Social Development in a Montessori School

In a Montessori school, educators don’t merely teach lessons out of a textbook everyday, like you may see in a traditional school. Many of the lessons that Montessori educators teach are valuable life skills that a child will carry with them for a lifetime. Montessori schools focus on developing every aspect of the child – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. These elements make up what Dr. Montessori calls the whole child.

We know human beings are social creatures by nature. We not only depend on each other to fulfill our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual as well. The idea of “culture” is based on the myriad of different ways that groups of humans have devised to meet these needs.

In the Montessori classroom, you will notice that social development takes place in many forms. Some of these include:

Mixed Age Groups

Mixed age classrooms are a signature element of a Montessori school because Dr. Montessori believed that children learn from one another. This is proven in the Montessori environment where you will often see an older child happily helping his younger peers and gaining social maturity from being a role model. The younger child may learn new concepts from the older child and as she looks up to the older child, she will begin to see that she too, will be just as capable one day. Growing together is natural, as children instinctively know when to offer help, encouragement, and comfort to those around them. Hence the mixed age group means that children have the opportunity to interact with both older and younger peers, all of who are at varying levels of individual development. The mixed age group provides daily opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and receiving or offering assistance. Younger children look to the older children with admiration and for inspiration, and in turn, the older children help and teach the younger children.

Mixed age groups are also a contributing factor competition avoidance among children in the classroom. In the structure of a mixed age classroom, children feel less pressure to compete and more motivated to collaborate and assist one another. The social discipline that Montessori observed describes how children spontaneously interact with each other. Children show:

  • Self-controlled and purposeful interactions with others
  • Mutual spontaneous respect
  • A willingness to help others
  • Spontaneous responsiveness to the needs of others
  • Evidence of feelings of benevolence and sympathy towards others in the group
  • A non-competitive attitude

Small Group Lessons

Although the Montessori focus lies in individual progression and many lessons are presented individually to the students, some lessons are presented to students in small groups. These small groups are great for dialogue and encourage children to share their thoughts regarding particular subjects. The safe environment of the small group also makes children feel comfortable expressing novel ideas with their peers. The small group sessions improve a child’s conversational skills and helps them grasp and understand important concepts.

Set Amount of Materials

Too many materials in the classroom could cause clutter and confusion. However, if there is one complete set of materials for the classroom, then the children will benefit from a sense of order. If a child wants to work on something that involves a material already being used by another child, then they will have to respectfully wait their turn. This teaches the child the virtue of patience and provides them with the opportunity for maturity.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy

Developing the social skills of grace and courtesy is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. In a Montessori environment, children learn how to interact appropriately with each other and with adults through dialogue. Some of these interactions including greeting and hosting guests into the classroom, preparing and sharing snacks with peers, and exercising appropriate mealtime behavior. One of the main values that are taught in a Montessori classroom is respect. By teaching respect for their peers, materials, and themselves, Montessori educators plant a seed of compassion and empathy in the children.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn how to resolve conflicts and issues by making peace with others. This is often done at the “peace table” and achieved through sharing a “peace object” of some kind, such as a rock or a flower, which is passed back and forth as the children acknowledge their feelings and express themselves.

Social Development at MASS

Montessori observed that there were “phases through which social life must pass in the course of its natural unfolding.”

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have created a rich, well-prepared environment designed to meet the needs of our young children. The classrooms at MASS are carefully constructed to help children understand the world around them. Our educators focus on helping children form a positive self-image and develop respect for all life.



Montessori Primer – Where Does Technology Fit in a Montessori Environment?

The incorporation of technology into the Montessori classroom is a choice that must be considered in each Montessori school. Some Montessori schools embrace technology; other Montessori schools prohibit its use. One might wonder, What would Maria Montessori have thought?

