The Montessori Method
The Montessori method is based on a philosophy created by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who studied education, psychiatry and anthropology. During her studies, she worked with disabled and mentally challenged children, which helped her develop her theory of education. She founded the first Montessori school in 1906 in a low-income district in Rome called Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House. She was so successful that schools following her model began to be established in the United States. Currently, there are 4,000 certified Montessori schools in the United States.
The Montessori curriculum is based on teacher observation and support of the child’s natural development. In the Montessori philosophy, children have an intrinsic desire to learn. The child is in charge of their own learning, creating a high level of independence that increases self-confidence. The teacher serves more as a guide than the instructor of a class. According to Dr. Montessori, a child’s educational environment is crucial to their development. A Montessori teacher is trained to observe a child and know when a child is receptive to new materials. The teacher’s job is to provide materials and activities that are designed to stimulate intellect.
Teachers are trained in the Montessori method through supervised student teaching, both written and oral examinations, as well as a full year of graduate work. Montessori training is provided through Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) training centers that are located throughout the United States. The three levels of year-long courses include infancy, primary, and elementary education. Middle and high school teachers must have taken all three levels, plus graduate work in an academic area or areas. Admittance to these programs is dependent on a bachelor’s degree.
The main difference between traditional U.S. public education and Montessori education is that there are no group sessions in which one teacher gives a lesson. Children are put in multi-age groups rather than an age-specific grade. Dr. Montessori observed human development occur in three-year cycles, and based her techniques around that to allow children to learn from one another and at their own ability level rather than age level. The age groups are newborn to three, three to six, six to nine and so on. Class size consists of one teacher and an assistant per 30 to 35 students.
Montessori philosophy does not include grades for assessment, rewards or punishments. There is a minimum of a three-hour work period per day in which students can choose what materials to work with and can stay at the same activity without being interrupted. Assessment is done through record keeping and observation. The child’s work is not corrected. Instead, the child will be given the opportunity to develop further skills in various projects. Montessori philosophy also supports all subjects being interwoven. Students learn social skills at the same time they learn academics.
The term Montessori is not also exclusive to Dr. Montessori’s philosophy. Not all Montessori schools are the same, and the name is not trademarked, so each center can have its own rules. Only schools that have AMI Montessori-trained teachers and directors will provide Dr. Montessori’s method.