Montessori Activities and Environment
The focus of activity in the Montessori setting is on children’s learning, not on teachers’ teaching, and a foundational concept of the Montessor method is that children learn because they are interested in things, and because all children share a desire to become competent and independent human beings. Children do not work for grades or external rewards, nor do they simply complete assignments given to them by their teachers, and they rarely work from texts or workbooks. Generally students will work individually or in small, self-selected groups. In all cases, direct personal hands-on contact with either real things under study or with concrete models that bring abstract concepts to life allow children to learn with much deeper understanding. Here are some other ways learning is supported at Montessori schools:
A Responsive Prepared Environment
The environment should be designed to meet the needs, interests, abilities, and development of the children in the class. Teachers design and adapt the environment with this community of children in mind, rapidly modifying the selection of educational materials available, the physical layout, and the tone of the class to best fit the ever-changing needs of the children.
A Focus on Individual Progress and Development
Within a Montessori program, children progress at their own pace, moving on to the next step in each area of learning as they are ready. While the child lives within a larger community of children, each student is viewed as a universe of one.
It is natural for children to wiggle, touch things, and explore the world around them. Any true Montessori environment encourages children to move about freely, within reasonable limits of appropriate behavior. Much of the time they select work that captures their interest and attention, although teachers also strive to draw their attention and capture their interest in new challenges and areas of inquiry.
Active and Hands on Learning
In Montessori classrooms, children not only select their own work most of the time, but also continue to work with tasks, returning to continue their work over many weeks or months, until finally the work is “so easy for them” that they can teach it to younger children. This is one of many ways that Montessori educators use to confirm that students have reached mastery of each skill.
One of Montessori’s key concepts is the idea that children are driven by their desire to become independent and competent beings in the world to learn new things and master new skills. For this reason, outside rewards to create external motivation are both unnecessary and potentially can lead to passive adults who are dependent on others for everything from their self-image to permission to follow their dreams. In the process of making independent choices and exploring concepts largely on their own, Montessori children construct their own sense of individual identity and right and wrong.
Freedom Within Limits
Montessori children enjoy considerable freedom of movement and choice, however their freedom always exists within carefully defined limits on the range of their behavior. They are free to do anything within the ground rules of the community, and redirected promptly and firmly if they cross over the line.