What is it?
An individualized method of instruction using self-exploratory learning, incorporating the five senses.
The "Montessori Method", developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, began in Rome, Italy in the late 1800's. It is still being used all over the world with great success.
The young child's mind, (birth to 6 years), is referred to as the "absorbent mind". It is much like a sponge. If the real world is presented in a way that children can use their hands and interact with it, they will learn. "The hand forms the mind". (Maria Montessori)
Begin by allowing each child to experience the excitement of learning by his own choice rather than by being forced. Individualized lessons are given on materials in seven areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Geography, History, and Science.
Materials, not toys, are placed on low shelves in a pre-arranged place. Furniture is child-sized. Our natural surroundings are emphasized and world-wide cultures are studied.
The Montessori Approach was first brought to Boyd County Head Start in 1985. The first classroom was at Eidson Elementary under the direction of Ms. Carol Duncan Hiler, teacher, and Ms. Terry Shumway Johnson, Instructional Assistant. Enrolled were 20 students from ages three to five years old. The program was six hours per day, five days a week, 175 days per year.
Since the program was viewed as a success, it spread to all Head Start and Kindergarten classrooms in the school district. Teachers were all certified Montessori Teachers through St. Nicholas Training Center for the Montessori Method of Education. This was made possible through a grant from Ashland Oil.
When the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was initiated in 1990 and the Primary Program was launched, Montessori Education was seen as a way to provide the best practice to young children. Fifteen Primary teachers registered to take classes. Again, Ashland Oil promoted this worthwhile approach to quality education through funding.
Boyd County Public Schools was the first public school in Kentucky to implement the Montessori Method. Montessori training for incoming preschool teachers is ongoing. Refersher training is provided annually for all pre-k teachers.
In February of 1999, all Boyd County Pre-Kindergarten sites were awarded the prestigious NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Accreditation. NAEYC re-accreditation took place in 2004 and again in 2009 and 2010. On October 13, 2003, Boyd County Pre-k programs also earned the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation as a single purpose school and re-accreditation in 2007 as part of the Boyd County Public Schools’ district accreditation process.
The children learn in the Montessori classroom by "doing". Dr. Montessori emphasized that "the hand forms the mind". In order to learn, there must be concentration. All the equipment in the Montessori classroom allows the children to reinforce casual impressions by inviting them to use their hands to learn and to build concentration. According to research, children gain seventy-five percent (75%) of their knowledge before the age of three. Dr. Montessori said that the child, at the age of birth to three, has an "absorbent mind". This referred to the ability and ease with which young children learn, unconsciously, from the environment. Concepts that are presented in concrete form (actually touching and manipulating the materials), make learning tangible for children and serve as touchstones in their memory for many years.
KEY STATEMENTS REGARDING THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
· The teacher-pupil ratio is about 1 to 10.
· The teacher has an unobtrusive role in the classroom.
· The environment and method encourage self-discipline.
· The instruction is mainly individual (one-to-one).
· There is a mixed-age grouping which encourages children to teach and help each other.
· The children choose their own work and set their own learning pace.
· The child discovers concepts from self-teaching materials and is allowed to work as long as she/he wishes on a chosen project.
· The child discovers errors from the materials because they are self-correcting.
· The teacher recognizes each child's "sensitive" periods.
· The child can work where she/he chooses, move around and talk at will, yet not disturb others.
· Multi-sensory materials for physical exploration are available.
· The child reinforces his/her own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success.
AREAS OF STUDY IN A MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
The practical life section is the most important area in a Montessori classroom. It is through these materials that the child develops the self-confidence, control and concentration essential for mastery of the other more advanced area of a Montessori class.
Children will be naturally drawn to this area because these materials are most familiar to them. This familiarity also serves to provide the children with a feeling of security and well-being. The activities will contain objects and materials that are normally encountered in the everyday living experiences of the children's culture. Many of them are fundamental activities that children need to master to be able to live comfortably in the real adult world. Most of the activities of practical life will fall into four main categories: grace and courtesy, care of self, control of movement, and care of the environment.
PURPOSES OF PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES:
· To develop and perfect muscle control and coordination through organization of movement.
· To develop a sense of physical and mental order through exactness in use of objects and working in definite sequence.
· To develop understanding through control of the environment resulting in a sense of dignity and self-confidence, joy in completing tasks, and generating a social feeling among children.
