Montessori Elevator Speech
While in school studying to be a teacher I was often challenged to think of my Elevator Speech for explaining Montessori. When I say Elevator Speech I mean a quick and concise description of what Montessori actually is. To be honest I could go on and on for hours about Montessori philosophy and why it is so near and dear to my heart. However if I were to give a quick response it would be:
“Montessori is a prepared learning environment in which a mixed age group of children are able to learn and explore at their own pace. ”
This simple sentence might not seem like much to the untrained ear/eye but it is truly a jam-packed sentence. Let us take some time to dissect it, shall we?
Prepared learning environment – Each classroom has been painstakingly set up by the teachers in the environment. We make sure that the works that are on the shelf are relevant and engaging to our students. We make sure that these works are ready to be used every day for the students. This means making sure that the works are correctly placed, cleaned, and complete each and every morning.
Mixed age groups – In our classrooms we have students that are ages 3-6 years old. I read somewhere that the 3-4 year olds are watchers: they observe what is going on, get used to the flow of the day, and observe what others are doing in the classroom. The 4-5 year olds are the workers: they have already been in the classroom a year, are choosing works throughout the day, and are busy all day. The 5-6 year olds are the teachers: they are the leaders of the classroom, they teach the younger students how to act throughout the day, show lessons to others, and are what keeps the classroom running smoothly.
Learning and exploring – What better way to learn then to explore the concept. Montessori’s hands-on approach allows students to concretely learn ideas by manipulating materials. Once the child learns the concept with those concrete materials they are able to move to more abstract concepts.
At their own pace – Montessori is fundamentally based in the ideas of “sensitive periods”. A sensitive period is a time in which the child is most sensitive to learning specific concepts. These periods are not at a set time in each child’s development. They are different for each child but are extremely apparent when the child enters them. A great example would be a 4 year old in my class last year that was having the hardest time learning her numbers. She worked tirelessly and no, it just didn’t seem to click. One day she sat down at a rug next to me and started doing subtraction. I honestly cannot tell you what happened other than one day is just clicked. She had entered her “sensitive period” for math and off she flew. The sensitive periods are so true and clearly so very important in the Montessori classroom.