Key Elements Of The Montessori Classroom

The Environment

The environment includes the education materials, exercises and people.

The Teacher & Principal

The teacher is the link between the child and the environment.  The principal watches over the environment and care for it.  Her influence is indirect and she places an emphasis on the prepared environment which encourages the growth and development of the children.

Six Basic Components

There are six basic components to the Montessori classroom environment.  They deal with the concepts of freedom, structure and order, reality, beauty, atmosphere, and the development of community life through the Montessori materials.

1.  Freedom/Independence - In the Montessori environment, it is believed that you can be independent without being free, but you cannot be free if you have not acquired at least some degree of independence.  Montessori defines an independent person as one who can function without the immediate help of others.  Teachers must "help" children only as much as necessary for them to be able to help themselves.  All unnecessary help is a deterrent to growth and development.  The child needs independence to pursue the task of becoming the person he/she is meant to be.

2.  Structure and Order - Through an orderly environment, the child learns to trust the environment and the power to interact with it becomes more positive.  As a result of structure and order, children know what to do and where to go for books, equipment, materials, etc.  We insist that children return all materials to its proper place and in doing so, they become an integral partner in maintaining the order of the environment.

3.  Reality - Dr. Montessori believed that the child must have the opportunity to internalize the limits of nature and reality if they are to be freed from fantasies and illusions, both physical and psychological.  The fantastic is not fantastic for the very young because they do not yet know the normal functions of things - it may confuse their efforts to construct their world.  The equipment in the classroom is therefore geared to bringing the child into closer contact with reality.  Also, keeping with the real world where everyone cannot have the same thing at once (there is only one piece of each type of equipment in the classroom).  Since the child has no alternatives, they learn to wait until their classmate is finished (taking turns).  Gradually, the child comes to see he/she must respect the work of others not because a teacher says they must, but because it is a reality in the daily experience.

4.  Beauty and Atmosphere - Closely connected with an emphasis on nature is the fourth concept.  Beauty and atmosphere encourages a positive and spontaneous response to life.  Dr. Montessori believed the room should be inviting, bright, cheerful, and harmoniously arranged in order to encourage participation.

5.  Montessori Equipment - The fifth component is widely publicized and its role is often misunderstood.  Because of the visibility, the Montessori materials tend to be overemphasized in relation to the other elements in the Montessori teaching method.  The Montessori materials are not learning equipment in the conventional sense.  The aim is not an external one of teaching children skills or imparting knowledge; the aim is an internal one of assisting the child's self-construction and psychic development.  The materials aid this growth  by providing the child with stimuli that captures the attention and initiate the process of concentration.

6.  Development of Community Life - The spontaneous creation of a community of children is one of the most remarkable outcomes of the Montessori approach.  This development is aided by the key elements in the method.  A sense of ownership and responsibility develops toward the classroom environment largely because the room and everything in it is theirs and geared to their needs.  The children feel a responsibility toward each other.  In such a classroom, the real education can begin, for they have arrived at self-discipline and have thus achieved freedom for their own self-development.  This is the goal toward which all Montessori philosophy and methods are aimed and in which Dr. Montessori found such hope for all mankind.