The Montessori Method
The Montessori Method has two generalized features incorporated into it. The first is mixed age grouping. A Montessori classroom includes children ranging from two and a half to six years. This is advantageous because children learn from one another and help each other. A wide range of materials are available for all children.
The second feature of the Montessori Method is self-pacing. Children are free to learn at their own rate and level of achievement. The child chooses which activities he participates in and works at his own pace. Through observation, the teacher determines when a child has perfected an exercise and is ready to move to a higher level or more difficult exercise. The teacher provides additional help and instruction if a child performs a task incorrectly.
The Role of the Director/Directress
Traditionally, the Montessori teacher is called a Director or Directress, because the role is to direct rather than teach. The role of the Directress includes: making the children the center of learning, encouraging the children to use the freedom provided to them and observing the children in order to prepare the best possible environment. This includes recognizing sensitive periods and diverting unacceptable behavior into meaningful tasks. It is necessary for the Directress to guide the child without letting him feel her presence too much. The Directress is there to “prepare the path and step aside and let the child walk.”
Although the Montessori Directress believes in freedom for the child and in the child’s ability to exercise that freedom, this does not mean the child is free to make unlimited choices. Within the framework of choices provided by the Directress, the student is free to choose. The child must know how to properly use the materials before he/she may work with them. Choice is a product of self-control and discipline. There is external order and rules to the environment which yield the internal order of control.
The Learning Environment/Classroom
Montessori believed that the child learns best in a prepared environment. The purpose of this type of environment is to make the child independent from the adult. It is a place where the child can do things for himself. The materials are placed in an aesthetically pleasing way as well as in a developmental sequence. The environment is constructed in proportion to the child and his needs. All materials are arranged on low shelves with easy access for children. Following introduction to the prepared environment, children come and go according to their desires and needs. They decide for themselves which materials to work with.
The Montessori classroom is divided into three main areas. The Practical Life area offers children practice with a variety of self-help skills. There is a sequence of steps followed throughout the year. Activities incorporate much small muscle use and eye-hand coordination.
In the Sensorial area, children work with visual, auditory, and tactile discrimination. They learn to recognize differences between colors, shapes, and sizes. Materials in this area can be used in a variety of ways and on several different learning levels. This area also includes Science and Geography centers.
The Academic area introduces children to numbers (recognition, sequence, and counting) and early mathematical concepts. A phonetic approach is taken to teach pre-reading and beginning reading skills. Self-pacing gives children individualized instruction.
Montessori Materials and Equipment
The learning equipment designed by Maria Montessori emphasizes self-learning and allows children the freedom to explore and grow at their own pace. This equipment has the following characteristics:
- It is carefully sequenced into steps and allows children to feel success after mastering each one;
- It goes from the concrete to the abstract, first appealing to children’s senses;
- It allows children to learn by doing;
- It is self-correcting, allowing children to see for themselves when they have made an error;
- It emphasizes reality, using real glass pitchers for pouring, for example;
- It is attractive to encourage attentiveness and play.
In addition to the traditional Montessori curriculum, Brookside Montessori offers many extra activities. For more information, please read the About Brookside page, available from the menu bar.