The Learning Environment
The Montessori teaching approach is based on research results that indicate students learn efficiently and deeply in an enriched, supportive environment through exploration, discovery and the freedom to use their creativity. In a Montessori classroom, each student learns and develops at his/her own pace through the use of materials and lessons introduced by staff trained in the Montessori teaching approach. This training is in addition to that required by the state of California for teacher licensure. The Montessori training program course of study includes educational philosophy, academic training in the curricula areas, child development, classroom management, use of materials for individual lessons, scaffolding of instruction, and differentiation of instruction.
The Montessori teaching approach also includes specific materials and methods developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, as well as materials and content added by teachers to educate students to 21st century standards. Materials are selected and designed to meet the needs of the individual student, and there is a range of materials both in variety and level of development to allow children to progress through the curriculum as their skills develop.
The integrated curriculum is introduced sequentially and at the developmental level of each individual child, allowing every child to work to capacity at his/her ability level. Students receive lessons and complete work individually, in small groups, and in whole-class groupings. Teachers guide and teach content so as to address the development of social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination, and cognitive preparation within the thoughtfully designed classroom and school-wide environments. This teaching approach supports the Buckeye Union School District goal of “promoting the development of each student as a whole person.”
Students choose their academic activities in a prepared environment; however, the teacher initially defines the boundaries of activities. The class will then work in partnership with the teacher to define the boundaries of acceptable behavior and activity. Eventually the goal is that each child will define his/her own boundaries of right and wrong and consistent with the standards of the school community. Within limits, students are free to choose their own work, work at their own pace, and to move around and collaborate with others in the classroom. The limits imposed are in relation to the collective interest, and this means that children learn to have respect for the rights and safety of others and for the environment. Students who disrupt their own work or that of others are redirected by the teacher. Children learn to use care with materials, to help other children and to become a cooperative member of the group. This enables each child to enjoy the freedom which is offered, while displaying and developing discipline. This freedom develops the ability of the child to make reasoned educational and interpersonal choices based on a framework of self-discipline.
Many Montessori classroom materials are self-correcting, which means students are able to self-assess and evaluate progress toward a learning goal prior to a formal assessment. Students are also encouraged to peer assess as a form of review prior to a formal assessment. Once students have demonstrated mastery of a concept via formal or informal assessment metrics, they are given the next lesson in the sequence.
Classrooms are physically structured to provide curriculum area concentrations. There are distinct areas containing materials in the areas of mathematics, cultural subjects, sciences, language arts, and fine art. Students have individual space for storing their learning materials and personal belongings. The classroom furnishings are arranged to provide areas in which students may choose to do their work sitting, standing, or on work rugs on the floor. A variety of furniture sizes is provided to accommodate different student needs. Work areas also include spaces in which students may work alone, in small groups, or in a full-class grouping. Finally, Montessori classrooms are structured to promote student independence by giving students access to learning materials as needed.