Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was the first Italian woman doctor. Her philosophy and method of education was developed over many years based on detailed observations of children of all abilities and backgrounds, and was born out of love and respect for the child.
"What I have done is merely to study the child, to take and express what he has given me, and that is called The Montessori Method."—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD
Montessori Grouping of Children
Our classrooms are all environments with multi-aged groups of children. At HMM, our multi-age classrooms are Primary (Pre-K and Kindergarten), Lower Elementary (Grades 1-2), Middle Elementary (Grades 3-4) and Upper Elementary (Grades 5-6). Maria Montessori grouped children according to general developmental levels which she called planes of development.
Montessori referred to the primary child:
Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, where study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants—doing nothing but living and walking about—came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning; would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so he passes little by little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD
Teachers take much care in arranging the classroom with opportunities for working alone, working with a partner, or working in a small group. Our classrooms are orderly and well-cared for by staff and children. Each classroom is well supplied with Montessori materials which are displayed for immediate use by members of the classroom community. Every classroom includes an assistant teacher.
Montessori spoke these words regarding the elementary child:
The secret of good teaching is to regard the children's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the children understand, and still less to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their innermost core...
—Dr. Maria Montessori, MD
Staff and ChildrenTake Ownership of Managing Behavior
Environments where there is much independent work going on require an underlying structure set up with the teacher's vision of what works for her particular group of children. The physical organization of the classroom is essential for facilitating children's freedom to choose work and to move about, as they choose behavior that is appropriate for work in their classroom.
Each child comes to school with a good understanding of what is proper behavior and each child makes a decision and choice of how to behave. We encourage behavior that shows respect for other people in the classroom and respect for materials in the environment. We hope to help each child realize a positive self image as a human being with the growing potential for becoming a contributing member of our school and world society.
Montessori did not agree that rewards and punishment are always the answers to positive behavior. Our modeling of appropriate behavior, asking children to reflect on the impact of their decisions on others, and redirection of the child as he experiences decision-making situations will lead to pride in one's accomplishments without always receiving a tangible reward.
Work on independence and concentration begins in the primary grades, in our case with the four and five year olds. It is essential that our children have this early opportunity to practice working independently and making choices. In addition, if we offer worthy learning opportunities and set up environments that target each child's developmental interests and meet his needs (both at home and at school), we will expect to see more focused work and positive behavior choices.
Children's Beginning Work Day and Uninterrupted Work Time
Students begin their day's work as soon as they enter the classroom. This first activity may take different forms in different classrooms. Some children may begin by reading or writing. Some may work on the classroom environment or prepare their first work for the day. Others may help the teacher prepare lesson set-ups. Some may go to other classrooms to listen to readers. Some may reach for their on-going research project and seek out their partner to begin work. Work in our classrooms is dynamic and ongoing, not filled with isolated lessons. We expect that attitude and behavior will remain positive when work and assignments are purposeful and meaningful to each individual so that she or he is not just passing time until the next segment of the day, but the student is spending time on work worthy of his time and effort.
During work time we strive not to interrupt the children's work period. Children need time to complete a work cycle - including time to consider choices, choose a work, work through it, and put it away. As children work toward independence, they need time to make mistakes and correct them and to reach a sense of mastery on their own.
We invite parents to visit the classroom to observe their child at work. However, adults entering the classroom unannounced, to specifically talk with the teacher during class time, would be a disruption to the children's work time, and we ask that you respect each child's school experience. Teachers will be happy to meet with parents during breaks in the day or answer questions by phone before the close of the day. There are opportunities to make an appointment to talk with a teacher during the work day when he or she is not working with children. Children are always the teacher's priority.
Materials and the Montessori Curriculum
Our classrooms are well supplied with a full range of Montessori materials. Classrooms are prepared with materials in each of the content areas - history, physical science, earth science, life science, mathematics, geometry, and language arts of reading and writing. Montessori materials are available to children throughout the day related to assignments or work choices made by children.
The National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector is an independent nonprofit organization with the mission of helping public schools deliver high-quality, personalized education through Montessori and supporting the growth of public Montessori in the United States.
The American Montessori Society (AMS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the Montessori teaching approach in private and public schools and advocating for innovative, child-centered approach to learning through Montessori education. It provides school support and accreditation as well as teacher training.
The Association Montessori Internationale/USA (AMI/USA) is an affiliate of the American Montessori Internationale that was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori to ensure her philosophy and approach to education would be carried on after her death. The nonprofit organization focuses on bringing the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori to the education of children in order to help them attain their full potential in our society.