A truly educated individual continues learning long after the hours and years the child spends in the classroom because the child is motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr. Montessori felt that the goal of Early Childhood Education should not be to fill the child with facts from a pre-selected course of studies, but rather “to cultivate the child's own natural desire to learn”.
In the Montessori classroom this is approached in two ways:
- allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by the child's own choice rather than being coerced, and
- helping the child to perfect all his natural tools for self-directed learning, so that the child's ability will be at maximum in future learning situations.
The Montessori materials have this dual long-range purpose in addition to their immediate purpose of giving specific information to the child. The use of the materials is based on the young child's unique aptitude for learning that Montessori identified as the “absorbent mind”. The Equipment invites the children to learn at their own periods of interest and readiness.
The “Directress” (teacher) observes the individual child and determines when the child is ready for the appropriate materials. She carefully watches the progress of each child and keeps a record of each child's work with the materials.
The Montessori classroom can be divided into specialized areas:
The Practical Life Exercises, Sensorial Materials, Math, Language, Cultural Extensions, Music and Art.
“Taking Care of the Plants”
caring for the plants introduces
the children to botany and teaches
them how to take care of
The Practical Life area of the classroom provides a link to the child's home environment and thus is an extension of the child's developmental process. The exercises or activities found here are familiar to the children as many of them have been observed at home. Pouring, polishing, dusting and sweeping provide the child with a link to home.
The Practical materials also fulfill specific purposes in the real world for children. They learn to button their shirts, tie or buckle their shoes, wash their hands all free from adult help. The child also learns to care for the beauty in the environment: polishing silver, arranging flowers and caring for the plants.
Completing exercises in Practical Life will ensure the child a sense of accomplishment and independence. A child gains dignity and a sense of his/her own worth.
Comparing dimensions of cylinders
from the “Cylinder Blocks”
requires visual discrimination.
Children live in a world of senses. Through the senses the child gains knowledge, becomes more aware of his environment and grows in consciousness. The aims of the sensorial materials, which are scientific, and exact, are to refine rather than develop the senses.
The child is able to bring order and system to the impressions he/she has already gathered. Materials refine the child's motor coordination, help visual discrimination, refine the senses, and deepen concentration.
Children compare dimensions, classify shapes and discriminate between size, and colour. All these are an indirect preparation for reading, writing and math.
Making language booklets about
objects around the classroom
In the Montessori environment the child “meets” the alphabet through the Sandpaper Letters. The child traces the letter and learns the sound, giving a muscular impression, through recital and repetition the child fixes the path of the letters in his memory.
Once the child is very comfortable with phonetic words phonograms are presented, e.g. sh, oo, th. The tools for reading and writing are provided to the child and his/her own interest and progress determines the
Tracing the "Sandpaper Numerals"
then practicing writing
numerals on a chalkboard
The child's first introduction to numbers is made with a set of red and blue rods representing the quantities one through ten. The Sandpaper Numbers are then presented at the same time and when both are known well the association between the two is made. Various materials help the child to internalize the concept of one to ten.
Next the decimal systems is presented to the child using the Golden Beads: units, tens, hundreds and thousands. Soon the student begins to learn the four mathematical operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Mathematical facts are learned by the children actually performing the operations with concrete materials.
“Children exploring pictures of
animals, people, landscapes and
food from all the continents.”
The Montessori classroom offers many opportunities for young children to expand their knowledge during the years when they are motivated by spontaneous interest. The Large Wooden Puzzle Maps are most popular with the children; the introductory map of the world has a separate puzzle piece for each continent. The remaining maps have pieces representing countries, provinces or states. Names of countries are learned along with climate, size, customs, and languages.
Flags of countries are studied. Nature cards, illustrating animals from each continent and plant life are introduced. Land and Water forms are concretely represented and the children have fun pouring water into each form and learning the names of them.
Art & Music
“Rhythm and movement”
Art and Music are integrated into the day and are introduced into the environment with relative ease. We link the stages of the child's development with the Arts in the same way as Practical life, Sensorial, Language and Math. Various media are available for the children such as crayons, water paints, oil pastels, paints, coloured chalk, pasting, etc.
The more experience children have in art, the more they are able to express themselves.
Music is the same, the bells offer widened avenues for musical exploration: sameness and differences in tone. Rhythm is explored through movement on the line, hopping, skipping, and marching. Classical music played in the classroom brings to the child's awareness various sounds of instruments and composers.
The Arts give children another dimension of the curriculum and of themselves.
“Playing the bells,listening to
the sound of each note,
and exploring rhythm.”