Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method of education. The American Montessori Society recognizes five main components that are necessary for this program. They are: teachers, multi-age groups of children, Montessori materials, directed work for the child, and uninterrupted work times.
Teachers need to be properly trained in the Montessori concept. They need to understand the importance of letting a child develop naturally and in his own time. The teacher should be educated not only in the theory and philosophy of Montessori, but also in the appropriate and accurate use of Montessori materials.
Observing a child in a specific age range is important in order to introduce challenging and correct lessons and materials for the child's specific abilities, interests, and development (emotional, physical, social and cognitive). The teacher becomes a guide of information through decisive activity. The teacher also needs leadership skills in order to be able to provide a nurturing environment for the child so he or she can experience the joy of learning. Teachers are accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
2. Multi-Age Classrooms
Multi-age groups of children enable younger children to learn from the older ones. The older children are teaching skills they have already learned. They serve as role models and develop their own leadership skills. All the children are learning real life work habits and social skills which are important now and in their future work and play activities.
There are several approved levels of multi-aged groups. Children from birth to age 3 may be grouped in varying multi-age ranges. Early Childhood and Elementary levels are a 3-year age range group. The Secondary level group may be a 2- or 3-year age range.
3. Montessori Materials
Montessori materials are educative, informative, instructive and moralistic. They will attract the children's attention, and their desire to touch. Each piece will teach a single skill/concept and also have a way to correct any mistake the child may make, without a teacher's help. Introducing ideas and concepts that become increasingly complex will also be provided by the material.
4. Child-Directed Work
Montessori education helps children to choose significant and challenging work which will lead to motivation, attention, and develop responsibility in themselves and others. The Montessori classroom is created to encourage each child's curiosity and provide the opportunity to be in a child-directed work environment. They can work in calm uncluttered areas by themselves, or in a group. The teachers serve as guides and mentors.
5. Uninterrupted Work Periods
Uninterrupted work periods help develop concentration, coordination, independence and order, and the absorption of information. It recognizes and respects children's individual progress in the learning process while they work at their own pace without interruption. The uninterrupted work period cycle is as follows: selecting an activity, using it as long as they are interested in it, cleaning up when done with the activity, and returning it to the shelf. They then can choose another one. The teacher supports and monitors the child's work and provides individual and small-group lessons.
Accredited schools have standards to follow for the work cycle times. At the Infant level there is no set work cycle time. It is determined by each child's observed needs. At the Toddler level it is a 1-1 1/2 hour work cycle in the morning. They are freely moving around choosing and exploring materials. At the Early Childhood level the minimum is a 2-3 hour work cycle 4 days a week. The Elementary minimum is a 2-3 hour work cycle 4 days a week. The Secondary level varies by the setting, depending on whether it is a small or large program.