When you step into a traditional classroom, you’ll likely see rows of children quietly seated and listening to the teacher talk, or participating in the same group activity. A Montessori classroom, on the other hand, is like a giant playroom-meets-workshop. You’ll find some children working quietly on solo projects, while others are engaged in small groups. The space is beautiful, calm, inviting, and thoughtfully arranged to embody the essence of the Montessori approach.
Here are some of the ways in which a Montessori classroom differs from that of a traditional school.
An inspired space
While all school classrooms are appealing in their own unique way, Montessori classrooms are somewhat famous for their beauty. Rooms are filled with natural light and soft, muted colours, which helps children to feel a sense of safety and belonging.
There is plenty of uncluttered space with natural finishings and textures like glass, wood, metal and ceramic textures. There is a minimalist appeal that’s harmonious and organised, while still being homelike and cosy with soft rugs and comfortable chairs.
Dr Montessori discovered that learning in this type of classroom led to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions and so much more.
Hands on learning
One of the greatest benefits of Montessori is that it encourages a hands-on learning environment for activities that teach math, sense, culture, language, and practical lessons. The education materials are concrete, rather than abstract like in most traditional schools.
Accessibility to encourage independence
Dr. Montessori believed that children learn better when they get to choose what to learn, so creating an accessible environment is extremely important. After all, children can not be expected to build skills if they are not given the opportunity to do so.
For this reason, learning materials are arranged on open shelves so children can access them easily and choose the activity that interests them the most. They use the materials for as long as they like, before cleaning up and moving on to a different material.
A self-care area promotes toilet awareness in young children, and fosters and independence for self care like washing hands and wiping their nose. A resting area with floor mats means little ones can rest and get up independently when they feel the need. There is also an area with child-size furniture and kitchen tools and utensils that allow them to help prepare, serve and eat snacks and meals, as well as clean up afterwards. These all work to build self-confidence, concentration and critical thinking skills.
In traditional schools, social interaction is generally a big no-no during the learning periods of the day, where children are encouraged to keep quiet and follow the teacher’s instructions. Montessori recognises that children each have individual personalities, which grow and develop as they interact with others. This is why a large portion of the day is spent socialising, which helps develop interpersonal skills and independence.
Minimal wall decorations
Decorations on the wall are kept to a minimum to help create a calm, uncluttered and relaxed environment. When displaying wall decorations, they’re generally simple and practical in their design.
Varied age groups
Children are naturally fascinated by what other children are doing, and learn from one another in the process. This is one of the reasons why Montessori schools group children of different ages together, which fosters peer-to-peer learning, growth and important life skills like inclusion and acceptance.
Variety of learning styles
A child’s learning style is as unique as their personality, which is why Montessori classrooms feature a wide variety of settings and activities to appeal to each child’s interests and encourages flexible thinking strategies.
The teacher’s presence
There is no teacher at the front of a Montessori classroom, dominating the room and giving instruction to the class as a whole. Instead, the child, teacher (also called a guide or directress) and environment create a learning triangle.
Here, the teacher is seen as a collaborative member of the learning process where she serves as a guide in a child’s development journey to encourage independence, give freedom within limits and maintain a sense of order.
More than a room
A Montessori classroom is more than just a room. It’s a one-of-a-kind environment that has been carefully designed to instill a love of learning into children at a young age by nurturing curiosity, self-confidence and independence. Most importantly, it’s done at a pace that allows children to develop in their own time, creating an inviting environment for all.