Why Montessori Works
Dr. Maria Montessori found that children have a tremendous ability to learn from the world around them. Based on this observation, Dr. Montessori felt that every classroom should be a “prepared environment” that contains appropriate learning materials for students. The proper use of these materials is to be demonstrated in both individual and group settings, and then these should be made available for children to work with at his/her own pace during large periods of uninterrupted time. Montessori required teachers to carefully observe and record the student’s choices, and then to regularly review those findings in order to properly guide and challenge their students. She found students flourished under this type of experiential learning, and exhibited higher levels of concentration, motivation and self-discipline.
How does Montessori Work?
Modern-day Montessori teachers are trained using Maria’s observational methods to be facilitators in the classroom, always ready to assist and direct. They stimulate their students’ enthusiasm for learning and guide them, all without interfering in each child’s natural desire to become independent. Children work through their own individual cycles of activities, and learn to truly understand what they are learning according to their unique needs and capabilities.
The “prepared environment” found in a Montessori classroom should contain the following elements:
- Freedom for self-directed learning – The Montessori method allows children to choose their own activities, allowing them to experience self-directed learning.
- Work Centers – Classrooms are arranged according to subject areas, with children free to move around the room instead of staying at desks. There is no set time limit that a child has to work with a piece of material. At any given moment all subjects may be being studied in the classroom, including math, language, science, history, geography, art, music, etc.
- Observation and indirect teaching – Montessori teachers are taught to observe each child engaging in activities and to discern the child’s natural instincts. The teacher can then use both the student’s strengths and weaknesses to provide lessons and materials that will broaden their learning experience. Academy teachers work hard to maintain a balance of both following each child’s readiness and ability, while still fulfilling the state’s curriculum guidelines.
- Multi-age groupings – Children in two to three-year age groupings learn from each other in a way that supports both independence and self-directed activities. Classroom instruction promotes peer-to-peer interaction, problem solving and positive socialization.
Montessori’s Proven Results
Research shows that Montessori children are well-prepared for life academically, socially, and emotionally. In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are often ranked above average on skills such as following directions, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, exhibiting enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations.
*Scientific research shows that:
- Cognition is optimized when movement is consistent with thinking.
- We learn best when we are interested in what we are learning about.
- Extrinsic rewards reduce motivation and the level of performance does not remain high once the rewards are removed.
- People thrive when they feel a sense of choice and control.
- We learn best when our learning is situated within meaningful contexts.
- Children can learn very well from and with their peers.
- Children thrive on order, routine, and ritual.
Each of these elements can be found every day in a child’s Montessori classroom, and all are essential to Montessori education.
*Excerpted from Angeline Stoll Lillard’s, “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius”