WHAT IS MONTESSORI?
The Montessori method is a highly individualized educational approach for children used world-wide and based on the research and experiences of Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori (1870–1952). It is designed to lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and become eager, self-directed learners. Using a carefully prepared environment, teachers are guides utilizing self-correcting, hands-on learning materials and purposeful activities that allow children to learn at their own pace through discovery. This type of meaningful work in an orderly environment fosters concentration, encourages responsibility, independence and confidence, and results in children who love to learn.
Montessori classes place children in three-year age groups (6-9, 9-12, and so on), forming a strong sense of community in which the older children spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger ones. This allows younger students the stimulation of older children, who in turn benefit from serving as role models. In a mixed-age class, children can find peers who are working at their current level. The age range also allows especially gifted children the stimulation of intellectual peers, without requiring that they skip a grade or feel emotionally out of place. Because teachers normally work with each child for three years, they get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well.
TEACHERS AS GUIDES
Montessori teachers don’t simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches, and guides who use the children’s interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success. A Montessori teacher’s ultimate objective is to help his/her students to learn independently and retain the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born.
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Co-Founders of Google)
- Peter Drucker
- Prince William and Prince Harry
- Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Friedensreich Hundertwasser
- George Clooney
- Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon)
- Anne Frank
- Jimmy Wales (Founder of Wikipedia)
- Katherine Graham (former owner/editor Washington Post)
- Sean Combs (P.Diddy)
- Julia Child
- Helen Hunt
Check out this great video by Montessori parent and spokesman, Trevor Eissler, the guy who gave us the incredible book Montessori Madness.
MAKING THE CASE FOR MONTESSORI EDUCATION
Will Wright, Montessori Grad and Creator of SimCity & Spore
Watch Will Wright’s TED talk here.
A Montessori Morning. A 3 hour Montessori work cycle.
“Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.”
At Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, we believe in the Montessori method of education to achieve our mission and vision to produce life-long learners and creative problems solvers. Further, MVMCS believes incorporating a foundation in Outdoor Education supports Montessori learning and promotes the education of the whole child.
The Montessori Method of education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician. She based her educational methods on scientific observation of the children’s learning processes and development, including: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. The Montessori Method draws upon the idea of a “leaning triangle” formed by the teacher, student, and environment that creates education as a flow experience and includes these components: multi-age classrooms, guided choice of learning activities, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and the prepared environment for learning.
The benefits of mixed age classrooms are many. Younger children have the opportunity to learn by observation and absorption through observing the work of older children. Younger students are challenged and stretched by the more advanced academic learning of their peers. They learn how to interact socially, modeling behavior off of the more mature students and observing the progression of learning. Older children have opportunities to teach the younger ones, thereby acquiring a greater depth of understanding as well as greater confidence and competence. Teaching their younger peers, older students develop leadership skills and a voice. In these multi-age classrooms, all students naturally develop social skills that are much more difficult to hone in the traditional classroom. Students must learn to effectively communicate, negotiate, self-monitor, and collaborate to be successful.
Guided Choice of Learning Activities
The Montessori Method is child-centered and allows an unfolding of each child in an atmosphere of cooperation. The role of a Montessori teacher is constructively guiding children in their learning which, in the traditional Montessori structure, happens through one-on- one or small group teaching followed by independent application of skills during Montessori work time (described below.) Montessori instruction differs from traditional instruction in that it rarely, if ever, addresses the whole group. Instead, teachers provide one-on- one or small group lessons. These lessons are specifically targeted to address the specific student’s needs on the continuum of learning and provides for maximum differentiation as students only participate in the lessons that pertain to their learning needs. After each individual or small group lesson, students then move to individual exploration of the concept taught via resources provided by the prepared environment of the classroom. Thus, students are allowed to immediately interact with and apply the knowledge they have just been taught. During the blocks of work time provided, a student may return to the same skill as often as necessary until he/she shows mastery. The Montessori teacher continually assesses the skill of each student through observation and tracks student progress. At Mountain Montessori, each student will have an individual work plan. Both the teacher and student prepare and oversee the work plan together to track progress on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
Uninterrupted Blocks of Work Time
Along with the concept of guided choice of learning activities comes another key Montessori philosophy which is that of uninterrupted blocks of work time. It is during these extended blocks of work time that one-on- one and small group instruction takes place. However, in addition to instruction, students use blocks of work time to explore and interact with the concepts they have just learned, or with those that they have been working on for some time. The Montessori teacher, when not engaged in instruction with small groups of students, circulates the classroom providing guidance and assistance to students as needed, differentiating for each learner and recording observations on where each student is with his/her mastery of the content at hand. At MVMCS, teachers implement a variety of observational tools in addition to each student’s individual work plans to measure mastery. In traditional non-Montessori classrooms, learning often follows a routine of whole group lesson followed by whole group practice and only allows for individual application in homework – removed from the classroom. In the Montessori structure, student learning becomes a “flow” experience. The extended blocks of work time allow for continual self-construction of learning on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis for the duration of the program.
In order facilitate the type of guided learning and “flow” described above, a very intentional environment must be created. Montessori programs create space for learning through what are referred to as “prepared environments”. In these prepared environments, Montessori students are provided with intentionally selected tools and concrete materials (see Appendix O for suggested list of materials) which isolate important concepts and skills on which students are working to gain mastery. The genius behind Montessori tools is each tool isolates a key skill and possesses a built-in “control of error”, that is, the student is able to judge upon completing an activity whether he or she has done it correctly without input from the teacher.
Harvard Business Review: Montessori Build Innovators
The world is a really interesting place, and one that should be explored. Can there be any better foundation for an innovator in training?
Forbes: Is Montessori the Origin of Google and Amazon?
The approach is over 100 years old but the ideas are timeless. The world is finally catching up with Maria Montessori’s insights.
Wall Street Journal: The Montessori Mafia
Ironically, the Montessori educational approach might be the surest route to joining the creative elite, which are so overrepresented by the school’s alumni that one might suspect a Montessori Mafia.
American Montessori Society
Harvard Business Review: How Do Innovators Think?
The most innovative entrepreneurs were very lucky to have been raised in an atmosphere where inquisitiveness was encouraged… A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity.
Science Journal: Evaluating Montessori Education
Montessori education provides better outcomes than traditional methods, according to study published in the journal Science.
Wired: Article on Google Co-Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin
“You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids. In a Montessori school, you go paint because you have something to express…not because the teacher said so. This is baked into how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, why should it be like that? It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”
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