The Montessori classroom is a home away from home a happy place full of friends where you can be yourself. It is a place full of interesting things to do, but also a place where you can take time out and just be quiet if you want to. It is somewhere where you can grow up knowing that you belong and that you are special.
The layout of the classroom encourages exploration, communication and the development of relationships on all levels. Everything reflects a dedication to quality, beauty and to the children’s abilities to do things for themselves. Montessori saw that careful preparation of the environment is an essential ingredient for the successful development of children. She realised that the child relies completely on the environment for the sensorial impressions through which he gains a sense of the world in which he lives. She therefore paid a great deal of attention to the way in which Montessori schoolrooms were laid out. She wanted the classroom to be a happy, friendly place where children felt at home, where they knew where everything was and where they didn’t always have to rely on adults to help them.
Everything in a Montessori classroom is made to be easily accessible to the children. Montessori was the first educator to produce child-sized tables and chairs and to think about the fact that children need to have cupboards and shelves at their own height. She wanted the children to feel that the schoolroom belonged to them rather than the teachers. She knew that order is very important to children and she therefore ensured that everything had its place and that all materials were kept as neatly as possible. She created materials that she saw the children were drawn to and she removed those items in which they showed no interest. She tried to ensure that the materials provided met the interests of the children. It was the children who led her development of the materials and the children who showed her how the environment should be prepared.
Montessori saw that very young children are frequently frustrated in their attempts to do things for themselves and that what they need is to have specific exercises, as closely linked to real life as possible, that allow them to master the tasks that they see going on around them in everyday life. She also saw that, unlike the adults in their lives, the children are not interested in achieving end results as quickly as possible, but are far more interested in the learning processes. As a result they will happily repeat exercises again and again until they feel satisfied. Practical life activities are therefore an important part of the Montessori environment. The young child is attracted to activities that he sees going on around him and that give him independence and control of his own life. She therefore introduced into her classrooms materials and exercises that allow children the maximum possible opportunity to learn how to both look after themselves and their environment. In the practical life area you will see things such as special frames to help children learn to do up and undo clothes, lots of spooning and pouring exercises, stirring, whisking and grating trays, cutting and threading activities and many other activities that children see going on around them at home. Practical life also includes helping children do other important tasks such as opening and closing doors, carrying trays and chairs, washing and drying hands, caring for books and blowing noses!
The sensorial materials
Art and creativity
Montessori felt that it is very important for children to be allowed to express themselves freely. She was aware, however, that they are very often frustrated by the fine motor skills they need for such things as cutting and gluing. She therefore developed many indirect activities that help children develop the necessary abilities. The Montessori environment is full of opportunities to experiment with different and exciting materials. Whether involved in painting, singing, playing instruments or dancing, children are allowed to be individuals, free to express their feelings and emotions and free to enjoy the rich worlds of movement, sound, colour and sensation.
Montessori schools tend to offer the children activities that are based upon real activities in the real world. Montessori felt that very young children need experiences rooted in the real world. In a Montessori school, therefore, you are much more likely to see children doing real washing, cleaning and cooking than pretend.
A loving community