What is Montessori?
Named after its founder, Dr Maria Montessori, the Montessori method is an educational philosophy based on child-centred learning that was developed in the early 20th century by this visionary, Italian physician. It is much more than just an educational approach – it is a way of raising children and for many, it is a way of life.
Having become the first female to graduate in medicine at the University of Rome, Italy in 1896, Montessori had the opportunity to make extensive scientific, observational studies into the way children learn and react to the world around them. She pioneered a series of holistic education methods and principles that have been widely celebrated and followed across the world by many different cultures and nationalities for more than 100 years. Her methods have stood the test of time and she was nominated for three Nobel peace prizes (1949, 1950 and 1951)!
The Montessori approach is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural physcological and social development. Its ultimate goal is to assist each child in reaching their full potential, at their own pace, via a natural desire and joy of learning.
In contrast to traditional nurseries where children follow a pre-determined curriculum, led and instructed by the teacher, Montessori offers the child the chance to be guided as an independent learner. The Montessori approach is inquiry based learning, where the focus is on the process rather than passing an exam.
Children absorb their surroundings and choose their own materials to work with, based on their individual interests and abilities, in a carefully prepared environment. The teacher acts as a ‘directress’ - a guide, facilitator and mentor, respecting and observing each child’s unique abilities. Children learn freely, amongst others of mixed age and nationality, using traditional, multi sensory, Montessori learning materials with no time constraints or limits (within reason).
All children are intrinsically motivated to learn, they absorb knowledge without effort when provided with the right kind of activities, at the right time in their development. This is especially key in the first six years of their life when unconscious learning is gradually brought to a conscious level.
‘The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist’’
– Maria Montessori
The integrated Montessori curriculum shows the child how every aspect of learning is connected. We focus on six key areas –
1. Sensorial Play
2. Practical Life Exercises
3. Language and Literacy (Arabic, English and French in dual language classrooms)
5. Science, Culture and Environment
6. Creative Subjects – Art, Music and Sport
We have a different theme each week and carefully monitor the progress of each child via regular one-to-one sessions and appraisals.
Each term we have at least one event for parents to participate in and we regularly take children on outings and excursions based around a given theme that week.
The Montessori Method groups children of different ages together, in order that the younger ones might learn from the older and that the older ones mentor the younger ones. This cross-aged tutoring setup fosters responsibility, respect for others, and community.
In our nurseries, children are grouped as seen below:
Babies: 2 months – 1 year (or once walking)
Toddlers: 1 year (or once walking) – 2 years
Montessori group: 2 years – 4 years
*Each grouping is subjected to each child’s individual readiness and capabilities.
From as young as two months old, children in our nurseries begin their Montessori journey by exploring sensorial materials to develop their curiosity and ignite a desire for physical and cognitive development. Our open plan toddler’s room introduces basic Montessori learning materials encompassing the six areas of learning. This prepares our younger children before they move into our traditional, Montessori class settings. Each day, children are invited to participate in structured circle time sessions where the directress presents a theme using multi sensory materials, including a song or story, for the children to explore. Circle times are offered in two languages, each day (Arabic, English and/or French.) We also offer Islamic sessions to those that are interested.
The Montessori Classroom
The Montessori classroom, is a comfortable living area for the child - stimulating, beautiful and well-ordered. Everything is within the child’s reach. Each child chooses his/her activities from open shelves and works in their own work areas – on tables or on rugs on the floor, in small groups or individually.
You will find the following areas in each of Sunny Meadows' classrooms –
Practical Life Area: The practical life materials enhance the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of the self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy and refinement of movement and coordination, whilst also developing pre-language and mathematics skills indirectly. We have traditional Montessori dressing frames and other activities include pouring water into jugs, polishing, threading and using tongs, pincers and pipettes to move small objects from one vessel to another. Our teachers and assistants change the activities regularly and find this is always one of the most popular areas of the classroom!
Sensorial Area: Sensorial materials enable the child to order, classify and describe sensory impressions in relation to length, width, temperature, smell, mass and colour, etc.
Mathematics Area: The Montessori mathematics materials allow the child to understand fundamental concepts using concrete and physically manipulative implements. This allows the child to internalize the concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations and memorization of basic facts. Materials such as the number rods, spindle boxes and counters, provide simple yet concrete step by step guides to learning numbers and counting . Children learn how to measure and pour and how to grade big and small, for example.
Language Area: Language work includes oral language development, written expression, reading, as well as the study of grammar, creative dynamics and children's literature. Basic skills in writing and reading are developed through the use of sandpaper letters (loose alphabet letters), metal insets and various presentations allowing children to effortlessly link sounds and symbols and to express thoughts in writing.
Cultural Area: Cultural work encompasses all of the sciences. The child is presented with geography, history, life sciences, music, art, and movement education in the form of puzzles, themed objects, books, the globe and other materials.
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