The early years are very important in a child’s development as the attitudes, concepts and experiences that are learnt during childhood have an impact later on in life.
One of the best approaches to learning for those who are between 3 to 6 is the Montessori method. Read on to find out what this technique entails and why you should consider sending your child to a Montessori Kindergarten.
What is the Montessori method of education?
The Montessori method was developed by Italian physician Dr Maria Montessori over a century ago. This method has had a great global impact on education, especially for the kindergarten years and is being adopted by various leading global preschool brands.
This method of education not only sees children as naturally capable of learning but also of initiating the education process.
Thus, in an environment that is thoughtfully structured to nurture the thirst for knowledge, children will be motivated to explore and discover concepts at their own pace. The Montessori method is one that is very wholesome and aims to develop the physical, social, emotional and cognitive areas. A study on preschool children in Kuala Lumpur shows that this is indeed true, with those who attended Montessori kindergartens performing better in their cognitive, social and language skills.
Montessori teachers are trained to assist the students in their learning. While they do set the curriculum, students have freedom within limits to learn and discover on their own and at their own pace.
The educators are adept at observing their student’s personality, characteristics, talents and abilities. They are also proficient in preparing special educational materials that are suited to the child.
If you walk into a Montessori kindergarten, you will notice the mix aged classrooms – children from 3 to 6 learn together. Additionally, it is interesting to observe the children choosing what they want to learn at the different stations in the classroom.
How is Montessori Kindergarten different from a traditional one?
All educational methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find the one that is best suited for your child.
The table below illustrates the difference between a Montessori kindergarten and a traditional system.
|Emphasizes the natural development of students
|The focus is on the national curriculum
|Children are encouraged to self-learn and are allowed to explore and investigate according to their own interests.
|All students follow the same curriculum that is being taught by the teacher
|Students are active participants in all activities. The material used is age-appropriate and students are encouraged to problem solve on their own.
|Passive learning is the norm and students and knowledge is imparted by the teacher. Drilling and memorization is common.
|The classroom has different stations and students can work where they are comfortable.
|Desks are usually arranged in rows and children sit at their desks to do their work.
|Mixed aged groups (3 to 6 years old)
|Same age group
|Children are encouraged to work together. Motivation to learn comes from the child’s achievement and discovery
|All learning is teacher-led. The child is motivated to learn with rewards and punishments.
|Self-discipline is nurtured
|Discipline is enforced by the teacher
|Students work at their own pace and have uninterrupted learning periods
|A specific time is given for students to complete their tasks
|A holistic approach is emphasized. Students develop social, intellectual, emotional, cognitive skills. Practical life skills are also given attention
|The main emphasis is on academic development.
Montessori kindergarten curriculums- generic overview
Montessori kindergarten curriculums cover the following:
Practical Life Skills
- Fine motor development – Activities here include lifting and carrying a chair, opening jars and boxes, threading and lacing, using tools, using a grater or whisk.
- Self Care – Example activities include buttoning, zipping and tying shoelaces, washing and drying hands, putting on and taking off a coat, using the bathroom and brushing hair.
- Care of the environment – This includes an introduction to the importance of caring for the nature around us with activities like sweeping the floor, cleaning the table, and watering plants.
- Grace and Courtesy – Examples include greeting, apologizing, making eye contact, asking for help and excusing oneself.
- Visual Sense – Understand the differences in dimension, length, width and sizes in objects and materials
- Tactile sense – Use of touch boards, ‘mystery bags’, and touch tables to develop this sense
- Auditory sense – Developing listening skills with bells, and sound cylinders.
- Olfactory sense – Example activities include smelling bottles, different spices, fruits, etc.
- Gustatory sense – Learning about different tastes such as sweet, sour and salty.
Mathematics in a Montessori classroom is taught using materials that teach process and facts. Students move from one level to another at their own pace. Maths activities can be generally organized into 5 groups:
- 0 to 10 Lesson Plans – Activities such as number rods, sandpaper numbers, and memory games teach children how to count. Students start to understand the sequences and the value of quantities in this stage.
- Decimal Number Plans – In this stage children learn decimal categories such as tens, hundreds, thousands as well as units.
- Linear Counting Lesson Plans – Using Ten Boards, 100 Boards, short chains and long chains, students learn to recognize numbers from 1 to 100. Skip counting, such as 5, 10, 15, 20 also becomes a familiar concept to the students.
- Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division – Activities such as the bank game encourage children to work together as well as learn how to use mathematical operations.
- Paths to Abstraction – Students will internalize mathematical skills and progress towards more abstract concepts. Here, students also learn to solve maths problems on paper.
Linguistic expression is valued in a Montessori classroom. Conversation is important and children are encouraged to communicate with their classmates and teachers. Children learn phonics when they are ready and suitable activities are used to encourage fluent reading.
The science curriculum enables children to discover the answer to their questions. Students are encouraged to question, hypothesize, test, observe and conclude. It helps children to develop critical thinking and evaluate their discoveries.
Some of the topics that are learnt in the area include living and non-living things, plants and animals, life cycles, and magnetism.
