There are a number of differences, which we would like to include in these Montessori FAQs including:
- Individualized Curriculum – The Montessori Curriculum is individualized which means it adapts to the student’s readiness, and moves on to a new area of learning at the student’s pace.
- Multiple Ages in Class – The Montessori ‘Class’ or ‘Cycle’ has mixed age groupings focusing on horizontal and cooperative learning rather than competition. Younger students learn from the older students, who in turn learn leadership in helping the younger students along.
- Choice – Students are encouraged to learn by choosing activities from a range they are presented with. This means they have choice and are therefore more motivated to learn. They can repeat their learning as many times as they wish in order to perfect their skills, which in turn grows their confidence.
- Montessori Materials – A great amount of learning takes place through the use of manipulative materials which are designed to facilitate the retention of ideas and concepts in a tangible and concrete way. Students are free to experiment, observe and discover. The use of sensory didactic materials permits students to explore, self-correct and slow down the mental processes and concentrate on the concrete steps that facilitate a deeper learning of abstract concepts.
- Uninterrupted learning – Importantly, Montessori enables uninterrupted work periods where students work on subjects and staying uninterrupted for as long as they need to complete a task. If an exercise requires an entire morning, the teacher will not interrupt the student and prompt them to change subjects. This enables the student to naturally train themselves to focus deeply on their work.
- Self-Paced Learning – Each student is different and their pace of learning is different. This way of learning is managed very well in a Montessori environment. The teacher helps to nurture the student’s love of learning by teaching them how to enjoy the tasks that are harder for them to accomplish.
- Inner Pride fuels Motivation – Self-paced learning affords the child to work for their own achievement. If learning is presented as an interesting personal challenge, taking place under the guidance of a nurturing and unhurried method of teaching, the child will feel motivated to tackle it. Their reward will be a feeling of pride and self-esteem.
- Self Regulated Discipline – By engaging the student in purposeful, meaningful work and self-fulfilling activities, the student achieves a state of inner normalization and not boredom, conflict and internal turmoil. The teacher must strive to provide a learning environment that leads every student to achieve this balance. Dr Montessori said ‘…an individual is disciplined when he is master of himself...’. This is unlike traditional schooling, where the teacher or school often assumes the role of disciplinarian, frequently resulting in students fostering strong feelings of rebellion and contempt for authority, instead of respect.
The Montessori materials and resources play a huge part in the learning experience of the child and definitely merit thorough explanation in these Montessori FAQs. The materials are designed with distinct learning outcomes and each lesson provides ways for the child to extract their understanding of a concept through the practice with the material. The materials identify and isolate each learning concept clearly and provide a control of error for the child to be guided through the process. The manipulatives offer repetition without adult judgement as well as sequential understanding of concepts. Abstract concepts are made real via the materials, and do not simply rely on memorisation, but on understanding a deep intellectual process. Learning for everybody in general is improved if we have visuals, manipulatives and movement included in the experience. Montessori materials offer all these elements. The materials are designed with distinct learning outcomes and each lesson provides ways for the child to extract their understanding of a concept through the practice with the material. Learning for all happens better if we have visuals, manipulatives and movement included in the learning. Montessori materials offer all these elements.
(ref: Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori)
This is one of our most frequent FAQs and is a Yes and No answer.
- Students are supported in that they have manipulatives (Montessori materials) to help them learn.
- The tuition is done in small groups.
- Interest can guide some of the curricular outcomes required.
- Time demand for each task is more flexible.
- Class staff are generally with a student for three years.
- Expectations are very high both academically and behaviourally.
- The student must be able to manage the required expected work independently, i.e.. they must be able to self-direct, while the teacher is giving lessons to others.
- The students are required to stay focussed on own required work, even when others appear to be doing more interesting work.
- Students are required to follow class and school rules at all times and will be reminded by peers (as students are very well behaved and do not tolerate bad behaviour).
- There are no bells or reminders for timing own work; students must be able to time manage and work independently.
- Appropriate choices of work (new and current) must be managed by the student continuously; this can be positive, however, for students with specific needs, this becomes an added element of anxiety.
Yes and No.
The answer has two equally important elements to understand:
- Students do not have bells to regulate the time spent on a learning subject, they are able to finish what they start as long as it is engaged work.
- Students can select what work they do daily, from the required list of daily/weekly work. All work must be done within the day/week.
- Students can select to work alone or with peers, again only if the work is completed.
- Students can include their own interests if the selected criteria as outlined by the teacher is met.
- Students are free to work in or outside the class, if they are not distracted and work is done to high standard.
- Students must produce required work at a high standard, once they have attended a lesson.
- Students must attend daily lessons and repeat the lesson without adult supervision.
- Students must manage their own ‘Checklist’ daily/weekly/termly. Therefore, excellent time management and self-direction is developed and required.
- Students are assessed regularly and conferencing is done weekly (individually/small group) to ascertain that work is completed and done to best personal standard.
- Students must be able to engage with own work and avoid distraction, as peers could be working on a totally different subject from their own.
The demand placed on students takes a different form, but is, however, far more demanding than a traditional context where the adult is in charge and provides the type of work, amount of work, timing of work and where all students complete the same work at the same time.
Another very common question in our FAQs, Yes, Caboolture Montessori School is fully aligned with the Australian National Curriculum and, like all independent schools, is accredited with Non-State Schools Accreditation Board every five years. We also believe that the Montessori Curriculum surpasses the National Curriculum in many ways.
We are making good progress with plans for our Cycle 4 and we are confident to be able to offer our already approved adolescent program in 2024-25.
Our experience is that children cope very well in the traditional system, as they have learned key skills such as how to think, (as opposed to ‘what’ to think) to query and question, and have the confidence to ask questions if they don’t understand. Our students achieve high academic standards as they start at the age of three to use didactic learning materials to accumulate knowledge about their subjects. Their sense of self and confidence is high, as they have been supported equally in their academic, social and emotional needs and they have a clear picture of what they do well. Even so, CMS now has a plan in place to extend our school to a secondary level so that we can continue to support adolescents in all things Montessori.
Children maintain their focus on work because they have a choice in selecting what they want to learn and are therefore motivated to learn. Each lesson is be planned appropriately for the capability and interest of a selected group. Students can ask for extra lessons or attend a lesson prepared for older/younger students. This becomes an active choice directed by the child (guided by the adult). Following a guided lesson, work is done by the student independently with materials prepared for the various lessons presented. Again, the student is working by choosing how long to work on the task and with materials or friends to gain a deeper understanding. In addition, the learning times are uninterrupted, so a child can focus on their task/project for as long as they wish, without being disturbed and redirected to a new subject or different class after 35-45 minutes or on a school bell.
In addition to completing a Degree in Teaching (4 years), a Montessori teacher must also complete a specific Montessori training diploma, which takes an additional 2-3 years.
Lessons are delivered to one student or a small selected group of the same capability, therefore, it is easier to determine the student’s understanding and progress. Up to eight lessons per day can be delivered with specific groups. Student data is collected following every activity and thorough observational records are done daily. Students remain in the same cycle for three years, hence the teacher/adult has a deep understanding of the student’s character, mode of learning, ability and level of progress. Students all work at their own capability and not according to the age of the cohort. Assessments are teacher-designed and diagnostic and we collect data in term one and at the end of the year data to address the student’s progress.
What we call ‘play‘, children call ‘doing‘ or ‘working’ and there is a misunderstanding between these, therefore this is another important one of our FAQs. The early learning years is a time when children’s abilities are vastly underestimated, according to Maria Montessori, and we can make the mistake of believing that children play without the intention of wanting to learn from their activities. At Caboolture Montessori School, children are free to ‘play’ as they wish, inside or outside, but because they are infinitely curious, they inevitably notice the materials around the room and can’t help but interact. This is when ‘play’ becomes learning and learning becomes fun/play. The term ‘play’ is an adult term for what we see children do. Children love to interact with things that make them understand life; everything they do is constructing their role and their understanding of the world they live in, and a Montessori environment offers outdoor and indoor prepared environments that facilitate this.
Dr Montessori encouraged teachers to fill the classroom environment with with items such as books and materials that will stimulate cognitive skills that help students to be competent and independent for life in the real world. Therefore, teachers provide lessons that are filled with reality-oriented instruction rather than fantasy. This ensures that the child’s intelligence, which is primed for exploring and absorbing truths about the world we live in, is filled with reality rather than fantasy.
We provide many ways for the child to build their creativity, but avoid fantasy. Children from birth to 5 or 6 years old generally cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, therefore providing concepts like fairies, goblins and witches is left for the older child. There is so much ‘magic’ in reality that we can offer the young learner, such as the journey a drop of water makes from the sky back into the ocean, or the impressive nature of dinosaurs.
Children are assessed through learning activities and copious amounts of data is collected. The class materials are diagnostic, and clearly demonstrate how younger children understand new concepts. Later, we assess students by finding their base knowledge (generally in numeracy and literacy) at the beginning of each year with standardised assessments and review these again at the end of the year. Class educators design assessment pieces, to investigate specific learning criteria and add daily observations. Continuous assessments are completed at regular intervals and information is then shared with the next teacher when the student is ready to move to the next cycle.
The Montessori teacher sets criteria which they know each child must meet. The selected project chosen by the child will need to meet such criteria. Projects are inquiry based with very clear guidelines. In order to ensure that all required outcomes are met, some topics are teacher chosen. Older students often work in a social setting so the projects are group driven.
There are similarities between Montessori and Regio Emilia.
Both are self-guided methods of learning; the senses are used to inform understanding, both systems were born in Italy and both look at holistic approaches to child development.
However, they also differ: Montessori does not stop at Kindy years as does Reggio-Emilia; Montessori is more structured offering a defined curriculum from the toddlers to the senior primary and a framework for the secondary student. Play is also viewed differently; Montessori feels that everything a child does is called play by the adults, but in fact children learn through everything they do; therefore, Montessori offers a prepared developmental environment at every stage of learning.