The Montessori Classroom
A warm, home-like, nurturing environment allows children to feel safe and at ease as they go about their learning. Dr. Maria Montessori believed that the layout of a classroom is central to the success of any school. Children should be able to locate materials easily, without having to rely on adults for assistance. For that reason, the materials we use at Montessori Escuela reflect a commitment to quality, aesthetic beauty, and the child’s capacity to do things for themselves. We strive to create a home away from home in our “Casa de Niños.”
What better way to feel at home than to have furniture custom designed exactly for your height and size? To help our students make the classroom their own, our school was specifically designed with cupboards, shelves, tables and chairs that are child height and size, allowing for easy access to all activities and materials.
Real-life, practical activities are a vital part of any Montessori classroom. Children want to be independent and have control over their world. But because they are easily frustrated when they’re unable to do things for themselves, Montessori classrooms allow children to practice new skills using materials that simulate real life as closely as possible. Students can then repeat these tasks over and over again until they have mastered the skills they see daily in their world. Zipping jackets, buttoning clothing, stirring, pouring, cutting, threading, opening and closing doors and drawers, washing hands, and blowing noses are all examples of practical life skills.
Dr. Montessori worked with a company called Nienhuis to create and develop quality materials for her students. The company still produces these resources to this day and we use many of them in our classroom at Montessori Escuela. When Dr. Montessori recognized that children were particularly drawn to specific activities, she worked with Nienhuis designers to develop additional resources to extend their interests even further. These exercises give children the ability to refine each of their senses and enables them to fulfill their need for order, self-correction, and quiet contemplation.
It isn’t by chance that Dr. Montessori’s math materials have made their way into most standard classrooms throughout the world. The truth is she transformed the way math is taught. Accordingly, educators have been copying her materials for use in their own classrooms ever since. The math materials introduce the concept of quantity and the symbols 1-10. We use beads and symbol cards to learn numbers as a decimal system which incorporates basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Dr. Montessori was clever in her ability to help children learn without even realizing they were doing it. This is referred to as indirect preparation. Many of the materials used in the classrooms at Montessori Escuela–such as metal shape insets–are designed for drawing but they also develop students’ fine motor skills for subsequent writing. The sequence for language learning in our classroom is first to teach the phonetic sounds of letters, then word building and recognition, followed by book reading. However, in a Montessori classroom writing generally precedes reading due to the child’s natural excitement and yearning to express their new expertise. What an experience to observe the child who has just realized his or her ability to put thoughts down on paper!
Understanding the world beyond our own environment is of the utmost importance in our Montessori program. We use beautifully designed educational materials so that students can gain an appreciation of simple science, geography, history, and biology. Like other areas of study, children lead with their own interests in these topics as well.
Art & Creativity:
Freedom and self-expression of feelings and emotions are some of the key elements in our art curriculum at Montessori Escuela. We develop the fine motor skills needed for cutting, gluing, painting, dancing, singing, and playing instruments so students are able to explore and revel in color, sensation, movement and sound.
It was Dr. Montessori’s belief that children base their play on the actions of adults or older siblings. Children are so eager to do things for themselves that they pretend to cook, pretend to sweep, and pretend to wash or fold the clothes. So why not allow them to play with the real thing rather than the imaginary version? Why not afford children authentic materials instead of watching them mimic adults with make-believe toys? Since Dr. Montessori preferred real-life activities whenever possible, in our classroom we offer experiences that are geared toward the real world. Following these guidelines, we find tremendous space for creativity and imagination in all segments of the curriculum.
Montessori Escuela places strong emphasis on the importance of spending time outside. While children run, skip, hop, jump, climb, and swing, they are developing gross motor skills needed for healthy development. Additionally, it is important the children are familiar with their world. They should experience dirt, sand, water, wood, clay, nature, plant or wildlife growth and all other materials of the earth. Therefore, being outdoors is very important and it’s fun.
How we interact in our world, and more specifically our culture, is learned from a very young age. We aren’t born with the knowledge that we wave hello and goodbye, or shake hands in America, or give a kiss on each cheek to greet someone in Spain and other parts of Europe, or bow to acknowledge someone in Japan. In our Montessori classroom not only are children taught our socially acceptable greetings, but they are also encouraged to celebrate cultural differences and value them similarly. The essentials in our classroom are what allow for politeness and respect with regard to manners. Circle time provides instruction on how to respectfully call for another individual’s attention, how to navigate quietly around the classroom, how to take out and put away materials, pull out and push in chairs, and how to wait patiently while allowing classmates to finish work uninterrupted. These rules are what give each and every child complete security.
A Loving Community:
One of the goals at Montessori Escuela is for children to develop a love of learning. It is a place where children and teacher care for and look after one another. It is a safe place to learn about and explore personal interests, without having to fear the topics that don’t. It is a place where everyone fits in and everyone is special.
A more appropriate word is guide or directress, since it more accurately describes the role in the classroom. Montessori instructors value a quiet, calm and relaxed atmosphere and move about the classroom gently and unobtrusively. The teacher strikes a balance between being responsive to the child’s needs before they become agitated and not exaggerating to the extent that the child feels controlled or supervised. The teacher is friendly, courteous and firm. Misbehavior is addressed with assistance rather than reprimands or punishment. Children area always shown respect and never humiliated. In my opinion, Montessori teachers are quite similar to Mary Poppins.
Download Classroom Materials PDF
If you would like to see a comprehensive list and photograph of the didactic Montessori materials that both you and your child will have access to in our classroom, please download the following form: