LEARNING SPECIAL EDITION
Te acher Simone Davies shares eight principles of Montessori education
Prepared environment Much of my “work” is done before the children arrive. I prepare the environment with a lot of care and attention. I set up activities that are just the right level for the children—challenging to master but not so difficult that they will give up. I make sure they have the tools they need to succeed - I look for trays they can carry, cloths at the ready to wipe up spills, a supply of art materials so they can practice and repeat, child-sized implements like spreaders for putting toppings onto crackers, and the smallest of glasses for drinking. I sit on the floor to see what it looks like from their height. I prepare the space so it is simple and beautiful. I remove any clutter, I set out a few, well-chosen activities, and I make sure that activities are complete and not missing any parts so the children can work with them independently.
Natural desire to learn Dr. Montessori recognized that children have an intrinsic motivation to learn. Babies learn to grasp for an object, they learn to stand by trying again and again and again, and they master walking - all by themselves, within a supportive environment. The same applies to learning to talk, learning to read and write, learning mathematics, and learning about the world around them. The discoveries children make for themselves—particularly within a prepared environment—build wonder in the child and a love of learning. They do not need to be directed to explore the environment. In a Montessori classroom, the ages of the children are mixed. Younger children can learn from observing older children, and older children can consolidate their learning by helping the younger ones.
Hands-on, concrete learning The hand takes in information in a concrete way to pass on to the brain. It’s one thing to hear or watch something, but we learn on a deeper level when we integrate our listening or watching with using our hands. We move from passively learning to actively learning. The materials in a Montessori classroom are so beautifully prepared and attractive that the child is drawn to them to make discoveries for themselves, with their hands. We give toddlers tactile learning experiences. They hold an object as we name it, we offer a variety of beautiful art materials for them to explore, we provide interesting fastenings to open and close, and they help us prepare food in the kitchen— digging their fingers into the dough or using a butter knife to cut a banana.
Sensitive periods When a child shows a particular interest in one area—for example, movement, language, maths, reading - it is known as a sensitive period. This describes a moment when the child is particularly attuned to learning a certain skill or concept and it happens with ease and without effort. We can watch our children to see what sensitive periods they are in and provide appropriate activities to encourage those interests.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019 thegreenparent.co.uk