· To develop concentration and persistence through focusing attention on work, thus allowing independence and self-reliance to be achieved.
· To establish the procedure for choosing work after a lesson has been placed on the shelf and returning materials to their proper place on the shelves.
· To establish respect for other's work by learning that materials are never taken from another child but only from the shelves.
The sensorial materials help the child to become aware of detail. Each of the activities isolate one defining quality, such as color, weight, shape, texture, size, sound and smell. It is in this area that math concepts are first introduced and internalized.
The primary purpose of the sensorial activities is to help the child in his/her effort to sort out the many and varied impressions given by the senses. They help to do this in four ways: 1) they are specifically designed to develop order, broaden and refine sense perceptio, 2) the activities identify a single quality, reveal a range of small differences in the quality and explore patterns in those difference, 3) the child's understanding of the world is "broadened" when the sensorial activities awaken certain sense experiences that were previously unexplored, such as the feel of shapes or the smell of spices and, 4) they allow the child to experience and concentrate on particular qualities in perfect clarity and isolation.
The sensorial activities also provide the child with basic skills needed for mathematics work, including calculation of amount or degree, exactness in perception and dexterity, discrimination among similarities, repetition, set recognition, algebraic analysis, and recognition of progression in a series. Most of the sensorial materials provide the child with experiences in more than one of these skills
Resource: Gettman, D., 1987. Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives St. Martin's Press, New York. P. 65 and 160.
The language area contains many learning opportunities such as:
· Learning the shapes and sounds of the letters
· Perfecting the fine motor skills for writing
· Vocabulary development
· Matching of words and pictures
· Reading silently
· Reading word lists, sentences, stories
· Parts of speech word games with nouns, verbs and adjectives
The development of language in early childhood classrooms is an umbrella for the entire Montessori curriculum. Language learning occurs most profoundly in the moment-to-moment life of interactions within the classroom. Children learn to listen, speak, and later to write and read. A balanced environment, one that is open yet not chaotic or inappropriate, is the most conducive to language learning. Activities related to the development of early literacy skills greet young children when they visit the language area of a Montessori classroom. These activities include opportunities for young children to expand vocabulary, listen carefully to common sounds, and look carefully to find likenesses and differences among objects and pictures. Matching sets of objects, learning the names of household tools, unusual fruits and vegetables and geometric shapes are other activities which build language and early literacy skills and will be found in a Montessori classroom. Dr. Maria Montessori personally developed only three language materials for the early childhood classroom: the metal insets, the sandpaper letters, and the moveable alphabet. However, they have proven astoundingly effective. In fact, educators outside of Montessori have recognized the effectiveness of these materials and have created similar activities now being used in a variety of early childhood settings.
In Montessori classrooms, teachers incorporate both phonetic and whole-word strategies. To meet the needs of all children, teachers need to use a variety of strategies.
Key concepts of Montessori teachers are:
· Provision of an array of print activities
· Recognition that there is more than one way that children learn to read, so a variety of approaches are used
· Demonstration of literacy often
· Writing meaningfully in front of children and reading back what is written
· Providing opportunities for auditory and visual discrimination activities
· Demonstration of an appreciation of words, by playing funny, nonsense games, commenting on the way new words sound
· Reading award winning books to the children on a variety of subjects
· Read, read, read aloud to children and encouraging the same at home. (Not only to the whole class but in small groups and one on one)
Resource: Epstein, A., "Montessori Early Childhood Language Lifelong Literacy", Tomorrow's Child, 4:1, 13-17.
By using concrete materials during the early years, the child can learn the basic concepts of mathematics. Montessori education provides many materials to develop mathematical skills. Not only will the child be able to know quantities and systems but will understand the process as well.
Through the early sensorial activities an understanding of qualities' foundation has been laid for the child. In addition, the Montessori child is introduced to the required skills for mathematics by many aspects of both the practical life activities and the sensorial activities.
Mathematics activities are organized into five groups: 1) introduction to numbers, 2) introduction to the Decimal System, 3) introduction to tens, teens and counting, 4) arithmetic tables, and 5) abstraction. The preschool classroom activities will typically be activities found under group one through group four. Group one introduces units of quantity and illustrates their use in exercises that count up to ten. The mathematics work proceeds as in all Montessori learning, from the most concrete to abstract, as the child is ready.
