An emphasis on hands-on independent learning
At Smile & Shine the setting is designed in a way that there is a lot of natural light and space are common priorities in the classroom design. This is all done for a reason. “Creating a beautiful and accessible environment is of paramount importance, as children direct their own learning with the help of meticulously designed learning aids.
The best thing about a Montessori environment is that it allows for children to work, develop and learn at their own individual pace,” says Anitra Jackson, Montessori educator
Montessori classrooms are mixed-age, called vertical grouping which we strongly follow. Montessori capitalizes on that by grouping children of different ages together in the same learning environments These mixed-aged groups allow for children to learn from one another, teach one another and develop life skills such as inclusion and acceptance
My favourite aspect of a Montessori classroom lies within the sensory-based materials we use with our students, particularly the geometric solids, sandpaper letters and the coloured bead stair.
Inclusive of special needs
Maria Montessori's vision for education included children with special needs from the very beginning. Not only did she study intellectual and developmental disabilities, but she was the co-director of an institute for special education teachers. It was with this background that she started her first “Casa dei Bambini” (Children's House) for disenfranchised children in Rome in 1907. Many of the tenets of Montessori education serve students with special needs well.
Because children are grouped with others of different ages and have the same teacher for three years at a time, students with special needs tend to have less pressure to keep up with their peers and more freedom to learn and grow at their own pace. The classroom continuity can also help students with special needs form close connections within their classroom, making for a safe and stable environment in which to learn.
Montessori's “follow the child” philosophy allows for all children—not just those with special needs—to receive an individualized education. A Montessori instructor's lesson plan may have each child's name on it with different goals and ideas for their unique learning style. This especially helps students with special needs to learn at their own pace.
The FIVE Principles
Respect for the Child
The Absorbent Mind
The Prepared Environment
The Role of the Teacher
In Montessori education the role of the teacher is to guide children in their learning without becoming an obstacle, and without inserting themselves too much into the natural learning process. Therefore, the Montessori teacher is a facilitator, not a lecturer. Montessori teachers encourage children to learn by placing the pupils, rather than the teacher, at the centre of the experience. They provide learning materials appropriate to each child after close observation in the specially prepared learning environment. Teachers also demonstrate and model learning activities whilst providing freedom for the students to learn in their own way. Montessori teachers manage classroom behaviours by modelling ongoing respect for all children and their work, by observing and using sensitive periods, interests and abilities to plan activity, and by diverting inappropriate behaviour to meaningful tasks.
One of the more widely known features of a Montessori education is that of the multi-age classroom. Rejecting the notion all children of the same age develop and progress at the same page, Montessori schools believe multi-age classrooms enable children to work more productively at their natural pace. Montessori classrooms are typically set up in 3-year age ranges. As this setting is going to be a mix of normal day care and Montessori so we will do it according to the children’s need and development. Advocates believe this enable children to learn better social skills, and to develop academically, in a co-operative, non-competitive learning environment.
A Montessori Early Years Classroom
- Minimising things that may over-stimulate and distract. Walls are painted in neutral shades, minimal objects and artworks are displayed.
- The classroom is quiet, calm, uncluttered.
- Artwork is carefully chosen and displayed at children’s eye level
- Resources that appeal to all five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing) are used.
- The classroom is separated into different learning areas, with a place for everything.
- Use of natural and real-life (rather than pretend) materials and activities.