What is Montessori?











The Montessori method of education was developed by Dr Maria Montessori (1870-1952), an Italian who at the age of 26 was the first woman to graduate from the University of Medicine in Rome. After working closely with children and much study and development, produced her first ground-breaking book, The Montessori Method. This book was well received by the world and her ideas adopted.
The Montessori approach aims to allow each child to experience the joy of learning in a non-competitive and nurturing environment in which intellectual and social development go hand in hand. Children are then able to reach their full potential in all areas of life while developing their own personality, all at their own pace. 
The activities promote the development of social skills, emotional growth and physical co-ordination as well as cognitive preparation. 
The educational principles are based around the following central themes:
  • Children are active learners. They have a natural desire to learn about the world around them. They are given freedom and opportunity to learn what they need in order to further their own development.
  • From birth to 6 years, children have an absorbent mind.
  • Everything that occurs in their life has a profound effect and therefore, the quality of early experiences are of fundamental importance to their self-construction.
  • Children pass through sensitive periods in their development.


The Prepared Environment

The Montessori Method takes a child-centred approach to the education of young children. It is caring, non-competitive and fosters co-operation. The children are free to develop as individuals in a respectful environment. The prepared environment caters to the child’s sensitive periods of development and in doing so, supports the child’s desire for knowledge, independence, repetition and the freedom to learn.
Everything in a Montessori classroom is child-sized. The classroom will not be over-stimulating or over-crowded; it will be ordered and well planned. Everything that the child needs will be within their reach which promotes freedom of choice and independence.
Curriculum Areas 
Children in the Cycle 1 program possess what Maria Montessori called the absorbent mind, the ability to absorb all aspects of one’s culture and environment without effort or fatigue. As an aid to this period of the child’s self-construction, individual work is encouraged.  
There are five main curriculum areas in the Montessori classroom:
  • Practical Life
  • Sensorial
  • Language
  • Mathematics
  • Cultural Studies
Each child will be carefully presented with activities from each of the curriculum areas which are appropriate for their level of development and interests.


There is an emphasis on developing an awareness of the real world using the five senses: touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. The emphasis on refining the senses is based upon helping the child to ‘know’ what they touch, see, smell, hear and taste. As the senses become more refined, the child’s ability to deepen their knowledge about the world becomes possible.
Practical Life


Practical Life exercises instill care for self, for others, and for the environment. Activities may include many of the tasks children see as part of the daily routine in their home, such as preparing food and washing dishes, along with exercises of grace and courtesy. Through these tasks, children develop muscular coordination, enabling movement and the exploration of their surroundings. They learn to work at a task from beginning to end, and develop their powers of control and concentration.
Sensorial materials serve as tools for development. Children build cognitive skills, and learn to order and classify impressions by touching, seeing, smelling, tasting and listening, and exploring the physical properties of their environment.
Language development is vital to human development. The Montessori environment is rich in oral language opportunities, allowing the child to experience conversations, stories and poetry. The sandpaper letters help children link sound and symbol effortlessly, encouraging the development of written expression and reading skills. To further reading development, children are exposed to the study of grammar.
Mathematical activities help children learn and understand the concepts of maths by manipulating concrete materials. This work gives children a solid understanding of basic mathematical principles, prepares them for later abstract reasoning, and helps to develop problem-solving capabilities.
Cultural Studies
Cultural learning involves geography, biology, botany, zoology, art and music. These are presented as extensions of the sensorial and language activities. Children learn about people and cultures in other countries with an attitude of respect and admiration. Through familiarity, children come to feel connected to the global human family. Lessons and experiences with nature inspire a reverence for all life. The art and music programmes give children opportunities to enjoy a variety of creative activities, as well as gain knowledge of the great Masters (e.g. Mozart, da Vinci, etc).
The Directress 
The role of a Montessori Directress is one of guide and observer, whose ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the child develops. The Directress builds an atmosphere of calm, order and joy in the classroom and encourages the children in all their efforts, thus promoting self-confidence and discipline. With the younger students at each level, the Directress is more active, demonstrating the use of the materials and presenting activities based on an assessment of the child’s needs. Knowing what to observe and when, and how much, to intervene is a skill the Montessori teacher strives for.
The Directress’ prime objectives are to:
  • Maintain order and beauty in the Prepared Environment
  • Facilitate the development of each child so that the child can develop to their optimum
  • Encourage independence and self-sufficiency
  • Ensure there is a great respect for the environment, the children, teachers and the Preschool community
  • Promote learning by creating a climate of discovery
  • Extend and enrich the child’s own interests
  • Help the child to become self-disciplined according to their level of development
  • Develop a Directress-child relationship that is warm, happy and rewarding
  • Be a good role model
  • Observe the children to make sure the Prepared Environment is meeting the child’s developmental needs and interests

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