Maria Montessori developed a comprehensive pedagogic concept covering the development of the child from its birth up to the time when it becomes an adult. Upbringing and education are based on respect for the child’s dignity. Education is understood here as supporting and following the child continuously. The essence of education is making the child independent from adults, its self-reliance as well as responsibility for itself and for the world. The task of the teacher is to help the child in the independent achievement of their objective, possible thanks to familiarity with and respect for developmental rights.
In Montessori preschools, the activeness and dynamic of the work of children is connected with silence and concentration. Children have time for independent discovery. It is a place where the time of childhood is a time of calm growing up. The entire future life of the child depends on how the child develops, what it experiences as well as how it is motivated and supported. The environment, in which it grows up, plays a decisive role here. Whether it is full of prohibitions and inaccessible objects, limits the possibility to satisfy curiosity, whether it is properly prepared so as to make it possible for the child to develop all spheres of activity.
In particular, in the first period of life, we have to create an environment that is as interesting and attractive as possible. The child goes through individual development phases and in each of them, the environment has a different but equally important role.
In Montessori pedagogy, the teaching process takes place through free and spontaneous selection of activities made every day by children in the so-called prepared environment, equipped with Montessori material. The prepared environment is the place, in which the child may engage its hands, brain and senses; where all what it needs is within the reach of its hands and is not a threat to its safety. Education is based on specially prepared teaching & developmental aids, arranged in a thematic way. The child itself decides what it wants to work with at a given moment and how much time it will devote to it. The teacher observes the child and tries to follow it, offering ideas for future action. They are an intermediary between the environment and the child, helping the child to discover reality on its own. Work in the meaning of the Montessori pedagogy should be understood as the activity of the child that has developmental, cognitive and educational character and that leads to the achievement of a specific objective. Thus, the child develops its imagination and gathers necessary experience. Abstract concepts become clearer and acquisition of knowledge is joyful.
The prepared environment as an educational environment is characterized by:
– beauty and tidiness; it is real, simple and accessible
– children must be ensured freedom for work but at the same time, they must be able to follow the set principles which allow them to work as a part of a group
– children should be provided with the materials suited to them, supporting world discovery and allowing them to develop necessary skills
– existence of mixed age groups, thanks to which children may develop their skills in the field of living in society and learn from each other according to their own pace of development
Teaching aids are various objects inspiring children to creative action. They are characterized by simplicity, aesthetic and well-thought-of construction. Every aid is constructed according to the principle of graduation of difficulty and is adjusted to the developmental needs of the child while its construction allows for independent control of error. These peculiar features of Montessori teaching materials allow the child to act independently. All materials are connected with each other in a logical way and constitute an integral entirety while the given type occurs only once, in one piece. Every group of aids is the basis for next, more complicated and more abstract actions. The child is able to use the acquired knowledge in practice, e.g. while practicing with the material shaping sensitivity to colours, it transfers the ability to distinguish colours to its actions in the environment.
The teaching material is divided into 5 categories corresponding to the Montessori learning areas: practical life, sensorial activities, language, mathematics and culture.
Materials for practical life exercises: connected with self-service, care of the environment, customs and social standards. The lessons and exercises are aimed at the improvement of the child’s motor skills and of coordination of the child’s movements as well as at learning skills that will be used by the children in their everyday life.
Sensorial material: called by M. Montessori as ‘materialized abstractions’, it is important for the formation of intellect. It develops all senses, being at the same time used for stimulation of mental activity. The objective of the sensorial material is to demonstrate the properties of the objects and their systematization. Abstract concepts such as e.g. shape, size, colour, texture, weight, temperature, taste, smell, sound, are realized and experienced by the child.
Linguistic material: for learning reading, writing and grammar. It includes improvement of the skills that are necessary for reading and writing, including: learning the shapes of letters and ability to recognize and distinguish them. It makes the children realize that we distinguish: sentences, words, syllables, phonemes and sounds in speech.
Mathematical materials: it includes learning the shapes of geometric figures and digits as well as exercises in counting in the range from 0 to 1,000, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Cultural materials: for learning geography, biology, history, geology, astronomy, physics and chemistry. It is realized in an integrated way. While learning about the earth and solar system, children acquaint themselves with physical and weather phenomena, such as e.g.: seasons, climate, weather. They learn forms of land and water, such as: island, lake, peninsula, bay, river, mountains.
The most important period in life is not the time of university studies but the first period, from birth to six years of age. It is the time when not only intelligence of the person but also the entirety of their psychical skills is formed.
CONVENTIONAL PRESCHOOLS VS. MONTESSORI METHOD
|CONVENTIONAL PRESCHOOLS||MONTESSORI METHOD|
|groups of children being at the same age, which often results in competing with each other||groups of children being differentiated in terms of age, which results in the fact that they learn from each other and help each other|
|learning by heart||learning through experience|
|children work in groups according to the pre-determined program||the child works mainly individually with the material selected by itself in a properly prepared environment|
|participation in the group is required||participation in the group is up to the child|
|toys often refer to the fantasical world||teaching aids refer to the real world|
|time devoted for performance of a task is pre-set while the pace of teaching is determined by the level of the group and by the teacher||the child works on the given task as long as it is interested and it determines the pace of learning by itself, developing its interests|
|it is the teacher that selects the place and form of the classes||it is the child that selects the place and form of the classes|
|frequent use of punishments and rewards disturbs development of self-discipline||resignation from rewards and punishments shapes internal self-discipline in the child; the feeling of progress or its lack occurs|
|the material is consolidated by the child with the parents||the material is consolidated by the child through the possibility to come back to the teaching aids|
|minor pressure on sensorial development||great pressure put on sensorial aids, by means of which the child develops all of its senses and spatial thinking|
|teaching conducted by the teacher who holds control over the group||the teacher encourages cooperation in learning and performs the function of a guide|
|the teacher decides on assignment of the topic of the work and corrects the potential mistakes of the child||the child selects the work and discovers its mistakes thanks to feedback provided by the teaching materials|
|the teacher is in the centre as the one who conducts the classes||the teacher is the guide and the observer of the child|
|the teacher leads the child to the formation of concepts||the child learns and formulates the concepts itself through materials for self-education|