In studying Dr. Montessori’s life, it is evident that her scientific and educational ideas were revolutionary in the early 1900’s. In observing and encouraging change based on the needs of the children, she created a methodology for teaching that was very progressive for the Industrial Age. The following chart, based on information shared on former Montessori educator and current education advocate Elizabeth Hubbell’s blog, illustrates that – though Montessori worked in the Industrial Age – her approach to education and child development were ahead of their time, and are perfectly suited to learning in the Information Age.

Industrial Age

Information Age

 Books are primary tools Technology is primary tool
 Grade levels based on age Learning in a community of various ages
 Focus on covering specific content Focus on meeting learners’ needs
 Learning “just in case” – information which may not be currently relevant Learning “just in time” – learning that is developmentally appropriate
 Testing to a normalized standard Assessment based on individual performance
 Classroom as the world World as the classroom
 Focus on rote memorization Focus on problem solving
 Competition with fellow students Collaboration with fellow students
 Teacher-centered Learner-centered
 Teacher as knowledge-giver Teacher as coach

Please join us throughout the coming week as we examine the integration of technology into the Montessori classroom and the home!

Montessori Primer: A Day in Our Lives, Part 2 – A Daily Timeline

Today, we continue our look at a day in the life of a Montessori student with an overview of the timeline of a typical day in the Montessori classroom.

7:45 to 8 a.m. – Day Begins
Guides are greetings students at the door with a warm handshake. The students are learning confidence as they greet their teacher with eye contact and a hearty handshake. They then place their items in their cubby and set out to choose their first work.

8 a.m. – Three Hour Work Period Begins

Students work independently. The teacher is providing individual and group lessons. The assistant is reinforcing the importance of the environment’s rules and routine. Children will choose pre-reading work such as spelling, sight words, big movable alphabet, while others will choose golden bead addition or stamp game. Younger children are building concentration in practical life by pouring water or spooning. Others who have a bit more energy may be scrubbing tables. It is wonderful to see the child with a great imagination using the farm for not only creative enjoyment but language work as they label the nouns on the farm.

9:30 a.m. – False Fatigue Occurs
It is generally around this time that noise levels tend to escalate in a Montessori environment. Usually there are several wanderers who are restless from their work. As Maria Montessori observed classrooms, she referred to this time as “False Fatigue.” To an outsider, this time may seem disorganized. The Montessori guide notices this phenomenon and remains calm. The students will feel this ease and the restlessness will subside and the students will continue their work until 11:00 a.m.

10:45 a.m. – Clean Up and Outdoor Playtime
The guides ring the bell to signal it is time to clean up. The students tidy their environment and everyone joins in for line time. After line, everyone lines up for outdoor play. Everyone plays 30 minutes outside in our beautiful Montessori outdoor environment. Our outdoor space is perfect for running, gardening, riding tricycles, climbing, and having fun on the slide. And before anyone realizes, the 30 minutes is over!

11:15 a.m. – Lunch Time
Some of our friends go home for the day. The rest of the class begins washing their hands for lunch. Grace and courtesy lessons are practiced during our lunchtime: napkins in laps, using utensils, please and thank you, and restoring the environment.

12:00 to 2 p.m. – Rest Time and Kindergarten Work Cycle
By this time, students have finished their lunch and restored the environment. As the younger students are preparing for a one-hour rest time, the kindergarten students are practicing more complex lessons. They are working one on one with the teacher in math and language. Students may be learning the bank game, advanced language lessons, and reading work.

2 to 2:15 p.m. – Saying our Goodbyes
At the end of the day, everyone sits for one final line time. The Montessori guide reads to the students as the assistant helps prepare the students to go home. After the line is over, the students line up at the door, say goodbye to their friends, and are escorted to car line.

What a wonderful day everyone has had!

Montessori Primer: Principles of a Montessori Classroom (and How They Can Be Applied at Home)

As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, at its core, Montessori philosophy celebrates and nurtures each child’s authentic nature, his part in a bigger picture, and his intrinsic desire to learn. Montessorians view Montessori philosophy as a way of life; carried throughout all facets of the child’s life. So if Montessori isn’t just something that happens at school, how can it be practiced at home?

