The best way to get a true understanding of the design of the Montessori classroom is to observe a class in action. Visiting campus will give you much more insight than you can gain by simply reading about the ways that Montessori education is unique. When you go to a Montessori campus to observe a class, you can expect to see a space designed specifically for the students, work areas set up throughout the classroom, a mix of ages, and an emphasis on individualized learning.
A space designed specifically for the students
One of the tenets that Maria Montessori put forth in the Montessori Method was that the classroom should be designed for the students. This design means that elements such as pictures on the wall, seating, and shelving are all at the right level or size for the students in the classroom. This design makes it easy for students to navigate all aspects of the classroom and encourages independence and self-regulated activity. For example, students do not need the teacher’s help cleaning up their workstations because they can easily reach the storage containers for the supplies they use.
Work areas set up throughout the classroom
You will not find rows of desks in the middle of most Montessori classrooms. Instead, you will find that there are work areas set up throughout the classroom. This classroom design is known in the Montessori Method as the ‘prepared environment.’ Students spend a large chunk of their time in the classroom, working independently or in small groups at the various work areas prepared by the teacher. This style of learning promotes independence and provides students with opportunities for focused work. When students work in small groups, it promotes cooperation and collaboration.
A mix of ages
Another unique element you will notice when you observe a Montessori class is a mix of ages. Mixed ages are a much different design than the traditional classroom where students are grouped almost exclusively based on age. The mixed-age design of the Montessori classroom allows older students to learn through teaching and helping while younger students learn important lessons through observation.
An emphasis on individualized learning
The Montessori classroom emphasizes self-directed learning by allowing students to have a choice in what and how they learn. Teachers in the Montessori classroom prepare individualized learning plans for each student and provide learning opportunities based on those plans. When you observe a class, you will see that students get to choose between various prepared activities that align with their interests and developmental levels. This emphasis on the individual learning needs of each child allows students to move through content at their own pace and develop a sense of responsibility for their education.
The Montessori classroom looks much different from the traditional public classroom. Schedule a time to observe a class at Fountainhead Montessori School to experience the difference of Montessori.