Pedagogy Focus: Montessori Method

In our Pedagogy Focus series, we take a look at the Montessori Method, and how this approach works in both preschools and primary schools

pedagogy montessori

What is the Montessori method?

The Montessori method is named after Maria Montessori, and has been used for more than 100 years around the world. In the method, the child is considered naturally eager to learn, and the teacher’s job is to prepare an environment to facilitate that learning.

Children learn in mixed-age classrooms, and choose their own activities from a range on offer. Montessori uses the “discovery” model, where students uncover knowledge for themselves rather than being directly instructed by a teacher.

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OK, so how and where did the Montessori method originate?

Maria Montessori was medically trained and then moved into teaching following a course in pedagogy at the University of Rome.

Starting in the early 1900s, Montessori set out to develop her method and, over a number of years, she broke down the learning process into various stages, which she then connected to ages. Montessori observed children and adolescents in many different settings and wrote her method based on her findings.

What would a Montessori method learning activity look like?

The philosophy behind Montessori is the goal that the child can do the activity themselves. Activities will be planned by a teacher and then chosen by the child.

The activity needs to give the child the opportunity to discover the task and the opportunity to self-correct.

For example, if they were discovering which objects float, the dish of water should be shallow enough to allow the child to retrieve the object once it has sunk, rather than relying on the intervention of an adult.

    How can I use the Montessori method in my lessons?

    To design your classroom:

    You can take into account the Montessori principles when designing your classroom and choosing your activities. Consider the sensory experiences in your room – for ideas, try Pinterest, where many practitioners share photographs of their Montessori classrooms.

    To design an activity:

    Maria Montessori said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Teachers can ensure that students have a chance to experience success by avoiding intervening before they have finished.

    For homework:

    Although worksheets can be a popular option for homework for the early years and key stage 1, giving Montessori-style alternatives can also be useful.

    Students can fill in a sheet asking them to add and subtract, but they could also replicate the activity using pasta or stones. This repetition of the activity can help the student to process the concept in a more sensory-based form.

    How can I find out more about the Montessori method?

    • For a book, try Angeline Lillard, who wrote Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, in 2017, where recent research on the Montessori method is reviewed. Some reviews of the method have found that its success is dependent on whether students are given a “classic” Montessori education: some educational settings only partly implement the ideas, with mixed success.
    • For a blog, try montessoriacademy.au
    • For a research paper, try Dr Chloe Marshall Montessori education: a review of the evidence base

    Grainne Hallahan has been teaching English in Essex for 10 years. She is part of the #TeamEnglish Twitter group and tweets from @heymrshallahan 

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