Montessori Method of Learning

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. She gave to the world the Montessori Education Method or Montessori Philosophy that is an acclaimed child-based learning method. It is a method of scrutinizing and promoting the innate development in children that has been tested worldwide for over a 100 years now. At present this system is being used in over 20,000 schools worldwide.

This educational practice helps develop creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, time-management, care for the environment, and benevolence in children. It readies them to contribute to society and to become a complete person. The Montessori practice in classrooms is based on a mixed age group (3-6 yrs. in one class), individual choice of research and work, and uninterrupted concentration. Montessori strongly advocated the fact that children learn better when they enjoy what they learn as that way they tend to retain more. Following is the detailed analysis of various aspects of the method-

  1. Multi-age grouping: This learning process involves using the elder children’s experiences for teaching the younger children. And, the elder children boosting their learning by teaching the concepts they already know. This arrangement mirrors the real world scenarios where individuals interact with all age groups and inclinations.
  2. Role of order and structure: For young children, order is a very crucial. It consists of identifying the place for each object in accordance with its surroundings and recollecting that information when required. This knowledge is important for the child to feel safe within his/ her environment, and to build on existing experiences. Structure in the environment is instrumental in a child feeling safe and they know how things should be. So, in a Montessori classroom, order is of great importance.
  3. Role of sensitive periods: One of Montessori’s observation was that children were receptive to learning at certain moments where their readiness to learn was high. These certain periods of time let the children have a better focus on the things that were taught to them. They included a sensitive period for order, refinement of the senses, language acquisition, walking and movement, small objects and involvement in social life.
  4. Learning environment: The environment in which a child learns is of utmost importance. There are various sub-parts to it, that are-
  5. Montessori tools: According to Montessori, children built on their physical experiences of the world through their senses. And, their understanding could be enhanced if they are given meticulously designed interesting materials to experiment with. She developed materials keeping in mind all the senses of an individual that could be then increasingly explored by children. According to her, children loved beautiful objects and thus, made them with great care.
  6. Mathematics: The material used for mathematics gives the concept of quantity to children, and also introduces them to symbols 1 to 10. Then, with the help of different types of beads and symbol cards, children are made familiar with numbers as a decimal system. They are even taught the use of various operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These operations not only teach the child to calculate, but they provide a deep understanding of how numbers function.
  7. Language: Through her observations, Maria found that a child has a natural progression towards writing as they want to show off their newly acquired knowledge. Writing as a norm always preceded their reading skills. And for this, she created sets of metal insets that would be used for drawing and in the process fine tune motor skills in children.
  8. Classroom environment: Classrooms in the Montessori system are a cheerful place to be in’ a “home away from home” where the children are surrounded by their friends and can be themselves. It is a place where the child always has something or the other to do, and if he/ she wants to just sit quietly they can do that too. The formation of the class is such that the child grows up with a belief that he/ she is very special. They have a sense of belongingness with the classroom. It encourages the child to explore, communicate and develop relationships with their surroundings at all levels.
  9. Life skills: For the children, the end result is of lesser significance than the learning associated with the process. And so for full satisfaction, they will happily repeat exercises. In the Montessori system, therefore, systematic activities have an important part to play. The child gets influenced by these activities going on around him, which gives him a control on his life. To achieve this objective, Maria introduced various exercises in her classrooms that would give children a chance to understand how to look after their environment.
  10. Cultural studies: To cater to the child’s innate impulses to know more about his/ her environment, Montessori developed many alluring materials that allowed them to appreciate other disciplines, such as history, geography, biology as well. These disciplines then further allow the children to explore and experiment with concepts such as metamorphosis, life cycles, land formations, planets and timelines.
  11. Art and creativity: For Montessori, a child’s creative freedom is of utmost importance. They should be allowed to express themselves freely. And to make sure this happened, she created many secondary activities that would help them develop the necessary abilities. The classroom in a Montessori setting is filled with options to experiment with different and exciting materials whether they are involved in painting, singing, playing instruments, or dancing.
  12. Social skills: To hone community skills in children, during their group time they are given necessary training on how to move quietly and carefully around the classroom, push in chairs, and to wait patiently before gaining someone’s attention. They are also taught that no work is small or big, and everyone has the right to work undisturbed. These skills also teach children to help out those in trouble.


Montessori Method for adolescents

Dr. Maria Montessori, in her book, From Childhood to Adolescence, she outlines the Montesserian philosophy of reaching the children where they are. She said:

“Education should not limit itself to seeking new methods for a mostly arid transmission of knowledge: its aim must be to give the necessary aid to human development. This world, marvellous in its power, needs a ‘new man’. It is therefore, the life of man and his values that must be considered. If ‘the formation of man’ becomes the basis of education, then the coordination of all schools from infancy to maturity, from nursery to university, arises as a first necessity.”

  • 12-15 years:Since children in their adolescence grow up at a rapid pace, have increased need for sleep, and undergo hormonal changes, Dr. Montessori said that it is impractical to expect them to concentrate on intellectual work. And for this, she proposed an Erdkinder, or Earth school, where children could live in harmony with nature, eat fresh farm produce, and carry on tasks related to the economics of supplying food, shelter, transportation, and so on. The intention behind this was to monitor a child’s passion, and accordingly give him intellectual work.
  • 15-18 years: For children of this age group, the growth rate slows down considerably. And so, a rigid intellectual schedule can work for them combined with social work and internships in the work world. By the time they reach high school, they are close to becoming adults, and can participate in the planning of their home budget.
Montessori Method for adolescents

  1. Multi-age groupsForming multi-age groups in learning where children perform the designated activities. This will encourage interaction amongst students. However, this system will work better in children in primary school.
  2. Emphasis on process:The best projects should be given due recognition on the basis of their detailed research done, the process used and other related factors.
  3. Farm-based learning:Given our constraints, the established setup and our target segments, we can encourage the Montessarian philosophy by engaging children in activities that encourage self-sufficiency and independent living, which could include planting, cleaning or house-building projects.
  4. Using Montesserian tools: We can use some of the tools as introduced by Dr. Montessori, as part of our programmes while we continue the learning process.
References

  1. Montessori, M. (1916) The Montessori Method, New York: Schocken Books (1964 edition).
  2. Montessori, M. (1949) The Absorbent Mind, New York: Dell (1967 edn.)
  3. Kramer, Rita (1976). Maria Montessori. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-201-09227-1.
  4. Lillard, Angeline (2005). Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516868-2.