The Montessori Environment

Many of Montessori’s ideas have been integrated into modern classrooms but here are some core ideas that make a Montessori Environment unique.

The Directress

Within the Montessori method, the teachers are known as “Directresses”. Maria Montessori felt that directress better described the role of a teacher in a Montessori classroom. The Directress guides and encourages the child to use the educational materials designed by Montessori and the children learn themselves through their exploration of materials. The certified Directress is trained to recognise and respond to the different stages of development. This implies the structuring of both curriculum content and classroom environment so as to enhance the child’s own discovery of the world. At present all our Directresses are female but many of our student teachers have been men over the past number of years.

The Classroom and materials

The classroom is arranged around learning materials which have been designed to provide a wide variety of learning experience geared to the developmental need of children. The materials are displayed in the order with which they should be presented to a child on low, open and accessible shelving, allowing the children to choose work for themselves. When the child is finished with the material, they return it to the shelf from which it came.

The Directress makes a first presentation of any new material to the child, by systematically and often silently demonstrating the material. The materials themselves are self correcting and designed to allow children to work on their own, with very little interaction with the Directress. The activities involve handling and manipulating materials. The materials do not give all the answers, but awaken the interest and give the possibility of finding the answers. This work has been proven to be intensely fascinating and absorbing for children. When engaged in well-structured tasks, the children experience a deep inner satisfaction, which leaves them with an overall positive attitude towards learning and school. The classroom environment is structured so as to stimulate the child’s enthusiasm for new ideas and new skills, and then provides the opportunity to use these new skills and apply these new ideas.

Our Directresses will introduce you to the materials during your initial class visit and we have demonstrations during our parent evenings.

Montessori Cycle

The Montessori Method is based on 3 year learning cycles of 3-6, 6-9 and 9-12. The 3-6 age classroom is based on a three-year cycle so best results will emerge if the child partakes in all three years of each programme. The entire programme of learning is purposefully structured while fostering an atmosphere of individuality and freedom of movement. The third year ties together everything the children have been working on and towards in the previous two years, providing them with a good all round academic basis.

Mixed Aged Classroom

The mixed age classroom is central to the Montessori method and an essential sign of an authentic Montessori school. According to Montessori herself, “The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.”

Older children learn to be leaders and to guide the younger children. This teaches them independence and responsibility as well as giving them an idea of how far they have come. The younger children are naturally drawn to the older children who act as role models in the classroom. The younger children are also motivated by what the older children are working on, which encourages them academically too.

Learning Periods / Class Times

Class times for the 3-6 class are structured to suit each child’s age and ability. Therefore, children who start at age 3 stay for the morning session only and will finish at 12.00pm. When the child is developmentally ready, a recommendation will be made by the Directress to the parents that the child is ready to continue on in the class until the 2.00pm finish. This decision is based on the child’s emotional and social development and academic ability. Many factors determine a child’s readiness for the extended work session. Among these are their physical ability to do concentrated work for the longer day, academic ability to do advanced work and readiness to participate in the advanced group lessons which are frequently given during this time. The needed self-control, higher level of concentration, and social maturity are usually achieved around the age of five. The Directress will notify the parents when she feels the child is ready for the full day program. The determination of a child’s readiness is made by consultation and agreement between the child’s parent and Directress. When your child is attending under the ECCE scheme and is invited to the afternoon session, the session’s fee is payable and further information on this can be obtained from the Treasurer.

 3-Hour Work Cycle

 Authentic Montessori Schools operate a three-hour work cycle. AMI describe the work cycle as follows:

Through years of observation around the world, Montessori came to understand that children, when left in freedom, displayed a distinct work cycle which was so predictable it could even be graphed. This cycle, with two peaks and one valley, lasted approximately three hours. In Montessori schools children have three hours of open, uninterrupted time to choose independent work, become deeply engaged, and repeat to their own satisfaction.

In order to fulfill the 3-hour cycle, our school day begins at 8.30 to allow the children free play before 12.00. ECCE families are encouraged to avail of the early drop off at 8.30 to ensure that their child gets the most from their Montessori experience. The early drop off is also very convenient for families dropping siblings to nearby schools at 9 am. Contact the school Treasurer for further details.