The Montessori approach was formulated by Dr Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian doctor then educationalist who worked with children over many years. She revolutionised the idea of education, giving back to children the opportunity for self-expression, for decision-making, for exploration and discovery, for following their interests, and for developing their own abilities and self-confidence. “We cannot create a genius,” she wrote. “We can only give each individual the chance to fulfil his potential possibilities to become an independent, secure and balanced human being.”
Maria Montessori’s ideas are as valid and relevant today as they were in her lifetime and have proved successful in providing children with the “education for life” that was her objective.
The Montessori approach emphasises the development of each child, respecting their individual needs, interests and abilities. It is based on children’s natural desire to learn, and allows each child to experience the excitement of learning by his or her own choice and at his or her own speed. Children learn willingly under these circumstances, and the Montessori teacher/key person – or “directress” in Montessori terms – spends time with each child individually.
Core-time tuition is done on an individual basis with the teacher alongside to observe, guide, help, support, encourage and introduce the child to new knowledge and skills. Teachers are trained to help children of all abilities - fast learners can move quickly on, while others take their time until they are ready to move to the next stage. There is no element of competition - all the children work confidently with their own activities - and the teacher shares each child's pride in his/her own achievements. The free-choice environment allows children the freedom to follow their own interests, to enoy the boost in confidence which independence brings, and allows the teachers to work with each of the children at the right level and pace, giving each child the time and attention he or she needs. Children with areas of special or particular need will benefit from tailored sessions to support them and meet their needs.
In the classroom, the furniture and fittings are child-sized with specific areas set up for different activities. All the materials, selected to be appropriate, broad-based and interesting, are accessible to the children. They move around to choose their activities, to work on their own or alongside friends, at a table or on a mat on the floor, to watch or converse, to play together in social play, but without disrupting others while they are busy. There is a happy buzz of conversation, movement and activity in each room, but an overall atmosphere where calm concentration is possible.
Social skills are very important, and the boundaries of acceptable social behaviour are clear and consistent. The children are calmly reminded when something they are doing is not okay, and are offered choices of other ways of dealing with the situation. The children are all treated with respect and affection - and are expected to learn to act with respect and consideration for others and for the materials they are working with. They can freely express their own feelings, and build empathy for others as well.
Montessori Materials and Curriculum
Montessori materials and equipment are wide-ranging, and include creative activities; exercises in practical skills (Practical Life); materials which focus on colour, shape, dimension, weight, sound and texture (Sensorial); as well as mathematical activities including matching and pairing, sequencing, correlating numbers and quantities, number recognition, addition and subtraction (Maths); learning the sounds and shapes of the phonetic alphabet and through phonetic word-building on to reading and writing (Language); not forgetting nature studies, geography (physical and social), history, early science and knowledge of the world (Cultural).
The children also participate in daily small group activities - including story-times, snack times, chatting times, art and craft activities, and lots of activities around the room - the Finger Gym table, the Sensory table, construction areas, sand and water play, music tables etc. There are also music, drama, PE and movement sessions as part of the core weekly timetable. And optional extended-day sessions, with times for focused small group Art & Craft, PE/gym skills, movement/drama and gardening.
Group activities help children develop their listening skills and concentration; their communication and language skills; their social skills; their creative, imaginative and expressive skills; their general knowledge and understanding of the world around them; and their physical skills (both fine and large motor movements). The aim of all the activities taken as a whole is to offer the children a wide range of learning opportunities, foster their growing independence, help them to follow their interests and expand their knowledge, help their confidence to blossom, help them to learn about friendship, considerate social behaviour, and an appropriate value system; and to encourage and support them in their learning in all areas. And to have fun!
The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum
The Way We Work
At Meadows Montessori school in Chiswick, we offer our children a wide range of materials, activities and equipment to encourage each child’s development whilst also having fun, including the Sensory Table, construction area, the Finger Gym table along with sand and water play. The children are encouraged to participate in daily small group activities such as story time and snack time. There are also music, drama, PE and movement sessions as part of the core weekly timetable. We are very proud to run a weekly Forest School and believe that outdoor learning is fundamental to a child’s learning experience. Our outdoor learning activities include pond dipping, tree climbing, water play, mud kitchen, large sandpit and growing fruit and vegetables in our allotment.
At Meadows, we are proud of the Montessori approach, with the objective of providing children with an “education for life”. Dr Maria Montessori (1870–1952) was an Italian doctor turned educationalist who worked with children over many years. She revolutionised the idea of education, giving back to children the opportunity for self-expression, for decision-making, for exploration and discovery, for following their interests, for developing their own abilities and self-confidence. “We cannot create a genius,” she wrote. “We can only give each individual the chance to fulfil his potential possibilities to become an independent, secure and balanced human being.” You can find out more about the Montessori approach and what this means here.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum
In addition to the Montessori approach and curriculum, our nursery is also guided by the Department for Education's Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. You can find out more about the EYFS, Characteristics of Effective Learning for children here. The EYFS and Montessori approach and curriculum complement each other and work very well together. The EYFS applies to children from birth to five years old. Children start to learn about the world around them from the moment they are born. The care and education offered by our setting help children to continue to do this by providing them with interesting activities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.
At Meadows, we use the stepping-stones leading to the early learning goals to plan and provide a range of play activities which help children to make progress in each of the areas of learning and development. Sometimes children decide how they will use the activity, and at other times, an adult will take the lead in helping children to take part. We cover all areas of learning, and fit a balance of activities into each session, with no pressure on the children to "perform" for anyone else's satisfaction, nor to go faster than is right for them, but lots of opportunities for them to learn happily in all areas, indoors and outdoors, and to feel secure and valued. A cycle of observation, assessment and planning is undertaken on a continual basis for each child.
The guidance divides children's learning and development into seven areas (three prime areas and four specific areas):
Communication and language
Listening and attention;
Moving and handling;
Health and self-care.
Personal, social and emotional development
Self-confidence and self-awareness;
Managing feelings and behaviour.
Shape, shape and measure.
Understanding the world
People and communities;
Expressive arts and design
Exploring and using media and materials;