What’s So Different About Montessori? A great deal of the appeal of a Montessori education is visual: when observing a program in action, it is obvious something out of the ordinary is taking place. The colorful materials displayed attractively on the shelves catch the eye immediately. Groups of children working together cooperatively throughout the morning lend to the calm and peaceful classroom atmosphere. The difficult-to-locate teacher, using a soft voice in a gentle but firm and respectful manner, may be different from what one would find in other classrooms. Easily understood is the idea of an enriched environment, producing children whose lives are enriched by “working” in them. When a Montessori classroom is well tuned, the children begin to make discoveries. These discoveries, along with an atmosphere that encourages individual interests, fuel an emotional relationship with knowledge.
The Classroom Environment. The class consists of a mixed-aged grouping of children 2 years, 9 months through 5 years of age, enabling the children to help and learn from each other and to develop at their own pace without the pressure of competition. Dr. Montessori learned through her observations that children are happiest in a prepared environment. Greenwood Montessori School’s environment is prepared by a trained teacher and is designed to challenge, intrigue and delight young children while developing their talents. Both the young child’s interest in the environment itself and the older child’s growing awareness of the abstract are nurtured in the Montessori classroom.
The Curriculum. Greenwood Montessori School's curriculum guides children through hands-on activities that develop a life-long love of learning. Independence, concentration, coordination, respect, a sense of order and problem-solving skills form the foundation. Math, reading, science, art, music and movement, communication, social, emotional and physical development excel once this foundation has been laid. The three-strand curriculum of (1) practical life skills (motor and social development), (2) sensory skills (refinement of the five senses) and (3) academic skills (math, read, writing, science, geography, etc.) provide for a unique educational balance and allow each child endless opportunities for self-education. To view our year-long thematic Curriculum Outline, click here.
Practical Life. Practical Life activities are designed to develop a child’s coordination and independence. Through repeated use of activities such as spooning, pouring, twisting, squeezing and sewing, a child works toward mastery of these skills. Materials also focus on care of the environment, care of the person and grace and courtesy. A sense of order and concentration are promoted through the use of materials in this area.
Sensorial. The goal of the Sensorial curriculum is for the child to become an acute observer and to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world around him. This is done by offering the child beautifully designed materials that isolate concepts of size, color, form, touch, taste, weight, temperature, etc. Each of the human senses is called upon in isolation, thus helping to refine the child’s acuity. The materials begin with simple activities such as matching colors that are the same, building towers of cubes by using the ability to visually discriminate the various sizes of the cubes, and learning the names of geometric figures. The Sensorial curriculum is rich in discovery, manipulation and language enrichment.
Language. Dr. Montessori saw the road to reading as a dual path that involved the education of the hand and the education of the mind. Building upon language skills such as listening, understanding and basic speech patterns which she has previously acquired, the child moves on to hear and analyze both the sounds and the meaning of language. By using language in the classroom through listening, storytelling, reading and dramatic play, a child develops a love of literature, good communication skills and a strong self-esteem. Materials throughout the classroom offer the child many opportunities to development their finement of the hand by calling for careful attention to detail and the use of small muscles. Fine motor coordination is also enhanced through manipulating writing instruments, cutting, drawing, writing and opportunities for creative, artistic expression.
Mathematics. In the Montessori Mathematics area, the child is introduced to math concepts and experiences using concrete materials in the environment. Different from traditional mathematics instruction, the abstractions are introduced through sensorial, manipulative experiences that call for the child to order, discriminate, distinguish, make judgments and problem solve. Dr. Montessori designed beautiful, yet simple materials for her Math curriculum. Each material was designed to isolate one concept. The isolated concepts build on one another throughout the curriculum to develop and expand the child’s mathematical understanding and experience.
Science & Geography. The Science & Geography Areas of the classroom are rich in culture and information. Subjects such as Air, Land & Water; the Human Body, the Solar System, Dinosaurs and Lifecycles of a Seed, Bird, Frog and Butterfly are just some of the fascinating topics introduced.
Through the use of the materials in the Geography Area, the children are given a view of the world around them by being introduced to the different continents and their various countries...offering them a glimpse at the customs, cultures and languages of other children all around the world.
Art. Self-expression is encouraged in the Montessori Art area. Art that fills the individual needs of children nurtures creativity and offers children opportunities to use the small muscles of their fingers and hands along with their eyes. Children are extremely creative and embrace the opportunity to choose materials, helping them to learn how to make decisions. Filled with appropriate, open-ended materials, the Art Area presents children with endless opportunities to use their imaginations and create something new every day!
The Teacher. The real teacher in the Montessori classroom is the child himself/herself. It is the child who leads the way, revealing what s/he most needs to work on. Thus, the Montessori teacher operates much differently than the traditional teacher. S/he does not set goals and schedules for the children in the classroom and then use rewards and punishments to influence them to conform. Rather, s/he begins by familiarizing herself/himself to the needs of the children through observation. S/he becomes aware of the direction in which the child wants to go ~ seeking ways to help ~ but never infringing upon the child's freedom to make his/her own discoveries.
Comparisons of Montessori Education with Traditional Education
For additional information on the Montessori Approach, visit the American Montessori Society at www.amshq.org.