HOW THE MONTESSORI METHOD WORKS
HOW THE MONTESSORI METHOD WORKS
"I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method."
The Montessori approach was designed to help children grow by letting them explore the world around them. Classrooms are called “prepared environments” where children‘s innate zeal for learning is encouraged allowing them opportunities to choose among an array of purposeful activities to work on with the guidance of a trained adult.
Through Montessori work, children are able to develop concentration and self-discipline by following the work process outlined by the teacher, also called the “Directress”. Children progress at their own pace, according to their capabilities and inclinations.
A unique element of the Montessori program which sets it apart from traditional teaching methods is the “decentralization of the teacher”. Rather than being the center of attention in a classroom, the teacher’s task is to observe and to intervene from the sidelines, essentially the 'keeper' of the environment, letting children get on with their activities, guiding and intervening only when necessary.
The Montessori program has the following activities:
PRACTICAL LIFE EXERCISES
Practical Life exercises teach children to care for themselves, for others, and for the environment. They involve a wide variety of activities such as carrying objects, walking, polishing, sweeping, dusting, lacing, mainly activities that are done in day to day living. It is divided into four major areas namely: movement, care of self, care of environment, and grace and courtesy.
These activities are Montessori’s response to the child’s need for movement, order, independence, among many others; they are basic activities that enable the child to explore his environment and eventually make him one with it.
Through practical life exercises, he learns to refine his movements, becomes conscious of his body and of what his body can do. He learns how to move and act in a socially accepted manner, thus helping him in his task of adaptation. He learns the ways of social living and becomes comfortable and confident in his society.
These exercises also teach the child to complete a task following a step-by-step procedure. This sequential ordering of tasks prepares him for the logical task that awaits him in mathematics. Likewise, activities in these areas are presented in isolation in order to help the child focus his attention only on a particular task.
Sensorial Materials provide “training of the senses”. They teach children about color, shape, sound, dimension, surface, texture, weight, temperature and form.
It is through contact and exploration of the environment that the child acquires his store of knowledge and ideas that are necessary for his functioning in society. He has a need to touch, to explore and manipulate. He acquires this mass of ideas, impressions and information and needs to establish a certain order from this chaos; to categorize, classify and catalogue all this information. The sensorial materials provide the child an opportunity to rediscover his environment in a more precise and organized manner. The exercises will not improve the senses but rather refine their use.
Sensorial materials serve as aids to a child’s development. The training of the senses provides a solid foundation for intellectual training. A more accurate and refined perception of the environment certainly helps the child adapt better to his environment. The sensorial materials then are important tools to the education of the child.
Language is not taught to a child. It is something that develops within the child, a faculty acquired simply by living around people that speak. “Children live with people who speak, so naturally they come to speak themselves.”
A child, in his early years, simply absorbs a language unconsciously. His mental mechanism is such that he is able to bring the totality of his mother tongue, with all its aspects, into a whole language and apply it with such ease.
The Montessori method provides the child with the words in order to help him better express himself, providing him with an environment of “speaking people”, and with the tools for intelligent and correct speech.
Using objects familiar to the child facilitates beginning reading. The child is given exercises with reading cards to provide opportunity for practice in reading. As the child goes on, he is presented with words with increasing difficulty. He is thus prepared for exercises like labeling objects in the environment and work with nomenclature cards.
The child is then presented with exercises that introduce him to the function of words in a sentence. Exercises in sentence analysis provide the child with the opportunity to practice identifying the functions of words and how they relate to each other in a sentence. Word study exercises serve as a follow-up activity for words that he has previously learned. Language exercises prepare the child to move on to further work in grammar and syntax; progressing towards creative writing and total reading.
The mathematics materials help the child learn and understand mathematical concepts by working with concrete materials. It uses a general approach of introduction, practice and application.
The Montessori Number Work Progression is divided into 6 major parts namely:
- Introduction to Numbers 0 to 10
- Introduction to the Decimal System
- Work with teens and tens
- Memory Work
- Passage to Abstraction
The math materials introduce the child to the quantities, and later on the symbols, 1 - 10. The child is then given the opportunity to relate his knowledge of quantity and symbol with the number rods and cards. The spindle boxes clarify the idea that a quantity is made up of separate quantities and introduces zero as no quantity. The memory game and cards and counters serve as practice for the child as he is required to remember and associate quantity to symbol. The cards and counters provide practice for the sequence of numbers and also introduce odd and even numbers. The child may continue to learn the quantities and symbols for numbers succeeding 10 thus moving on to work with teens and tens.
Another Montessori approach is to present work with the golden bead material, introducing the decimal system. The categories of the decimal system (units, tens, hundreds, thousands) and their numerical symbols are presented. With the golden bead material, exercises for the 4 mathematical operations are introduced. With these exercises, the child is presented with a geometric representation of the quantities as well as a concrete and sensorial understanding of the process involved in each arithmetic operation. Simultaneously, the child may also be presented with linear counting exercises.
To reinforce his experience with the golden bead material, the stamp game for the 4 operations are given as follow-up exercises. The child is now moving to more abstract work. Instead of working with “geometrically” represented quantities, he is now dealing with stamps of the same kind, varying only in color and in the numbers printed on them. The child is also encouraged to write down the problems and answers on paper.
The child then moves on to memory work. The Montessori approach attempts to make this task less tedious and more meaningful for the child. The child is given only the basic unit combinations of each operation to memorize. The approach begins with concrete materials such as the snake game for both addition and subtraction.
Follow-up work with the strip boards are then presented. Work then moves on to variations of finger charts where the child is given the opportunity to memorize the unit combinations through repetition. In addition, work with the half chart brings the child to a realization of the commutative property, where he realizes that he only needs to memorize half as much combinations. This helps sustain the child’s interest for memory work.
As the child gains mastery over the previous material, the child moves on to exercises that will help him towards his passage to abstraction in mathematics. The goal is to have the child do mathematical operations solely on paper. The child is given the link between the materials, such as the small bead frame for addition and subtraction, and paperwork. The materials bring to the child’s awareness that he has already acquired the knowledge he needs to perform the operations and no longer needs the materials to do so.
Through this number work progression, the child moves from a concrete impression to an understanding of abstract mathematical concepts, which enables him to mentally perform mathematical operations on paper with understanding and ease.
Geography, History, Biology, Botany, Zoology, Art and Music are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about other cultures past and present, and this allows their innate respect and love for their environment to flourish, creating a sense of solidarity with the global human family and its habitat.
Experiences with nature in conjunction with the materials in the environment inspire a reverence for all life. History is presented to the children through art and an intelligent music program.