There are lots of teaching approaches for all age and ability groups. The most popular is the lecture idea, which involves having a professorial-type individual standing at the front of the room delivering a semi-prepared speech about a particular subject. Some of these types of classroom settings are appropriate for asking questions, and some are not quite so conducive. I’m a big believer in kids having the opportunity to explore their environment and working within it to learn how it works. It seems to me to be the most effective means of teaching very small children, as well as those who have trouble sitting still. Since I’ve been known to dose off, doodle or read novels during lectures, it appears that a hands-on approach works better for me, too. I’m a fan of the Montessori classroom because it’s a safe, clean environment that helps children to develop learning skills about their practical life as well as math and language. So, I have put together some pointers for the parent who wants to have a section of their home devoted to the Montessori learning method. This might also be practical advice for teachers who haven’t gotten trained in a Montessori setting and want a new way of organizing their classrooms.
-Keep your classroom clean. This is meant to be a safe, clean and practical learning environment, and you as the teacher or parent have to take responsibility for that. That doesn’t meant that you walk around picking up after your kids though. Teach them to treat the works and the other children respect by putting them away neatly when they’re finished so they’re ready for the next child to use. Cleaning up is a huge aspect of practical life and it helps immensely to have a dustpan and broom the right size for the children to use. This works with children as young as 18 months. It might be a constant struggle to keep your classroom clean, but it makes all the difference in the end.
-Group like things together. There are lots of different ways to perform the many works in Montessori, and the children are constantly thinking up new things to do with them, so there is a lot of crossover between works in different learning areas. However, in the interest of keeping the classroom clean, keep the works designed for math together, and the sensorial works together. The order of the groupings within the classroom doesn’t matter much, except for ease of access. You need to gauge that. Order the works on the shelves within the groupings to go from Left to Right and Top to Bottom, the simplest to the most complicated.
-Encourage the children to respect each other and the works. Use your whisper-voice in the classroom during work time so they do the same and avoid disturbing other kids. Teach them to resolve disputes or tension between each other without aid from you. Show them the proper way to handle works with two hands and either a table surface or a mat (never on the bare floor) and remind them to store the works correctly too, so they’re ready for the next child. During work time, Montessori classrooms should be peaceful and quiet. This means kids need to use their walking-feet and their whisper-voices.
-All children lose their tempers at one time or another. Being upset is ok, but there is a responsible way to deal with it and the kids need to learn that. Having a peace symbol in your classroom can make a huge difference during an argument. Each child involved has to sit at the peace table and is only allowed to speak when they’re holding the peace symbol. (Mine is a rock that says “peace” on it) They each get to share their feelings about the situation and then they get to give ideas about solutions. You might need to mediate these discussions and help offer advice in the beginning, but after awhile, they will do it themselves.
Some of these pointers work well for organizing your home too, and helping resolve issues between your kids. They might even be helpful between adults who lack people skills.