Montessori students use hands-on learning materials that make abstract concepts clear and concrete. This approach to learning offers a clear and logical strategy for helping students understand and develop a sound foundation in mathematics and geometry.
Resource: Gettman, D., 1987. Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives. St. Martin's Press, New York, 159.
Science is an integral element of the Montessori curriculum. The program is designed to cultivate the child's curiosity and determination to discover the truth for themselves. They learn how to observe patiently, analyze, and work at each problem. Students engage in field trips and hands-on experiments and typically respond with enthusiasm to the process of carefully measuring, gathering data, classifying and predicting the outcome. One goal of Montessori science is to cultivate a lifelong interest in observing nature and discovering more about the world in which we live. Some science activities you could see in a Montessori classroom are activities of magnetism, weights, growing plants and classification of plants and animals.
Resource: Seldin, T., "Montessori's Integrated Spiral Curriculum, " Tomorrow's Child. 4:1,5-11.
Montessori preschools offer many opportunities for the child to expand knowledge of the world during the early years when they are motivated by spontaneous interest. The materials provided in the social studies area spark this interest. Some of the materials in this area are: Land and Water Globe, Continent Globe, World Map Puzzle, picture packets of animals and people in other countries and career exploration.
The classroom offers children a concrete representation of history by letting them work timelines. Some examples of study through the use of timelines are: prehistoric life, presidents, the student's own life timeline or the teacher's life timeline and the child's day. Other cultures as well as our own are explored. Important figures from the past are discussed.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ's) AND ANSWERS CONCERNING MONTESSORI PRESCHOOL
1. Why should I send my child to Montessori preschool?
The Montessori approach is often described as an "education for life". The environment is designed to facilitate the development of the child's independence and sense of personal empowerment. Children touch and manipulate everything in their environment. In a sense the mind is hand made, because through movement and touch, the child explores, manipulates and builds up a storehouse of impressions about the physical world.
Children learn by doing, and this requires movement and spontaneous investigation. Montessori preschool allows children freedom to move about, working alone or with others at will. They may select any activity and work as long as they wish. Many activities are designed to draw the child's attention to the sensory properties of objects within the environment: size, shape, color, texture, weight, smell, sound, etc., gradually learning to pay attention to small details in things around them and beginning to observe and appreciate the environment. This is a key in helping a child discover how to learn.
2. What is the difference in daycare, nursery school and preschool?
Daycare centers are generally for the purpose of just caring for children on an all-day basis. Nursery schools are for experiences in socialization and play. Preschools are oriented toward educational experiences combined with socialization and play. In addition, the training level of the instructors is generally higher in preschools. More emphasis is now being placed on increasing the training levels of all instructors of the very young child due to recent brain research discoveries.
3. How is a Montessori preschool different from other preschools?
In most preschools, the children are taught educational concepts in groups by a teacher (teacher-centered). In a Montessori preschool, the children learn concepts as they work independently in a carefully prepared environment with the many materials found there (child-centered).
Students are typically found scattered around the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that visitors are immediately struck by the peaceful atmosphere. It may take a moment to spot the teachers within the environment. They will be found working with one or two children at a time, advising, presenting a new lesson, or quietly observing the class at work.
4. What is the purpose of the Montessori preschool?
The main purpose of Montessori preschool is two-fold, to develop an environment where the child can unfold naturally and to full potential and to develop and foster in the child a life-long love of learning.
A Montessori teacher has four principle goals:
· Awaken the child's spirit and imagination;
· To encourage the child's normal desire for independence and high sense of self-esteem;
· To help the child develop the kindness, courtesy, and self-discipline that will allow him/her to become a full member of society; and
· To help the child learn how to observe, question, and explore ideas independently.
Montessori teachers use the children's interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.
5. What are the sensitive periods?
"Sensitive periods" are Maria Montessori's name for periods when the child shows unusual capabilities for acquiring particular skills. Modern psychologists refer to these as "critical" learning periods. New brain research information refer to them as "Windows of Opportunities".
6. What is in a Montessori classroom?
The classroom is a child-sized world. Whatever is in the world outside can be incorporated meaningfully in the Montessori classroom. By careful selection of materials, the teacher sets up the environment to allow the child a place to explore life on a level which facilitates learning. The materials or activities are designed to encourage exploration independently by the child. The child proceeds at his own pace from simple, easy activities, to more complex, harder ones. Through this process, the child's natural curiosity is satisfied as he experiences the world about him.
