Dr. Maria Montessori never “taught in a traditional classroom.” (1) She was Italy’s first female doctor, and her first practice was at the Orthophrenic School, more so an asylum, that housed children who were deemed uneducable. She researched and utilized some of the methods and materials designed by Itard and Seguin, and the results astounded her, as well as all of Italy. (2)
Her discoveries led to her specially designed classroom and materials, all prepared to stimulate, engage and heighten the cognitive connections one normally does not see in traditional early childhood education.
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Elements of a Montessori Classroom
Manipulative materials, sensorial-based materials, classrooms that function like communities that are cozy, beautiful and home-like communities — things that have become staples of early childhood education — are often taken for granted. But Montessori was the first person to implement these ideas into her Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House.
Montessori classrooms are well-thought out and meticulously crafted prepared environments. They are aesthetically beautiful in form and design with an emphasis on materials, decorations and furnishings that are natural and beautiful. They are perfect compliments to her philosophy to provide the best for the least.
Child-Sized Furniture and Low-Lying Shelves
Most classrooms still use “chowkis,” or low stools, as desks. They are a wonderful example of design and furnishings that keep the child in mind.
Classroom Pets and Plants
“Bring the world to the child.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
In many schools, not only are plants and animals in the classroom, but oftentimes, there are examples of all the different types (classifications) of animals together in one learning environment: mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects.
In the prepared environment of a Montessori classroom, you will find the iconic “sandpaper letters” and “moveable alphabet” as opposed to magnetic letters that are more common in non-Montessori classrooms.
In the math area, you will find concrete examples of mathematical concepts. Solid geometrical figures, strings of beads to demonstrate squaring and cubing, as well as math work that goes up through multiplication and division are all helping students bridge over to symbols and abstract conceptions.
Teaching at a Montessori School
Working in a Montessori environment isn’t teaching in the traditional sense of the word. Teachers are guides and facilitators to learning who observe and create an optimal learning environment that is filled with a sense of calm, order and joy. One way to think about it is by seeing the teacher, the students and the learning environment creating points of a triangle. Each point carries equal significance.
Every classroom must have at least one teacher trained in Montessori education for the school to be certified by the accrediting bodies of Montessori schools, and you could be that teacher! Further your education and learn the methods, values and ethics of the Montessori Method in the fully online M.Ed. Montessori Teacher Education from Campbellsville University. Our degree is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and prepares candidates to innovate and inspire children’s development and love of learning in their own Montessori classroom.