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Teachers working with children & Montessori learning materials
The dialogue in this introduction was taken from the following AMI websites and we urge you to explore Montessori education further. We refer you to the ‘The North America Montessori Teachers Association’ and the ‘Montessori Society AMI UK’ websites (see the end of the introduction)
Montessori (pronounced MON-tuh-SORE-ee) is a comprehensive educational approach from birth to adulthood based on the observation of children's needs in a variety of cultures all around the world. Beginning her work almost a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this educational approach based on her understanding of children's natural learning tendencies as they unfold in 'prepared environments' for multi-age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, and 12-14).
The Montessori environment contains specially designed, manipulative 'materials for development' that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide, serving children from birth through adolescence. How many Montessori schools are there? NAMTA estimates that there are about 20,000 worldwide. For example in the United States, there are more than 4,000 private Montessori schools and more than 200 public schools with Montessori-styled programs. ‘The Association Montessori Internationale’ (AMI), founded by Maria Montessori in 1929, maintains Montessori educational principles and disseminates Montessori education throughout the world.
On the path from birth to adulthood the child passes through several distinct phases. In each of these phases he is not only physically different but he also has different psychological characteristics and therefore different developmental needs. At each phase, which Montessori called a ‘plane of development’, the child has such different physical and psychological characteristics that Montessori described the passing from one plane to the next as a ‘rebirth’, as if we have a new child at each new plane who will require a different environment just as the new born baby requires a different environment from the womb in which he has spent the last nine months.
Montessori called the first plane of development from zero to six years Infancy, that from six to twelve Childhood, from twelve to eighteen Adolescence and the final plane from eighteen to twenty-four Maturity. Many psychologists have described these six different planes but it is only Montessori who has given a way to respond to this knowledge as a means of education and in this way she has redefined education as an ‘aid to life’ saying that if we support the natural development of the child at each plane then we will optimise development for the whole human being. There is a particular time in the child’s life when he is most able to take a particular developmental step. These opportunities must be grasped because when they are missed the development that can take place later will never be as complete as if it had happened at the right moment.
In the first six years of life the child has a very special kind of mind. It is the kind of mind that means that the new born baby can learn any language in which he is immersed simply by living. It is the kind of mind that means that every baby becomes a child of the culture into which he is born taking on the customs, habits, feelings and sentiments of that culture simply by living. For this reason Montessori called it the 'Absorbent Mind' because the young child seems to just soak up everything in his environment without even thinking about it. The fact that the child has a mind like this means that much emphasis must be put on education in the first six years of life, while the child learns with total ease.
Sensitive Periods – Offer Windows of Opportunity
Montessori observed that during the first six years of life the child has particular periods of time when they are driven to seek something in the environment that results in them becoming engaged in some kind of activity. This activity leads them to acquire certain traits that we consider to be human – the ability to speak a language, the ability to use our hands to express our thoughts, the ability to reason. These Sensitive Periods, which overlap and support each other, last for a limited period of time and have all faded by the time the child is six, provide a timetable for optimal natural development and the Montessori approach puts great emphasis on supporting them during the first plane of development.
Other sensitivities occur at particular times in the life of the older child and these are dictated by the characteristics of the child at each stage. Although these are not critical ‘windows of opportunity’ as with the Sensitive Periods they still offer an indication of the right time for particular developments to be made and as such, the support of them is given much emphasis in the Montessori approach.
From the moment he is born the small baby strives to orientate himself and explore the things in his world, he reaches out to abstract meaning from everything he experiences, he is driven to be independent and he wants to find a way to communicate with the people around him. He is urged to manipulate things with his hands in order to know what they are, to concentrate on the task in front of him and to repeat things in order to make everything that he does more and more perfect.
These developmental drives are all a part of the natural behaviour that humans beings take with them through life and that help the baby adapt to his new world and to develop. Maria Montessori called them the Human Tendencies and she said that the environment must allow for all of these to be freely expressed by the child if he is to flourish.
The Montessori approach to education rests on the premise of supporting the tendencies and sensitivities of each individual as they present themselves as different developmental needs at each stage of development. This can be summarised in the following way:
An environment that serves the particular needs of the child’s stage of development.
An adult who understands the developmental needs of the child and acts as a guide to help the child find his natural path of development.
Freedom for the child to engage in his own development according to his own particular developmental timeline.
