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" Our aim is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. "  

- Maria Montessori


At the turn of the 19th century, Maria Montessori, a young physician in Rome, Italy, began to research the natural tendencies of young children. She observed how they each developed an individual self through exploration and mastery of the environment in which they were placed.

Following years of observations, Dr. Montessori formulated an educational philosophy based on the recognition of a child's innate desire to learn. She sought to facilitate the normal growth of children by exposing them to direct and positive contact with the world.

Montessori designed a child-based environment (she was the first to recognize the necessity of small furniture), created materials for sensorial learning (a heavily debated issue at the time) and meticulously sequences lessons for positive, confidence-building experience. Possibly the most radical change in her approach was the redefined role of the adults in the classroom. No longer the "font of all knowledge", teachers are rarely heard above the din of purposeful activity, interacting with students quietly on the floor or at tables. Teachers, or directresses, more resembled subtle facilitators rather than lecturers. 

Since that time, Dr. Montessori's philosophy and methods have become a matter of tremendous interest to educators throughout the world. The Montessori method allows children to proceed at their own speed, according to each child's capacities, in a non-competitive atmosphere during the early years. A typical Montessori classroom is characterized by three distinguishing factors:

  1. A prepared environment arranged to be aesthetically intriguing and accessible to young children, appeals to their need to learn. Within the prepared environment, children are presented with a variety of specially designed materials which address specific stages of mental, physical and social development.

  2. Carefully designed materials reinforce both graphic and abstract concepts to the child in a sequential manner, fostering coordination, concentration, independence and order.

  3. The teacher acts as the dynamic link between the child and the environment by directing and guiding, modeling appropriate behavior, observing the children's interactions and presenting new exercises as the children demonstrate readiness.   

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  1. Respect for individual differences.

  2. Learning process is student-centered and emphasizes self-motivation.

  3. Students are placed in multi-age classrooms so they may learn horizontally from observation of other work, directly and indirectly.

  4. Students learn at their own pace, free to complete a project or pursue a subject as deeply as they wish.

  5. Classroom is used as a library for studying and completing projects: students are free to move as needed and are active participants in building their own knowledge.

  6. Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and to help each other.

  7. Students avail themselves of concrete materials, designed to enhance conceptual thinking. These hands-on manipulations bring about knowledge which is based on experience.

  8. Environment and method encourage self-discipline

  9. Montessori material is self-correcting allowing a child to find his/her own errors through feedback from the material. 

  10. Uninterrupted work cycles.

  11. Montessori environment meets needs of students.

  12. Students are active, talking, with periods of spontaneous quiet, freedom to move.


  1. Emphasis is on conforming to the group.

  2. Emphasis is on grades, punishments or rewards as motivating factors.

  3. Students are grouped chronologically to suit teacher’s pre-planned class lessons.

  4. Subjects are taught in lecture form and students must change classes and attend all lessons at the same time.

  5. Students work at desks, passively listening to the lecture. Passive learning is more tiring and the schoolwork day has to be divided into periods with interruptions.

  6. Most teaching is done by the teacher and collaboration is discouraged.

  7. Learning takes place primarily through memorization and repetition of abstract concepts.

  8. Teacher acts as primary enforcer of discipline.

  9. Errors in child’s work highlighted by teacher.

  10. Block time, period lessons.

  11. Students fit mold of school.

  12. Students are passive at desks.



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