Montessori Learning Environment
The Montessori classroom is a thriving community of learners where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
The community of learners - infants, children or adolescents and their adult guides - learn from each other and because of each other, develop skills to cooperate with people of different ages, respect and celebrate each other's efforts and take care of themselves, others and their environment.
Some features of a Montessori learning community are described below.
Montessori Prepared Environment
Montessori is a way of being - it does not stop and start at specific times or only occur indoors! Indoor and outdoor environments provide rich learning experiences for the child - activities are purposeful, real, explorative and have a cycle of activity. The Montessori environment is orderly and structured to simply to enable the child to make independent choices for their learning.
Respectful Learning Communities
In the Montessori community children and adults learn from one another and everyone's contribution is valued and respected. Respect for the person, the physical environment and the ideas of others helps create a strong and respectful community of learners.
Long Uninterrupted Work Periods
Dr Montessori discovered that young children need to be active for long periods of time in concentrated activity. If constantly interrupted children are not able to reach a state of deep focus and will only choose work that needs a superficial involvement. Montessori centres has at least one three hour ‘'work'' period per day and few whole group times.
Real Contribution Made by Children
Children have daily opportunities to learn and use practical life skills that enable the young child to develop concentration and prepare them for more focused work.
The young child is provided with real implements and given real responsibilities in the care of the environment and care of themselves and others. If a Montessori child cooks - they cook food that can be shared with classmates. Flowers are arranged by the children to beautify the room, windows are cleaned, shoes polished, tables scrubbed, decks swept - all activities that young children relish ! Becoming competent develops a strong sense of self esteem.
Following the Child
Montessori teachers are skilled in ‘following the child' - responding to the changing interests and needs of each child as a unique individual. Montessori teachers know the children in their class very well and can respond to their unique interests and needs, often engaging parents in this process. Each child's individual needs are assessed through observation so that he is introduced to new concepts when he is developmentally ready and new knowledge is always built on what he already knows. The learning opportunities in the classroom are frequently changed to cater for the needs and interests of the current group of learners.
Collaboration - not Competition
Dr Montesssori observed that competition is an ineffective tool to motivate children to learn. Montessori children and students learn to collaborate, rather than to compete to meet external standards set by an adult. In Montessori, learners compete only against themselves. They are not afraid of making mistakes and know that they can use mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Each child can take pleasure in being able to share their knowledge and their ability to help classmates.