A Montessori method is an educational approach characterised by learner choice, an enriching environment and educators who facilitate the learner’s natural bent for learning. It was devised during the 1900s by Dr Maria Montessori, a physician, anthropologist and pedagogue over a professional career that spanned over fifty years. Here are some characteristics of an activity that makes it Montessori.
An activity is not Montessori if it is not chosen by the child. This perhaps marks the biggest change ushered in by Montessori since traditional early childhood education allowed the teacher to decide what children should do and how. In Montessori, each learner is free to choose their own work and follow their interests. What’s more, they are allowed to progress at their own pace and not measured against their peers’ achievements.
Montessori method firmly believes in the value of letting children explore all their senses in their activities. It is through their senses that they get information about the world and are able to understand it as thinking beings. So Montessori activities use resources that appeal to all five senses - sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing – are used. For example, playing with different colours, shapes and different textures – wet, dry, smooth, crinkled, grainy, mushy, squishy etc – is facilitated by making relevant materials available. Musical instruments, songs, dances, cooking, play dough with different smells and other aids are also important parts of creating the environment so that children can choose activities to use all their senses.
The other defining trait of Montessori activity is the use of materials that are designed with a control of error. This makes the materials auto-instructional – in other words, the material enables learners to discover and correct their own errors without adult intervention. That are children are capable of educating themselves is one of the most important beliefs in the Montessori method. The role of the teachers is to provide the environment, materials and guidance and encouragement for children to educate themselves.
Learning By Doing
Hands-on activities that help the child learn by doing is one of the distinguishing features of the Montessori method. This is a far cry from traditional early education when rote learning or verbal explanations were used to teach. Even abstract concepts like time and money are learnt through activities like making a class timetable or going grocery shopping.
Montessori activities focus on developing one skill or concept by breaking it down into simple steps. children complete each step before a learning outcome can be achieved. An example of such a Montessori activity is Dressing frames in which children move from one type of material or fastening to another.
The Montessori system is underpinned by respect for the child. This implies that activities are not only chosen by the learner but they are allowed to be engaged in it as long as they wish without interruption or interference from the teacher. When children engage in such activities with concentration and interest, they develop autonomy and confidence.
Finally, a Montessori activity is intrinsically motivated. Rather than doing a task to gain rewards or avoid punishment, a Montessori activity engages children by drawing on their inherent desire to learn and explore.
Based on the Montessori approach, Practical Life activities are everyday life experiences that a child may observe adults complete in their daily routine. These activities give the child a sense of belonging as they gain knowledge to accomplish life skills in a purposeful way.
Incorporating Practical Life Activities Into The Curriculum
Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy.
Maria Montessori - The Montessori Method
- What Makes an Activity Montessori? Montessori Academy Australia
- Parenting Resources and Articles, Montessori Academy Australia
- Pedagogy Profile: the Montessori Method, Montessori Academy