The Montessori Method - Learning & Equipment

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Practical Life Exercises

"Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by EXPERIENCES in the environment." - Maria Montessori

Children working together on practical life exercise

Our practical life activities are a fundamentally important part of our Montessori environment. It is these activities that are there to help the child master the skills that s/he needs in order to become increasingly independent. Our prepared environment facilitates concentration, independent learning and sets boundaries for good behaviour.

Our practical life exercises help our children to develop their fine and gross motor skills as well as educating our children in all areas of dressing and personal hygiene. Our children gain confidence and establish relationships with other children and adults, learning to work independently or as part of a group. They gain respect for each other, the equipment and their environment, becoming sensitive to the needs of others, taking turns and sharing fairly.

Through the celebrations of different cultural events our children learn to be sensitive towards other cultures. The mix of ages leads to the older children supporting the younger children in their learning. This leads to a "society in cohesion".

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Sensorial Equipment

"Montessori called the child under six years old 'a sensorial explorer' and based her educational approach for the child's early years upon the child's learning through the senses." - Maria Montessori

Child sorting some shapes!

The purpose and aim of sensorial work is for the child to acquire clear, conscious information and to be able to then make classifications in his environment. Dr Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through our children using their senses, they explore our environment. Through this investigation, our children begin to understand their environment.

Our sensorial equipment allows the children to experience different sounds, colours, textures, shapes and forms in to and three dimensions. Our children respond in a variety of ways by expressing their thoughts and emotions with a wide range of materials, tools, imaginative play and roleplay.

Our children are given many opportunities to develop their mathematical language and mathematical thinking. By introducing concrete dimension solids our children will have the opportunity to learn the language for position and discover dimensions through using their senses. Introducing how two dimensional shapes are different to three dimensional shapes further extends our child's mathematically scientific language.

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Communication, Language & Literacy

"We discover that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being." - Maria Montessori

Child learning letters

Providing our children with materials specifically aimed at developing language comprehension enhances our children's vocabulary and their interaction with others. Supporting developing speech empowers our children to express themselves effectively and show an awareness of a listeners' needs - using past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future.

Various opportunities are provided for our children to listen actively. To extend our children's concentration, group activities provide the chance to sing songs, nursery rhymes, listen to stories and recite poems, as well as sharing their life experiences with others, whilst providing them with the time and attention to say and respond appropriately and accurately to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. Our children are presented with grace and courtesy exercises (please, thank you) to develop our children's understanding of the use of language.

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"The child making use of all that he finds around him, shapes himself for the future." - Maria Montessori

Child working with shape problems

Counting and rhyming activities are available through the class equipment, projects and circle time. Within the class our children are given many opportunities to solve problems. Our sensorial equipment gives the children the chance to compare similarities and differences, size, shape and position to the quantity of ten. It also introduces solid shapes, e.g. torus, ellipsoid. The insets for design introduce the mathematical language of flat shapes; our children then recognise and create patterns.

Counting is encouraged in everyday situations, using the language "more and less". Through the use of the mathematics equipment our children learn the quantities and symbol of one, ten, one-hundred and one-thousand. Our children are then introduced to the decimal system, leading onto combining groups of numbers in increasing quantities, through addition and subtraction.

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"We discover that education is not something which the teacher does, but that is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being." - Maria Montessori

Child with a globe!

Our Cultural Area covers a variety of subjects: Geography, Science, Botany, Zoology and History. Art and Music are also considered as part of our Cultural Area. Maria Montessori felt that having knowledge and understanding of such subjects is what makes one a "cultured" person.

Geography - Our children are introduced to concepts and ideas such as: land, air, water, maps, continents, people and food and music from other countries. Each term our children investigate a different continent and learn about it during the term.

Botany - Seeds, parts of a plant, kinds of trees, herbs and spices and what plants give us are introduced to our children, following our seasons.

Zoology - This is the area where the focus is learning about animals. Our pre-school has snails, stick insects and fish for our children to care for. Our children are encouraged to name, classify and to develop an awareness of animals' home environment and needs.

