Montessori method of education was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900's. She observed that children learnt better in a prepared environment when they are given the right opportunities. Based on her observation and research, she outlined five important principles which are necessary for Montessori method of education.
Treat and respect the child as an individual :
The first and foremost principal of Montessori method is to treat a child as an individual. Subconsciously, we set rules and boundaries for children, which we expect them to follow. If they do not follow, we become rude and this effects a child's behavior. Children imitate what they see. If we shout at them if they do not do a particular thing in a certain way, they too will think that shouting is the sight way to behave.We do not realize but we do not give them enough freedom to the their cognitive abilities. In a Montessori Curriculum, the children are provided with learning resources but instead of giving instructions to them , we let them use the materials and explore in their own. Montessori method is completely child led. Treating them as an individual, brings out their personality and uniqueness. This also helps them to become strong and confident individuals.
Children's minds are like sponges. From the time of birth, till they are 5-6 years old, children have the ability to absorb learning from their environment. This implies not only to the spoken languages but they pick up traits of their family members, friends, relatives and the community in general.
Dr. Montessori divided this into two stages :
1) The Unconscious Stage ( 0-3 years) :
During this stage, the babies and toddlers learn various things consciously and unconsciously. For eg, The children learn to crawl, sit, stand, walk, talk. During this period the children absorb and imitate from their environment.
2) The Conscious Stage ( 3-6 years) :
During this period, the children become well aware of their surroundings. They consciously show an interest to learn new things. They try to put their toys in order, try sequencing of things, learn letters, numbers, reading and writing skills. During this stage they also want to be independent and do everything themselves. This independence is very important because if they make an error, they learn from it and try to rectify it themselves.
Prepared Environment :
A Montessori classroom is very different from a traditional classroom. The children only need a prepared environment or works stations with all the necessary materials. They sit alone or in groups on a floor. A prepared environment helps children to prepare, discover and create different things. The children should be provided with materials which are within a child's reach. The atmosphere is bright and colorful. They also have a plant or a pet in the classroom for the children to take care. They sit in mixed age group room where they learn from their peers rather than a teacher.
Role of teachers :
The teachers in a Montessori classroom is only to guide. The teacher ensures that everything is in order in the classroom and all materials are there. She acts a role model and constantly responds to the queries of the children. She motivates them to do better and be independent.
Sensitive Period :
Sensitive Periods are the periods of psychological development in children. They are very powerful as the child is able to learn maximum during that period. Order, language , movement, all become an integral part of the sensitive period.
The most easiest may to know about a child's sensitive period is when a child repeatedly shown an interest in doing a particular thing. The teacher guides this interest and motivates the child to individually complete the task without interruption. The children become independent and progress naturally.
These are the five essential elements of the Montessori curriculum which becomes a strong base for the formative years of a child's life.
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