7. How do children interact in the environment?
This environment is the child's community. They move freely within it, selecting work that captures their interest, rather than participating in all-day lessons and projects selected by the teachers. In a very real sense, the children are responsible for the care of their own child-sized environment. They take pride in replacing work once they are finished, caring for plants and pets, cleaning up spills and helping others clean up spills, pouring and filling.
These very young children develop a sense of maturity and connectedness to realize a much higher level of their potential as human beings.
8. What is the role of the Montessori teacher:
The Montessori teachers are guides. Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social/emotional environment within which the children will work. Certainly, a key aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate opportunities for learning to meet the needs and interests of each child.
Montessori teachers rarely present a lesson to more than a handful of children at one time, and they limit lessons to brief, efficient presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the materials.
Montessori teachers closely monitor the children's progress, keeping the level of challenge high. They get to know the child's strengths and weaknesses, interests, and anxieties extremely well. They use the children's interests to enrich the curriculum. In addition, Montessori students acquire mastery of the skills and knowledge that are considered basic.
9. With all the freedom, isn't there confusion?
The concept of freedom in a Montessori classroom is "freedom within limits". A child is allowed to work freely as long as he/she does not disturb others. Actually, the child who is allowed the freedom to follow his/her interests is generally happy and busy with the work. Freedom needs to be allowed for learning to be achieved. A free child (or adult) is one who has developed his potential and prefers to work out problems when necessary. An undisciplined and unskilled child (or adult) is not free, but a slave to his/her immediate desires and is excessively dependent on others whether parent or teacher, husband or wife. The free child grows into a free adult.
Source: Seldin, T., "Montessori 101, What Every Montessori Parent Should Know", Tomorrow's Child, 1:4, 5-15
WAYS THE MONTESSORI PHILOSOPHY CAN BE INTEGRATED INTO YOUR HOME
KEY TO TASKS: Keep the home neat and orderly; materials should be easy to reach. Give a demonstration lesson first, then let the child do the activity independently! If the mess gets too big, stop the child. Show him/her how to clean up. Clean up the majority; let the child clean up, independently, the rest.
Kitchen: Low shelving/cabinets, step-stool, designated place for child-size dishes, and silverware. Small container of juice/milk in refrigerator, easy for pouring. Encourage child to start with easy tasks. Show child how to pour from a small pitcher the correct amount into glass). Allow the child to help with meal preparation and clean-up (Easy tasks, such as spreading butter, jelly) Small hand-sized dish cloths for cleaning spills; small whisk broom/dust pans; small "crumber" for table top. *Child access to sink/water source is vital. Independence should be promoted.
Play Area: Located where adults spend most of their time. Keep a few toys here, others in child's bedroom. Child-sized table/two chairs. Toys are on open, low shelving, instead of a toy chest. Toys in individual containers or baskets can easily be opened by the child. Rotate materials, introduce new things, put things back. (everything "lives" in a special place).
Other Living Areas: Nature items such as potted plants, small pets, are recommended. Child is given responsibility for care of living plants/animals, i.e.; fish, gerbils, birds, hermit crabs.
Other Furnishings: Pictures of relatives, small prints hung at child's eye level. *Also, a calendar, alarm clock, and full length mirror.
The Bedroom: Child's bed should be low to the floor, easy to get in and out so that the child can be independent and safe. Low hanging-coat rack, art prints, animal prints, wall clock with large numbers, bulletin board for child's art work, school papers, calendar. Light switches with extenders for child's independence. Low chest of drawers (label drawers: socks, underwear, pants, etc) . Low shelving is used with nature items, i.e.; rocks, seeds, critters. Collect flowers from fields/garden, place in vases in bedroom. Low shelving stocked with musical instruments, simple record/CD player, recordings/CD's.
The Bathroom: Sturdy stools/wooden platform for reaching sink/toilet. Sink with water, toothbrush, toothpaste, cup, grooming items, easy to reach.
Art Craft Area: Easel, art table for drawing, crafts, and a washable table cloth. Supplies stored in separate plastic containers, washable markers, crayons, paste, paper, fabric scraps, recycled household items for collages.