A very famous educator Maria Montessori, who was also the first lady physician in Italy, deeply analyzed and studied children and their psychology. She came up with the conclusion that if you give a child a prepared environment then learning will come naturally. According to her, every child is born with an innate ability to learn about his/her surroundings.
Montessori’s Philosophy of Education:
It was the philosophy of education that made Maria Montessori so famous as she introduced learning in a totally unorthodox way. She was of the opinion that a child learns through his/her senses. So she devised unique learning materials that engages all five senses while exploring the world from a child’s eyes. This method of teaching soon gained popularity among the people of Italy and around the globe in a short span of time. The program of teaching was named after its pioneer and became widely known as the Montessori Method.
Currently there are numerous Montessori schools around the world that teaches on the principles laid down by Maria Montessori and are helping thousands of children become successful learners.
Maria Montessori also closely worked with disabled children. She invented materials like sand paper alphabets where children are able to trace their fingers on the alphabets and feel the shape with their sense of touch. Similarly, she invented many other materials that helped children learn through different senses, so if they lack in one sense they can still continue to learn by using other senses.
The idea gave Maria to come up with a plan that is not just specified for disabled children but also helps every child in general. This branch of Montessori method is called Sensorial Development. Teachers use different materials to teach alphabets and numbers to children through their sense of touch. They introduce different textures so children can identify the various textures from rough to smooth, hot to cold, etc. simply by touching.
She also introduced a totally concrete method of teaching Math. Instead of saying the number and pointing out to the symbol of it, she came up with the idea of showing the quantity and relating it with the number. For example, number one is not only shown by its symbol but also by a single bead which determines the true meaning of the symbol. Number two is also introduced in the same way by showing the quantity with two beads. Symbols are introduced after the concept of quantity is clear in children’s minds.
The bead system is a wonderful and unique way to introduce the concept of numbers. It even goes on to addition and subtraction by using beads of tens, hundreds and thousands. Montessori children can do addition and subtraction of large numbers with unbelievable aptness. It is truly amazing to see children understand and compute large numbers with so much ease.
Maria Montessori believed in the holistic approach of teaching. She never encouraged rote memorization of alphabets and numbers. Instead, she showed the actual concrete evidence of what is being taught. A child is able to retain the information for a very long period of time if he is taught by logic and evidence. If the child is shown the concrete quantity of numbers, he will understand exactly what the teacher is talking about. Hence, abstract symbols are introduced later in the Montessori method.
In a traditional and conventional method, writing comes after the child is able to read and identify the alphabets whereas, in the Montessori method writing precedes reading. According to Maria Montessori, it is important for the child to experience the different ways an alphabet can be written in. By writing the alphabet, the child is able to remember it for a longer period of time instead of simply reading it. Writing also helps strengthen the fine motor skills in children.
Maria introduced the metal insets to children as early as three years of age. The metal insets help a great deal with writing. Especially after making a shape with the help of metal insets she encouraged them to draw lines from left to write. This technique helped children with writing of the English Language.
Practical Life Activities:
Children are also taught to take care of themselves and their environment. This field of study is called Practical Life activities in Montessori language. Children are shown to perform their daily life chores by themselves and keep their environment neat and clean. This does wonders in their development. When they are able to take care of themselves and help other adults with daily household chores, they feel happy and confident.
Practical life activities include, sweeping the floor, stitching, tying shoelaces, cutting fruits, washing dishes, making simple snacks like sandwiches or fruit slices, pouring water in a glass, polishing silver, etc. All the things that helps them with their gross motor skills and teaches them the importance of independence.
History, Geography and Science:
Other subjects are also taught from a very young age. The concept of time is introduced in History, children are taught about continents and countries in Geography, plants and animals are introduced in Science. Music is given a lot of importance and children learn about different ways to make music.
Montessori Materials based on Sensorial Development:
Another unique thing about Montessori materials are that they are self-correcting, so the child has control of error and requires minimum teacher intervention while working with them. Maria Montessori was of the opinion that if a child is able to self-correct his mistakes, it will boost his self-esteem and will help him gain confidence. This concept is embedded in all Montessori materials and the Montessori classrooms.
Children are able to correct their work themselves and rectify their mistakes on their own. Once the teacher gives a presentation on any material, a child is easily able to perform the activity on his own with little or no assistance from the teacher.
Some of the most famous Montessori materials are the Binomial and Trinomial Cubes, Pink Tower, Broad Stairs, Red Rods and Cylinders Blocks.
Importance of prepared environment:
Finally, the most important element of Montessori method is the prepared environment. Maria Montessori observed that young children have very absorbent minds and they learn a lot from their environment. If children are given a calm and peaceful environment, like a well prepared classroom with all child age appropriate materials, they will enjoy learning. Since it is an inherent quality of a child to know about his surroundings, teachers give a lot of importance in preparing the classroom with child friendly furniture and learning materials.
Maria Montessori came up with a complete and holistic method of teaching children. Many people adopted this way of teaching and it soon became prevalent all over the world. Nowadays, the Montessori method of teaching is not just restricted to young children but is also taken up to older kids as well.