Science - Our children are shown many science experiments and work on activities investigating the five senses and the similarities and differences in nature.

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Expressive Art and Design & Physical Development

"The things he sees are not just remembered - they form a part of his soul." - Maria Montessori

Child having fun with art activities!

Our children learn design by having the freedom of all activities and being provided with the skills and time to complete their creations. Group time provides opportunities to sing songs and use the musical instruments to extend the children's understanding and awareness of the various uses of sound.

The freedom of movement in the Montessori classroom and garden encourages our children to become spatially aware of both their environment and others. Practical Life and Sensorial equipment refines both fine and gross motor control. Walking the line improves balance and posture. Music and dance encourages graceful movement. Our outdoor equipment improves and develops our children's co-ordination. Art and craft activities provide our children with a range of tools, objects, construction and malleable materials to handle with increasing control. A large range of both small and large equipment is used in all different areas to extend our children's learning and comprehension.

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Heuristic Play

Heuristic learning is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "a system of education under which the pupil is trained to find out things for himself".

Babies' brains are designed to enable them to make sense of the world around them. Children, from the moment of birth, feel a great urge to explore and manipulate the objects in the environment. This highly corresponds with our Montessori approach towards education where the teacher directs the children towards the materials of their own choice and interest.

Young child enjoying sorting activity

Apart from the obvious pleasure that children will find in selecting, discriminating and comparing a wide variety of the materials, heuristic play contributes immensely towards strengthening cognitive development, fine muscle control and also hand-eye co-ordination.

Toddlers have the urge to handle objects and like to gather them, fill them, stack them and manipulate them in any way they can. Your child will desire to move around freely and play without adult intervention. As the parent, observe your child's learning but please bear in mind that children engrossed in their own discoveries require a quiet atmosphere that will allow them to concentrate. Once you observe your child has finished this activity, encourage your child to gather all heuristic play equipment from the floor, bringing and returning it into its container. Learning to tidy up and put one's work away is essential and will instil, hopefully, a lifetime of good habits!

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Treasure Baskets

Your child's "Treasure Basket" will encourage him by initiating his interest in all areas of his sensory development. The objects are chosen for their rich sensory nature which your child can experience through touch, smell, taste, sound and sight. Soon, your child will begin to stay awake for longer periods, develop his ability to grasp objects and show interest in his environment.

During the first two years of your child's life, his brain will double in weight and this fast growing organ will actively seek stimulation! The secret to the contents of the "Treasure Basket" is that they should provide your child with stimulation for his different senses. He will put these items in his mouth but the objects are large enough not to be swallowed. Obviously their surfaces should be clean and smooth, with perishable items replaced regularly. (If your child has had a cold, the contents of his "Treasure Basket" should be cleaned before he "plays" with them again to prevent re-infection).

When your child is first introduced to his "Treasure Basket", he should be sat (supported by a bean bag or cushion) in front of the basket on a carpeted floor. Your role is to sit quietly to one side, allowing him to explore the items without intervention. This allows him to concentrate fully on the contents. He might at first be interested in only one or two of the items but it is not unusual for periods of concentration to last up to an hour once he is used to the basket!

As he grows more mobile, learning to crawl, the "Treasure Basket" can be left in his environment so that he can choose to go over and "play" with it. Also, the "Treasure Basket" is portable - it can be used in the garden as well as indoors, and taken with him when visiting relatives or on holiday. Introducing new objects should be done gradually and the removal of objects should be done with great care as some objects might be favourites that he enjoys exploring.

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All of our activities take guidance from the Early Years Foundation Stage, click here for more information (PDF) . See also our parents' guide to EYFS (PDF) . For more information on our curriculum and education practices, see Our Policies & Documents.

Further Reading

There are many books available on Montessori Method, and many of Maria Montessori's own works are still available. Here's a short list of suggested titles for the curious. Clicking the links will take you to Amazon's UK store if you would like to buy them. might also be helpful.

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