Montessori Teaching Method: Behind the Popular Name

25 Jun

Montessori schools are everywhere these days. They are the most popular choice for parents who want their children to receive the best education starting from their very young ages. Montessori schools offer programs for children of all ages, from birth up to eighteen years old.

What is the Montessori Teaching Method?

Montessori teaching methods have been diversified over the decades, but the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite the following practices as fundamental elements in the Montessori teaching method:

  • Mixed age classrooms – children from ages 2 ½ or 3 to 6 years old are mixed in classrooms.
  • Student choice of activity from within the prescribed range of options
  • Continuous blocks of time
  • Discovery model- students learn various concepts while working with materials available to them instead of through direct instructions
  • Specialized educational materials developed by Dr. Montessori and her partners.

Early Beginnings of the Montessori Teaching Method

In 1897, Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, started to develop her philosophy and methods that would shape the method widely known as the Montessori Teaching Method. She then proceeded to open her first classroom, which she called the Casa dei Bambini. It means Children’s House and it started operating in 1907. The Montessori Method then spread to the United States in 1911, but waned in 1914 after a booklet entitled, The Montessori System Examined, was published. Nevertheless, in 1960, Montessori education returned to the United States and has since then spread to thousands of schools in the country.

The Theory Behind Montessori Teaching Method

According to Dr. Montessori, children and developing adults engage in psychological self-construction through interactions with their environments. This is the first element in the Montessori teaching method. The second element states that children, particularly under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development.

In 1957, Dr. Montessori’s son, Mario Montessori, identified the human tendencies that govern every stage of development. Such human tendencies are self-preservation, order, communication, exploration, repetition, orientation to the environment and work, among others.

Prepared environment is also a fundamental element in the Montessori teaching method. In this method, freedom of activity within a prepared environment allows children to develop independence according to their inner psychological directives.

Categories of the Montessori Teaching Practices

  • Infant and Toddler Programs – For infants until three years old children, these programs provide environments and materials scaled to the size and abilities to develop movement and independence.
  • Preschool and Kindergarten – 2 ½ or 3 to 6 years old children designed for their optimum development. Classroom activities promote practical skills, development of the senses, language, music, and more.
  • Elementary – Caters to ages 6 to 12 years old children, this program includes a trained teacher handling a group of children in a classroom setting.
  • Middle and High School – Some Montessori schools include this bracket, but usually located in the countryside.

Today, the Montessori teaching method is widely practiced in most countries. The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) provide training for teachers using materials and presentations developed by Dr. Montessori. These organizations uphold the integrity of the authentic Montessori teaching method and continue to provide support to all Montessori schools throughout the world.


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