How Montessori Schools Are Different from Traditional Schools

Montessori education is not completely different from traditional education. The content is generally the same; it is mainly the teaching methods that are different. The main objective of the Montessori method is to help children become self-reliant and self-confident individuals. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method after spending decades observing young children and seeing for herself what they needed to learn and thrive. Using the Montessori Method in school allows students to progress at their own pace and develop a sense of initiative.

What is a Montessori school?

A Montessori school is a school that uses the teaching method created by Maria Montessori. This method is based on respect for the child and his or her developmental potential. Montessori schools focus on the individuality and needs of each child. They offer an environment specially designed to promote independent learning and stimulate the curiosity of children.

The Montessori Method in schools

The beauty of the Montessori Method is that it is based on the child’s ability to learn rather than the adult’s ability to teach. In a traditional school, the emphasis is on learning through reading, writing and arithmetic. Students are divided into groups according to their age and must follow a specific curriculum. The Montessori method, on the other hand, emphasizes learning through experience and the senses. Students work at their own pace and are encouraged to learn on their own. Children who attend a Montessori school are provided with a prepared environment designed to support their learning.

Students work with tools and materials specially designed to develop their abilities.

  • Montessori children are encouraged to move instead of sitting at their desks.
  • Instead of ringing a bell every half hour and interrupting the flow of activities, children in a Montessori school have uninterrupted 3-hour work cycles. There is also no time limit for completing activities.
  • Montessori children are encouraged to choose for themselves what they want to do in the classroom. There are general ground rules, called freedom within limits.
  • Montessori classrooms are made up of children of different ages so that younger children can learn from older ones.
  • Life skills are taught from an early age in Montessori schools. This includes taking care of oneself and the environment.
  • A child’s success in a Montessori school is achieved intrinsically, through mastery of skills, not grades.
  • The role of the teacher in a Montessori classroom is to help each child individually instead of taking over the whole class at once.
  • The Montessori method follows the child’s interests in learning a specific skill instead of following a curriculum.
  • Montessori education aims to educate the whole child by focusing on the mind, body and spirit.

The role of the teacher in a Montessori classroom

An essential aspect of a Montessori teacher’s training is learning to systematically observe when a child reveals a particularly strong interest in an area. Teachers observe the child’s mood as well as the degree of independence, autonomy, discipline and concentration. In addition to their observation notes, teachers keep a log of the lessons presented to each child and record the following elements of the children’s progress.

montessori method classroom 1

Montessori teachers act as guides, carefully observing students to skillfully present the materials needed for learning. Montessori classrooms are filled with extraordinarily well-ordered materials. A large part of a Montessori teacher’s job is to prepare and organize the materials needed to learn skills. The teacher spends a considerable amount of time gathering, creating, and modifying these materials and generally maintaining a classroom environment conducive to discovery.

These principles are implemented through activities specifically designed to foster the physical, intellectual and emotional development of children. The Montessori teacher adopts key behaviors to implement this pedagogy:

  • Putting the child at the center of learning.
  • Encourage children to learn by giving them freedoms.
  • Observe children to recognize sensitive periods and prepare the best possible environment.
  • The activities offered are varied and allow children to explore different areas, such as art, music, mathematics or languages.
  • The teachers ensure that each activity is adapted to the level of each child so that they can progress at their own pace.

What are the differences between traditional learning methods and the Montessori Method?

There are many differences, including:

  • Montessori programs operate on three-year cycles. Children stay in the same classroom and have the same teacher for three years.
  • Montessori classrooms accommodate children of different ages. Multi-age classrooms encourage collaborative learning and allow for broad emotional and social development.
  • Children acquire and assimilate knowledge at their own pace. Montessori students work according to their developmental level rather than their age.
  • The primary role of the Montessori teacher is not to impart information, but rather to foster development and guide the activities, resources, and materials that enable the child to take the next step in learning.
  • Montessori students are always free to move around the classroom instead of staying at their desks. There is no limit to how long a child can work on a lesson, and lessons are taught to one student or a small group of students.
  • Montessori teaching materials are unique. Most were developed by Dr. Montessori to meet the specific developmental needs of children of different ages.

Montessori Teacher Training

The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) is the main training organization for Montessori teachers. In France, the Institut Supérieur Maria Montessori (ISMM) is the only training center officially recognized by AMI. Through their training, Montessori teachers learn the principles of child development, the Montessori philosophy, as well as the specific use of teaching materials.

Teachers gain knowledge of the sensitivities of each age group and develop working methods that promote a caring learning environment. Because respect for children and a willingness to encourage children to grow in a non-competitive environment are essential, Montessori teachers learn to be positive, gentle and encouraging in their interactions with children.

Younger children learn by observing older children. At the same time, the older children reinforce and stimulate their knowledge by sharing it with the younger ones. Children easily learn to respect others, and at the same time develop respect for their own individuality.

montessori classroom

This interaction between children of different ages provides many opportunities to create community and foster the development of self-esteem. It also encourages positive social interaction and cooperative learning.

What is the Montessori classroom learning program?

The learning program provides children with 5 key Montessori education areas: practical life, sensory, math, language, and culture. Each learning area consists of a set of Montessori materials that each teach an area of knowledge or a fundamental skill. Through repetition and practice, children gain a thorough understanding of each material and master basic skills in each area of the program.

Montessori educators provide instruction for each child. After significant learning, children work with the Montessori materials independently to practice, explore, and make connections to key learning outcomes. During this time, Montessori teachers stand back, observe how the children are learning and record their progress.

Key Curriculum Areas:

  • Practical Life: Independence, social skills and respect for the environment.
  • Sensory: Colors, shapes, textures, weights, dimensions, discrimination and distinction between smells, tastes and sounds.
  • Mathematics: Numbers, quantities, counting, addition, subtraction, decimal system, multiplication and division.
  • Language: Oral language, phonetics, letter formation, sentence structure, vowels and consonants, writing, reading and early literacy.
  • Culture: Geography, botany, zoology, science, history, music and art.

Learning materials in a Montessori school

The realization of each Montessori prepared environment requires the careful preparation of educational materials appropriate to that environment. Montessori learning materials are a set of objects designed to precise specifications. In general, the materials are designed to:

  • Capture the child’s interest
  • Invite interaction and manipulation
  • Encourage precise use
  • Improve concentration

What is the three-year Montessori school program?

Montessori classrooms are organized around a three-year learning cycle, designed to meet the needs and characteristics of each specific stage of a child’s growth. A child has the same teacher and the same class for three years, and each year the lessons build on the previous year’s work. Generally, it is not in the child’s best interest to enter the three-year program in the last of the three years.

Are children allowed to pretend in a Montessori classroom?

In her first children’s home, Maria Montessori offered several types of games in addition to teaching materials, but she realized that children had no interest in pretending when they were allowed to do real things. In Montessori classrooms, for example, children have the opportunity to help cook instead of pretending. She developed her method by emphasizing activities that children enjoyed doing over activities they did not.

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