The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori who was born in Italy in 1870. She was one of the first female Doctors in Italy and became interested in educational theories and how children learn Through the observation of children she developed her own method of educating children which bears her name. She devoted her life to understanding children and died in 1952.
The prepared environment is a vital part of the Montessori Method. Maria Montessori believed that children develop by interaction with their surroundings and if they are free to choose and act freely within an environment prepared to suit their needs and abilities, they will act purposely and develop concentration and self-discipline. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order. It is a quality, learning environment where each child is treated as an individual and is allowed to learn in his/her own way and at his/her own pace.
The attractive equipment, made of natural materials, is displayed on child sized furniture so is easily accessible at all times. Children can interact with the materials by touching, exploring and learning freely. Each piece of equipment teaches a concept that is learnt through manipulation of the materials as Montessori is a hands-on approach to learning. The majority of the equipment is both self-teaching and self-correcting which means the child can learn without interference thereby aiding concentration. The children learn by doing and experimenting. The activities are initially presented to the child by the teacher on a one-to-one basis, after which the child can choose these activities as and when they wish. This provides the control within the classroom.
This is the title Maria Montessori used instead of teacher as she believed the child is the instigator of their own learning and are their own teacher. The aim of the directress is to observe the child in his/her activities and to direct the child towards learning that meet the needs, interests and the ability of the child at that time. The child interacts with the directress when support or guidance is needed. Lessons are given on an individual basis by the directress and can take the format of a demonstration of how to use a new piece of equipment or using the equipment to teach colours, letters, numbers etc.
The Montessori classroom is divided into 5 main areas which are:
Practical life - teaching practical skills such as pouring and spooning exercises, life skills such as dressing frames, tidying away and looking after the classroom.
Sensorial - materials to develop and enhance the senses and gross and fine motor skills.
Mathematics - materials to teach number awareness, number recognition and counting skills.
Language - materials to teach pencil control, tracing and writing skills and letter recognition. We use the phonics approach for letter sounds.
Knowledge and understanding of the world - this area teaches children about the environment and the world around them, including geography and biology activities.
Maria Montessori recognised that every child wants to become an independent individual and the equipment in the nursery is designed to help them achieve this. We aim to help children help themselves and this, in turn, helps the children to be self-confident and full of self-worth.