For children six and under, Montessori emphasizes learning through all five senses, not just through listening, watching, or reading. Children in Montessori classes learn at their own pace and according to their choice of activities from hundreds of possibilities. They are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities. Children are introduced to materials 1:1 by the teacher who knows what each child is ready to do. Learning is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning. Above age six, children learn to do independent research, arrange field trips to gather information, interview specialists, create group presentations, dramas, art exhibits, musical productions, science projects, and so forth. There is no limit to what they create with intelligently guided freedom. There is great respect for the choices of the children, but they easily keep up with or surpass what they would be doing in a more traditional setting. There is no wasted time and children enjoy their work and study. The children ask their teachers and each other for lessons and much of the learning comes from sharing and inspiring each other rather than competing.
Multi-age classrooms afford us the luxury of adapting the curriculum to the individual child. Each child can work at his or her own pace while remaining in the community with their peers. In addition, the multi-age format allows all older children to be the leaders of the classroom community, even those children who may be shy or quiet.
Montessori children are free to choose within limits, and have only as much freedom as they can handle with appropriate responsibility. The classroom teacher and assistant ensure that the community supports all of the children, and that each child is progressing at their appropriate pace in all subjects, carefully tracking and supporting their progress towards mastery.
The different arrangement of a Montessori classroom mirrors the Montessori method’s differences from traditional education. Rather than putting the teacher at the focal point of the class, with children dependent on her for information and activity, the classroom shows a literally child-centered approach. Children work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher circulates about the room, giving lessons or resolving issues as they arise.
Two- and three-day programs are often attractive to parents who do not need full-time care; however, five-day programs create the consistency that is so important to young children. Since the primary goal of Montessori involves creating a culture of consistency, order, and empowerment, Montessori schools expect children to attend five days a week.
Dr. Montessori identified four “planes of development,” with each stage having its own developmental characteristics and developmental challenges. The early childhood Montessori environment for children aged three to six is designed to work with the ‘absorbent mind,’ sensitive periods, and the tendencies of children at this stage of their development.
Learning during these years comes spontaneously without effort, leading children to enter elementary classes with a clear, concrete sense of abstract concepts. Montessori helps children become self-motivated and self-disciplined and retain the sense of curiosity that so many children lose in traditional classrooms. They tend to act with care and respect toward their environment and each other and can work at their own pace and ability.
Great teachers help learners reach the point where their minds and hearts are open, leaving them ready to learn. In effective schools, students are not so motivated by good grades as by an essential love of learning. As parents know their children’s learning styles and temperaments, teachers, too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending several years with the students and their parents.
Dr. Montessori believed that teachers should focus on the child as a person, not on the daily lesson plan. Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover. Their ultimate objective is to help their students to learn independently and retain the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born. Montessori teachers don’t simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches, and guides.
Traditionally, teachers have told us that they teach students the basic facts and skills they will need to succeed in the world. Studies show that many classrooms spend a substantial portion of the day on discipline and classroom management.
Montessori teachers only spend a little time teaching lessons to the whole class. Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social/emotional environment in which the children work. A vital aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate learning activities to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class.
Montessori teachers usually present lessons to small groups of children at one time and limit lessons to brief and very clear presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials.
Montessori teachers closely monitor their student’s progress. Because they usually work with each child for two or three years, they get to know their student’s strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well. Montessori teachers often use the children’s interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.
At first, Montessori may look unstructured to some people, but it is quite structured at every level. Just because the Montessori program is highly individualized does not mean that students can do whatever they want. Like all children, Montessori students live within a cultural context involving mastery of skills and knowledge that are considered essential.
Montessori teaches all of the basics, giving students the opportunity to investigate and learn subjects of particular interest. It also allows them the ability to set their own schedule to a large degree during class time.
At the early childhood level, external structure is limited to clear-cut ground rules and correct procedures that provide guidelines and structure for three- and four-year-olds. By age five, most schools introduce a formal system to help students keep track of what they have accomplished and what they still need to complete.
Elementary Montessori children typically create a written study plan for the day or week. It lists the tasks they need to complete allowing them to decide how long to spend on each and what order they would like to follow. Beyond these basic, individually tailored assignments, children explore topics that capture their interests and imagination and share them with their classmates.
Montessori teachers carefully observe their students at work. They give their students informal, individual oral exams or have the children demonstrate what they have learned by either teaching a lesson to another child or by giving a formal presentation. The children also take and prepare their own written tests to administer to their friends. Montessori children usually don’t think of assessment techniques as tests, so much as challenges. Students work toward mastery rather than a standard letter grade scheme.
Very few Montessori schools test children under the first or second grades; however, most Montessori schools regularly give elementary students quizzes on the concepts and skills they have been studying. Many schools have their older students take annual standardized tests.
While Montessori students tend to score very well, Montessori educators are deeply concerned that many standardized tests are inaccurate, misleading, and stressful for children. Good teachers, who work with the same children for three years and carefully observe their work, know far more about their progress than any paper-and-pencil or online standardized test can reveal.
The ultimate problem with standardized tests is that they have often been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and poorly used to pressure teachers and students to perform at higher standards. Although standardized tests may not accurately measure a child’s basic skills and knowledge, in most countries, test-taking skills are just another practical life lesson that children need to master.
RMS maximizes the potential of each child in an environment with a place for everyone. We offer individualized learning and meet children where they are at. Schedule a tour to see if RMS is a great fit for your child and your family. Each year we welcome new families whose children transition into Montessori and thrive academically and socially.
Rochester Montessori school participates in an agreement with our local high schools and the Minnesota State High School League to allow our students to play sports at one of Rochester’s high schools. While the language of the agreement does not allow students to choose which team they play with, the majority of our students participate in athletics at mayo high school. We encourage our students to be engaged in sports and allow flexibility for them to attend practices and competitions. Past Montessori alumni have run cross country, played football, baseball, basketball, alpine & nordic skiing and trap shooting. Montessori students are eligible to letter in varsity sports at the high school level.