Montessori curriculum is different from traditional classroom curriculum that focuses on children learning the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. The Montessori curriculum emphasizes learning as a process that cannot be determined by a child's age. Instead, learning is a process that is determined by the rate and speed at which a child can acquire one skill before moving on to another skill. This is why it is not uncommon to see mixed-age groupings in Montessori classrooms, where a 3-year old may be in the same classroom setting as a 5-year old, based on developmental ability.
The Key Elements
A sparse environment of carefully chosen materials calls the child to work, concentration, and joy. A crowded or chaotic environment can cause stress and can dissipate a child's energy. Before the age of six, a child learns from direct contact with the environment, by means of all the senses, and through movement; the child literally absorbs what is in the environment. The toys and materials in the home and school should be of the very best quality to call forth self-respect, respect and care from the child toward the environment, and the development of an appreciation of beauty.
The children are encouraged to engage in the key elements of the Montessori curriculum by self educating, Modern Montessori Methods encourage them to explore this world in a carefully-prepared learning environment that responds to their need to learn and grow by exposing them to materials and experiences that stimulate intelligence and promote physical and psychological development.
They are encouraged to utilise the learning materials through individual instruction, to allow children to learn at their own pace. Lessons are short, concise, direct and aimed at enhancing the child’s self-worth.
The five key areas of learning in the Montessori environment include; Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics and Culture.
1. Practical life
This includes life skills to help develop independence, coordination, concentration, self-control, self-awareness, confidence and
– Care of Self (food preparation, dressing, washing),
– Care of Environment (cleaning, gardening, care of pets, environmentalism),
– Grace and Courtesy (greetings, manners, social interactions),
– Control of Movement (refining movements, walking the line, moving quietly).
2. Sensorial activities
Sensorial activities allow the child to refine each of their senses:
– Sight (visual),
– Touch (tactile),
– Smell (olfactory),
– Taste (gustatory)
– Sound (auditory)
– Stereognostic (kinaesthetic).
Includes the manipulation of specifically designed materials that isolate qualities. Refines fine motor skills, visual and auditory senses and develops coordination and the ability to order and classify. Materials include Pink Tower, Brown Stairs, Knobbed Cylinders, Color Tablets.
Language is based on phonetic awareness. Children work through specific hands-on and tactile language materials such as the sandpaper letters to the moveable alphabet. Language is not an isolated topic but runs through the curriculum. The spoken language is the foundation for writing and then reading.
This is developed with the use of concrete learning materials. The sensorial area is the preparation for mathematics. Hands-on materials are used such as number rods, sandpaper numbers, number boards, spindle box, number tiles, beads, and games. Each exercise builds upon another and the child gradually moves to from concrete to abstract areas such as place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions.
Culture allows the child to explore the natural world around them and includes:
– Geography (continents, landforms, earth layers, solar system),
– Zoology (classification, physiology of animals),
– Botany (ecology, classification, physiology of plants),
– History (time lines, using a calendar),
Art and music could be considered cultural activities, however, creativity is encouraged across all curriculum areas. The cultural area is clearly identifiable by globes, puzzle maps, flags and perhaps images or materials from other cultures.