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Prepared Environment and Materials

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.”

~  Maria Montessori  ~

THE ENVIRONMENT

The Montessori teaching environment is quite different from the traditional classroom environment. Instead of a teacher standing in the front of the class lecturing to a group of students of the same age, the Montessori teacher, or guide, is trained to lead the children of various ages in a specialized environment that is precisely set up for using self-correcting materials. In this manner, the children are not corrected by the teacher, rather, the children can work quietly by themselves or in a small group of two or three without interruption and can investigate and work in this carefully prepared environment freely and confidently. This positive atmosphere and freedom to pursue their own interests foster a love of lifetime learning in the students.

It is the role of the teacher to prepare the environment and to link the children to it through well thought out introductions to books and materials, projects, and lessons. The children are then free to explore these tasks and lessons at their own pace. When ready to advance to the next level, the teacher will then guide them to the next task individually. This gentle guidance nurtures the children’s exploration and creativity and also their sense of order. Children are taught to problem solve and try new things.

The Montessori school environment is usually arranged according to subject area — cooking, cleaning, gardening, art, caring for animals, library corner, etc. Children are free to move around the room rather than being told to stay at their desks. There are no limitations on how long a child can work on a particular task.  Children will learn a variety of subjects such as practical work, math, language, science, history, geography, art, and music.  This is facilitated by the teacher with careful observations, individual lessons, and record keeping.

MATERIALS

Maria Montessori noticed that children who were occupied and engaged were happy children. She developed “sensory-rich” materials to stimulate the children so they learn to solve problems and formulate concepts. All the materials are “self-correcting”, for example, puzzles won’t fit together.

A Montessori classroom is very appealing and the materials stimulate the senses. They are rich in bright colors and made from various materials to provide a mix of textures for the children to feel, touch and explore.

Shelving in a Montessori classroom is built to the children’s height. Accessibility of materials provides children the freedom to choose a task to perform and then return the tool. This consistency provides comfort and security to the children.

MIXED AGES

Montessori children are put into classes which span three age groups. Traditional classrooms encourage very little interaction between students. They are asked to keep their active bodies in one spot for long periods of time. The Montessorians notice children’s minds are more active when they are able to move around and interact with other children. Modeling behavior is the primary way in which children learn. Being able to model to younger children builds confidence in the older ones. The older children learn to be patient and develop their verbal skills to communicate with their peers in a relaxed environment. Visualizing and verbalizing how to perform tasks reinforces children’s knowledge of the concepts.

The younger children look up to their older classmates. They learn good manners from them and are able to practice their listening skills. They get more frequent individual attention because now they have a whole ‘class’ of potential teachers instead of one.

Also, in a mixed age setting, the children remain with the same teacher for the next two to three years. There will be no “getting to know each other” time typical of a new school year with a new traditional classroom teacher. This continuity will save time as the teacher is already aware of the child’s capabilities and learning style. There is no lag time for a class transition.