To help build a bridge from home to school, let’s begin with a look at 8 principles of Montessori education. In Angeline Lillard’s book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, she discusses Montessori’s holistic approach to educating the child. Today, we begin with the first principle of a Montessori classroom, as explored in Lillard’s research on Montessori education, Montessori’s thoughts, and ideas for the home.

Movement and Cognition

“The child needs activity concentrated on some task that requires movement of the hands, guided by the intellect.” (The Science Behind the Genius, 1966)

Tips for the Home:

Dance to music in the house – count the beats
Ride bikes together
Play at the local park
Count the number of steps up to the slide
Play hopscotch
Play I-Spy
Explore unstructured art and crafts
Work with mazes
Try intricate coloring patterns
Play together with wooden blocks and games: pattern games, Legos, etc.
Develop structures, pulleys, vehicles
Allow your child alone-time to explore his own creativity

Montessori Primer: Core Philosophies, Part 2 – The Guide

Today, we continue our exploration of the core philosophies of the Montessori classroom by looking at philosophies embodied in the Montessori guide.

It is the transformation of the adult that is the underlying theme of a Montessori teacher, where as a Montessorian is first and foremost an observer, exemplar and protector of the child’s right to learn. Parents likewise can adopt these philosophies in their approach at home, creating an environment consistent with the classroom.

Core Philosophies of A Montessorian

Be an Observer

To learn from the child, one must observe the child. Observation is an art that must be a highly developed skill in Montessorians. Observing a child is a learned art. The teacher needs to be able to anticipate the needs of a child and act on this need.

Be an Exemplar for the Child

The adult needs to “show” rather then “tell.” It is important for the Montessorian to carefully study their demeanor from which the children will derive behavioral clues. Teachers learn to move quietly, work carefully and give the child a chance to follow an example that is geared to the child’s capability and not to the adult’s expectations.

Be the Protector of the Child’s Right to Learn

A Montessorian recognizes that children learn at their own pace, with varied activities, which are both direct and indirect. If a child is to increase, the adult must decrease. The adult must have experienced a transformation in order for a child’s learning to take place.

For more information on this topic, see “What Makes a Montessorian?” by Nancy McCormick Rambusch, EdD (Montessori Life magazine, Summer 2013 Volume 25 No. 2).

A Montessori Primer

Today, we launch a new series designed to help parents gain a big-picture understanding of the guiding philosophies and principles of the Montessori classroom, how those philosophies and principles can be applied at home, and how they impact the classroom experience on a day-to-day basis, at each level.

Over the next few weeks, our Montessori Primer will feature posts by faculty and staff that will walk through three sections in-depth:

Montessori Core Philosophies

8 Principles of a Montessori Classroom (and How You Can Apply Them at Home)

How the 8 Principles Shape the Classroom Experience

Join us this Wednesday as we begin by exploring two core philosophies of the Montessori classroom.

Philosophy of a Montessori Classroom

The following post is by Jessica Stellato, Lower Elementary Lead in the Galaxy Room at MASS. This month, Jessica is sharing insight into various Montessori classroom materials, terms, and ideas. Today, she shares a big-picture look at the philosophy behind the Montessori classroom experience.

Often parents wonder:

What is Montessori?
What is my child going to learn in a Montessori classroom?
Is there really a difference between a traditional classroom versus a Montessori classroom?

I hope to give you a concise explanation of what an authentic Montessori program should entail for your child.

The Montessori method and philosophy is based on teaching to the whole child and encouraging independence beginning at a very early age. Children want to do for themselves. Maria Montessori stated, “Do not do for the child for what they can do for themselves.” Montessori students learn to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly – a skill set needed for the 21st century.

