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The Montessori method was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, a medical doctor, scientist and psychologist working at the forefront of child development. As a result of her scientific investigations into the brain development of children, Dr. Montessori created an educational method that takes into account “the whole child.” She famously postulated: “The child has his own laws of development … It is a question of following these … not imposing ourselves upon him.”
Following this observation, the Montessori method involves children in hands-on, meaningful work, through which they develop emotionally, intellectually, physically, and morally. As their concentration and self-discipline grow, children become harmonious in their movements, self-sufficient in their work, and honest and helpful with one another.
Structure in the Montessori Classroom
The Montessori classroom is a highly structured environment, but “freedom with discipline” is key. Materials are grouped in categories and laid out on shelves at a child’s height. Some are also color-coded to further give children a recognizable sense of order. These materials include everything needed to complete a given exercise, from beginning to end.
Once children have completed an exercise, they’re free to choose it again. In fact, they’re encouraged to. “The most favorable time for a child to learn is when she wants to do it herself,” according to Dr. Montessori.
Each child is free to move about the classroom, observing others at work, conversing, and socializing. Many Montessori exercises incorporate movement, to ensure harmony between the growing body and the growing mind.
In the Montessori method, children develop self-discipline by performing meaningful work. Teachers guide each child toward self-discipline, using positive language and, where appropriate, redirection. Children who need extra time to bring themselves under control may sit beside the teacher, watching other lessons, until they are ready to make appropriate choices on their own.
Because Montessori students develop firm academic foundations, self-discipline, and concentration, they usually transition well to traditional educational environments. According to research conducted by the City University of New York, Montessori students who transition to traditional high schools demonstrate strength in all dimensions of academic achievement. In fact, Montessori students in the CUNY study had significantly higher math and science scores than did students from control groups.