There are a number of elements that are unique about the Montessori classroom. The way the teacher interacts with students, the design of the classroom, and the focus of the curriculum are all elements in the Montessori classroom that look different from what you will find in a traditional classroom. Parents expect to see some differences between a public classroom and a Montessori classroom. However, many parents are surprised to discover that Montessori classrooms includes children of different ages. The Montessori classroom has a mixed age design which means that there is an age range instead of one particular age. What is the rationale for the mixed age Montessori classroom?
Learning happens on a spectrum
A core element of the Montessori Philosophy is the belief that each child has unique learning needs. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum in Montessori school. Each child is assessed based off of his or her needs, abilities, and interests. This design makes it possible to have classrooms with children who are a range of ages. Each child has an individualized learning plan so there is no need to group children solely on their age. Learning is not viewed as having a beginning and an end but rather as being on a spectrum that children can explore at their own pace.
Students can learn from each other
The mixed age classroom provides students with opportunities to learn from each other. The teacher is not the only person in a mixed age classroom that has something to teach others. Older students can help the younger students learn and explore. In a mixed age classroom, younger students get to have access to several people who can help and teach. This design helps the students learn what it means to be in a cooperative environment where everyone has something important to contribute.
Leadership is a skill that can be taught and practiced
The mixed age classroom provides opportunities for older students to develop and practice the skill of leadership. Older students in the classroom get opportunities to share knowledge with younger students. In addition, the older students are often role models to their younger peers. Students can learn what it means to be a leader and get opportunities to practice their leadership skills.
Each element of the Montessori Method is thoughtfully designed and implemented. This includes the physical layout of the classroom as well as the makeup of the students in each classroom. It can be difficult to understand how well a mixed age classroom can work if you are accustomed to the type of classroom design found in public schools. The best way to understand how a mixed age class works is by scheduling a time to observe a class for yourself.