The North America Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA)
Montessori Society AMI UK
MONTESSORI EDUCATION (UK) LTD
The Montessori method is based on the ideas and theories of Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who experimented with giving young children more freedom, both to direct their own learning, and work and learn at their own pace. In the process, she arrived at two pivotal (and, at the time, somewhat controversial) conclusions. Firstly, she surmised that young children possessed an innate desire to learn (Montessori, 1994). Secondly, she found that young children, contrary to popular belief, were capable of exhibiting high levels of independence and cognitive development for their age under the right conditions. In this respect, it can be argued that they are being treated as individuals. Montessori (1964) strongly believed that all young children were ‘unique beings’ and should, therefore, be treated as individuals. Furthermore, she reasoned that young children, as well as having the benefit of self directed and child centred learning, should also experience a ‘hands on’ approach to education (Lillard, 1980), using learning materials that stimulate all five of the human senses.
The interaction with, and the manipulation of, ostensible ‘Montessori materials’ is, arguably, one of the most renowned aspects of the Montessori method. Broadly speaking, these materials are organised into five basic categories: language, mathematics, sensorial, practical life and culture (Lopata et al, 2005). Pickering (1992) believes that these materials ‘help children to understand what they learn by associating an abstract concept with a concrete sensorial experience’. Furthermore, Montessori materials are carefully designed to be both sensorially stimulating to young children, and multifunctional to allow for a more open-ended, divergent approach to learning. Another important theme common to all Montessori materials is that they are of gradually increasing difficulty and complexity (Oberle and Vinson, 2004). It is vital that these learning materials meet these criteria, because, as Montessori (1964) stated: ‘little ones…can work only on the materials we give them’. In other words, if the materials provided for the children are uninteresting, irrelevant or unviable, then it can be argued that a child is unlikely to be able to fulfil their potential.
One final issue in relation to the background of the Montessori method regards the layout and features of the learning area. It can be seen that it visibly reflects the child-centred nature of Montessori education. For example, desks and chairs are not only child-sized, but also spread wide apart (Mooney, 2000) and arranged in ‘rafts’ (Oberle and Vinson, 2004) allowing children to move around the whole area freely whenever they so wish, and helping to prevent crowding. Materials are kept in accessible places, such as appropriately low shelves (Lopata et al, 2005), so they can easily be obtained and utilised by the children at any time. It is the presence of child-orientated considerations such as these that create Montessori’s (1964) ideal of the ‘prepared environment’. Such environments ‘allow [children] to take responsibility for their own education, giving them the opportunity to become human beings able to function independently and hence interdependently’ (Montessori, 1964, cited in Lopata et al, 2005).
In summary, Montessori’s approach to education advocated that children’s innate desire to learn could be successfully nurtured and accommodated, as long as they are provided with the right environment and the appropriate materials (St. Nicholas Montessori, 2010).
Having briefly discussed the principle background information regarding the theory and practice of the Montessori method, it is now important to consider the principle teaching and learning differences between a Montessori and a ‘traditional’ primary education. One important organisational and structural difference is that each ‘class’ in a Montessori setting has an age span of at least three years (Isaacs, 2007). These ‘classes’ share two features in common with ‘traditional’ education, however: they are mixed-ability, and contain a similar number of children per ‘class’ (around thirty) to a ‘traditional’ primary school (albeit not all the same age).
The timetable is scheduled differently to ‘traditional’ settings. Instead of children taking part in a series of ‘lessons’ in different subjects between the duration of thirty minutes and one hour, the day is split into two three-hour, uninterrupted ‘work’ periods (Oberle and Vinson, 2004). An important point to note here is that Montessori defined ‘work’ as ‘children’s instinctive tendency to develop through spontaneous experiences in the environment’ (Montessori, 1964), further advocating her idea of children acting in a self-directed way. Moreover, in addition to being encouraged to work independently at their own pace, children are never interrupted by the teacher if they are busy working on a task or activity.
Find out more from UK Essays here: http://www.ukessays.com/essays/young-people/montessori-method-in-developing-childrens-creativity-young-people-essay.php#ixzz3SCfUxx00
The North America Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA)
MONTESSORI EDUCATION (UK) LTD
The child observes the teacher presenting the material
The teachers work closely with the children and guide them within the environment
Children are able to work independently within the Montessori classroom
Elizabeth’s Montessori Nursery Ltd, The Baptist Church, Balaclava Road, Surbiton KT6 5PN. Telephone: 020 8399 1679 or 07962 054 585 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org