Twenty Best Practices of an Authentic Montessori School
- Child-Centered Environment: The focus of activity in the Montessori setting is on children learning, not on teachers teaching. Generally student will work individually or in small, self-selected groups. There will be very few whole group lessons.
- Responsive Prepared Environment: The environment should be designed to meet the needs, interests, abilities, and development of the children in the class. The educators should design and adapt the environment with this community of children in mind, rapidly modifying the selection of educational materials available, the physical layout, and the tone of the class to best fit the ever changing needs of the children.
- Focus on Individual Progress and Development: Within a Montessori environment, children progress at their own pace, moving on to the next step in each area of learning as they are each ready to do so. While the child lives within a larger community of children, each student is viewed as a universe of one. Montessori Learning Activities
- Hands On Learning: In a Montessori learning environment, students rarely learn from texts or workbooks. In all cases, direct personal hands-on contact with either real things under study or with concrete learning materials that bring abstract concepts to life allow children to learn with much deeper understanding.
- Spontaneous Activity: It is natural for children to talk, move, touch things, and explore the world around them. Any true Montessori environment encourages children to move about freely, within reasonable limits of appropriate behavior. Much of the time the children select work that has been presented to them individually and which captures their interest and attention, although the Montessori educator also strives to draw their attention and capture their interest in new challenges and areas of inquiry. And even within this atmosphere of spontaneous activity, students do eventually have to master the basic skills of their culture, even if initially they would prefer to avoid them.
- Active Learning: In Montessori learning environments, children not only select their own work from the choices presented to them, but also continue to work with tasks, returning to continue their work over many weeks or months, until finally the work is so easy for them that they can demonstrate it to younger children. This is one of many ways that Montessori educators use to confirm that students have reached mastery of each skill.
- Self-motivated Activity: One of Montessori’s key concepts is the idea that children are driven by their desire to become independent and competent beings in the world to learn new things and master new skills. For this reason, outside rewards to create external motivation are both unnecessary and potentially can lead to passive adults who are dependent on others for everything from their self-image to permission to follow their dreams. In the process of making independent choices and exploring concepts largely on their own, Montessori children construct their own sense of individual identity and personal judgment of right and wrong.
- Freedom Within Limits: Montessori children enjoy considerable freedom of movement and choice, however their freedom always exists within carefully defined limits on the range of their behavior. They are free to do anything appropriate to the ground rules of the community, but redirected promptly and firmly if they cross over the line.
- Self-disciplined Learning: In Montessori programs, children do not work for grades or external rewards, nor do they simply complete assignments given them by their Montessori educators. Children learn because they are interested in things, and because all children share a desire to become competent and independent human beings.
- Mixed age groups: Montessori learning environments gather together children of two, three, or more age levels into a family group. Children remain together for several years, with the fully developed students moving on to the next age grouping when they demonstrate readiness to do so.
- A Family Setting: Montessori learning environments are communities of children and adults. As children grow older and more capable, they assume a great role in helping to care for the environment and meet the needs of younger children in the class. The focus is less on the educators and more on the entire community of children and adults, much like one finds in a real family.
- Cooperation and Collaboration, Rather Than Competition: Montessori children are encouraged to treat one another with kindness and respect. Insults and shunning behavior tends to be much more rare. Instead we normally find children who have a great fondness for one another, and who are free from needless interpersonal competition for attention and prestige. Because children learn at their own pace, Montessori educators refrain from comparing students against one another.
- The Child As A Spiritual Being: Montessori saw children as far more than simply scholars. In her view, each child is a full and complete human being, the mother or father of the adult man or woman he or she will become. Even when very young, the child shares with the rest of humanity personal hopes, dreams, and fears, emotions, and longing. From Montessori’s perspective, this goes beyond mental health to the very core of one’s inner spiritual life. Montessori educators consciously design social communities and educational experiences that cultivate the child’s sense of independence, self-respect, love of peace, passion for self-chosen work done well.
- Universal Values: Montessori educators deliberately develop in children not only appropriate patterns of polite behavior, but seek to instill basic universal values within the core of the child’s personality. These values include self-respect, acceptance of the uniqueness and dignity of each person we meet, kindness, peacefulness, compassion, empathy, honor, individual responsibility, and courage to speak from our hearts.
- Global Understanding: All Montessori schools are to a large degree international schools. They not only tend to attract a diverse student body representing many ethnic backgrounds, religions, and international backgrounds, but they actively celebrate their diversity. The curriculum is international in its heritage and focus, and consciously seeks to promote a global perspective.
- Service to Others: Montessori’s spiritual perspective leads Montessori schools to consciously organize programs of community service ranging from daily contributions to others within the class or school setting, to community outreach programs that allow children and adults to make a difference in the lives of others. The fundamental idea is one of stewardship.
- Authoritative: The Montessori educator is firm at the edges and empathetic at the center. The Montessori educator is never punitive but is the kind of adult who responds empathetically to children’s feelings, while setting clear and consistent limits.
- Observer: The Montessori educator is an observer of children’s learning and behavior. These careful observations are recorded and used to infer where each student is in terms of his or her development, and leads the Montessori educator to know when to intervene in the child’s learning with allowing more practice time, making a presentation of a new lesson, a fresh challenge, or a reinforcement of basic ground-rules.
- An Educational Resource: Montessori educators facilitate the learning process by serving as a resource or caring mentor to whom the children can turn as they pull together information, impressions, and experiences.
- Role Model: Like all great educators, the Montessorian deliberately models the behaviors and attitudes that he or she is working to instill in the children. Because of Montessori’s emphasis on character development, the Montessori educator normally is personally attractive, exceptionally calm, kind, warm, and is always polite to each child.
In conclusion, the Montessori educator recognizes that his or her role is not so much to teach as to inspire, mentor, and facilitate the learning process. The real work of learning belongs to the individual child. Because of this, the Montessori educator remains conscious of his or her role in helping each child to fulfill his or her potential as a human being and therefore knows that the primary educational responsibility is one of creating an environment for learning within which children will feel safe, cherished, and empowered.
Montessori educators are trained to identify the best response to the changing interests and needs of each child as a unique individual learner. Because they truly accept that children learn in many different ways and at their own pace, Montessori educators understand that they must “follow the child”, adjusting their strategies and timetable to fit the development of each individual child.
Montessori educators organize appropriate social settings and academic programs for children at their own level of development. They do this to a large degree through the design of the learning environment, selection and organization of learning activities, and structure of the day.
Montessori educators are filled with hope in the development of each child’s full human potential as a person of learning and virtue.
*Informational portions of our website, such as what you see above, were provided by International Montessori Council (IMC), of which Sunrise Montessori is a Charter Member.