An authentic Montessori classroom will have a certified Guide (teacher) and an assistant. Some classes may have two certified Guides. A typical class will have mixed ages: Toddler 0-3 years, Primary 3-6 years, Lower Elementary 6-9 years, Upper Elementary 9-12 years (some schools join Lower and Upper, making it a 6-12 year old classroom), and Middle School 12-14 years. There are also a few Montessori High Schools, with students ranging from 14-18 years old.

A Montessori child will experience an uninterrupted work cycle, preferably 3 hours long in the morning. This is a sacred and cherished time in the classroom. The children have freedom of movement and choice; however, these choices are within limits.

Throughout the Montessori school experience, each child is valued as a unique individual, with respect of the child being of great importance. Beginning at an early age, Montessori students develop order, coordination, concentration, and independence to think for themselves. Students are part of a close community of caring teachers and classmates. Students are continually encouraged to learn through their personal interests, creating an individual who loves to learn throughout his life. In addition, self-correction and self-assessment are an integral part of a Montessori classroom, allowing the child to know that it is acceptable to make mistakes and learn from them. This approach not only not eliminates a fear of failure, but builds self-esteem, which is vital in the development of a child.

If you are interested in learning more about the Montessori philosophy, please visit the American Montessori Society online or the Montessori Education page on Wikipedia.

An Exploration of Montessori Materials

The following post is by Jessica Stellato, Lower Elementary Lead in the Galaxy Room at MASS. This month, Jessica will profile various Montessori classroom materials, beginning with an overview of the qualities all Montessori materials share, and providing a detailed description of a specific material each week.

Montessori Materials:

  • Are Appealingly Designed: created using a wide range of beautiful materials and textures
  • Are Ingenuous: teach more than one skill and have a built-in “control of error”
  • Invite Activity: provide opportunities to look, listen, smell, touch, taste and move the body

Maria Montessori believed moving and learning were inseparable. Our children in Primary enter into the stage of “Inviting Discovery.” The 3-6 age group is the time period when the child learns through hands-on experiences that support active learning and discovery. As the child completes this stage of development, they move into the “Grow with the Child” stage. These lessons are more complex and the difficulty increases as the child advances.

For more information, please visit the American Montessori Society website.

Material of the week: Golden Beads

The Golden Beads are the heart of Montessori math. They are essential for teaching the decimal system to students. The Golden Beads give students a real, concrete experience of the decimal system, place value, and operations. They are found in our programs from Primary through Upper Elementary. Students in the Primary begin their lessons with counting, place value, and concrete operations (additon, subtraction, multiplication, and division). The students who have internalized the color dynamics of the math materials move on to more difficult abstract levels of math in the Elementary levels. Students at the Elementary level refine their math facts, dynamic operations, and apply their math concepts in real life opportunities.

The material consists of glass beads in various configurations: units are individual beads, ten units connected together with wire to create a ten bar, 10 ten bars wired together to create the hundred square, and 10 hundred squares carefully bound together to create the thousand cube. From a sensorial aspect, the weight difference shows the emergent learner how “different” 1000 feels from 1. The reaction from a child when he holds his first thousand cube is usually, “Wow!”

Revolutionary Learning

In renowned creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, “Bring on the Learning Revolution,” he speaks about the crisis of human resources, poorly used talents, and a life that people endure versus enjoy. Across the world, educational systems are seeking reform. Sir Robinson believes that “reform in no use anymore. Because that’s simply improving a broken model.” He calls for a revolution in education.

Many elements of the revolutionary environment Robinson describes are found in a Montessori classroom, which begs the question, “Shouldn’t every school be a Montessori school?”

What does that mean?

Planes of Development. Normalization. Cosmic education.

If you’ve ever heard these terms in your child’s Montessori classroom, you might be curious about their meaning. The American Montessori Society has posted a Terminology glossary on their website that’s extremely helpful in clarifying some of the names and phrases particular to the Montessori environment. Understanding these terms provides a deeper understanding of the classroom culture and work cycle, which in turn equips you to effectively engage your child in conversation about his day.