20 reasons to get your child to a Montessori Kindergarten
Montessori Kindergartens offer a unique approach to your child’s development. As the early years are extremely important, here are 20 reasons why the Montessori Method surpasses a traditional classroom experience.
1. Gives an early start
Montessori children have a head start. By five, most Montessori children would have begun to read. They would also have been introduced to key mathematical concepts such as multiplication and division. Research shows that children who attended Montessori were much better mathematics and literacy scores as compared to those who did not.
2. Every child is valued for who they are – a unique individual
The Montessori approach recognizes that children have different ways of learning. Students are not pressured to follow a particular way of learning and all learning styles are accommodated. The children advance to the next stage only when they are ready.
3. Children get to explore at their own pace
The Montessori method encourages children to explore and learn concepts at their own pace. Those who are slower are not pressured to keep up, and those who are fast learners can try more challenging activities. This helps each child to have a positive learning experience and inspires independent learning.
4. Montessori fosters order, concentration and independence
Children at Montessori school are trained to ‘self learn’, think about what they are learning as well as apply it to everyday life. Classroom design, learning materials and daily routines are all put together to support the child’s ‘self-regulation’.
5. ‘Hands-on’ learning
This is perhaps one of the best reasons to send your child to a Montessori Kindergarten.
Compared to a normal classroom setting where abstract learning is the norm, the emphasis is placed on concrete education. This means that students learn languages, mathematical concepts, and practical life skills. Children learn not to interrupt one another and are taught to concentrate on activities until they properly understand a certain concept.
6. Students experience a close, caring community
Classrooms are multi-aged (usually spanning 3 years) and through this structure, older students are able to help younger children and make them feel supported. The close and caring community enables the children to gain the confidence to face challenges that lie ahead.
7. Students learn teamwork and collaboration
The children learn to work together on projects. Rather than compete with each other for the best grade, they are encouraged to do their personal best.
8. Children know their classmates and teachers
As the students will spend 2 to 3 years together with their classmates and teachers, they get to know them at a personal level. This results in better understanding and communication between students as well as between teachers.
9. Teachers model respect and kindness
Students learn to respect and be kind to each other through teachers who model this concept. Each child is treated with deep respect and their uniqueness is appreciated. This contributes to their social and emotional development.
10. Students enjoy freedom in learning (within limits)
Students are given parameters in which they can freely learn about a topic or subject. With this, they become active participants, leading the way in deciding what they will learn.
A longitudinal study on two Montessori schools in a high-poverty area in America demonstrated that Montessori children fared much better in academic achievement and also had more liking towards scholarly tasks.
11. Students are encouraged to actively seek knowledge
As the freedom in learning allows children to seek answers to their questions, the internal satisfaction that is felt encourages them to continue to learn. This results in joyous learning that will help them their whole life. The classroom environment in itself fosters this independent learning.
12. Supports the development of social-emotional skills
Children who spend their early years in a Montessori environment demonstrate stronger social and emotional skills compared to those who are in traditional classroom environments.
13. Encourages self-assessment and self-correction
The students are nurtured to assess their work and encouraged to recognize, correct and learn from the mistakes that they make.
14. Cooperative play is promoted
Children who are in a Montessori kindergarten quickly learn the benefits of sharing and cooperating with each other. The sense of community in the classroom environment helps each child to work courteously with one another.
Researchers who compared Montessori students and those who were in other programs found that 5 year olds who had been in Montessori for 3 years not only scored higher in academic tests but also in behavioral tests when compared to those in the control group.
15. Montessori teachers nurture the learning process
Teachers assist in the learning experience. While teachers develop the curriculum, they do not determine the pace of the classroom. Montessori teachers are trained to be as unobtrusive as possible. Thus, it is the students who determine what the learning experience is for the day.
16. Children understand their schoolwork
As the Montessori approach is based on exploration, investigation, research and hands-on experiences, it is easy for children to be actively engaged in learning. Compared to traditional methods of drilling and memorization, the system enables children to apply what they learn.
17. The core curriculum is centred around key development stages
Montessori schools take into account the key development stages of each age group. For example, Montessori kindergartens will give focus to language skills for three-year-olds while five-year-olds are given broader learning experience.
18. The environment allows children to naturally learn self-discipline
Although children are given the freedom to choose the activities that they want to work on, there are certain ‘ground rules’ that are consistently reinforced. These rules teach self-discipline, as well as the importance of self-control, motivation and concentration, which are skills that will come very handy later on in life.
19. Carefully structured and integrated curriculum
The curriculum is structured in such a way that it integrates and connects different subject areas. For example, a History lesson might be linked to the arts, sciences and architecture. Critical thinking is much encouraged in the learning process.
20. Montessori Kindergartens recognize the importance of every child
The supportive community of the school including teachers, students as well as parents recognize that every child is important. Each child is given the attention or help that they need. Children do not easily slip through the cracks.
The Montessori method is one that differs significantly from the traditional educational method. It is an approach that aims to develop students in all aspects. This method of education is one that encourages self-learning and builds confidence, both of which are important elements of success later in life.