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Old 01-08-2015, 12:06 AM
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Laurel Laurel is offline Member
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Florida
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Originally Posted by mamamanda View Post
Does anyone have experience in teaching in a Montessori environment? I've always been turned off to the idea of Montessori because it was presented to me as completely child driven to the point of letting the child make all of their own decisions during the day. I absolutely agree with child led learning, but I need the kids to lay down at naptime whether they feel like napping that day or not. lol It's vital to my sanity. We all sit down at the table to eat together whether they're hungry or not, etc. The only families I know personally who use Montessori are very permissive and their children are extremely unruly so I believe I had a skewed view of what Montessori is. Now that I've come across some Montessori activities online I am really intrigued. I love the emphasis on independence and the idea of children using materials that allow them to teach themselves, but I guess I'm confused about the How of teaching that way. I've had some children in my care that are very babied and don't want to do anything for themselves. How do you actually go about teaching them to take some responsibility for themselves without pressuring them if they're not ready?
Also, I usually make "preschool" a part of our morning, but then leave the afternoon open for mostly free play. I'm thinking of incorporating more Montessori style toys/activities into our preschool time each morning (I obviously am just beginning my research on all of this), but am I understanding correctly that a big part of the Montessori method is having all of the toys/activities at eye level and allowing the children to choose whichever one they want as long as they choose one at a time?
So, my questions:
1. How do you teach independence in a Montessori setting?
2. Do the children choose their own activities at will throughout the day?
3. How long is an appropriate amount of time to expect the children to explore the toys/activities on their own?
4. How do you as the tea?cher interact with the children during this time without interrupting their work
Thanks so much for any experience you're willing to share with me!
I used to be a teaching assistant in a Montessori preschool before I did home daycare. Montessori is wonderful. I love, love, love it. It is hard to explain without writing a book, lol, so my advice would be to read some books. I also would suggest going to youtube. You can find a lot there.

I was in a school that had 3-5 year olds. That was 20 years ago and I think now there are even some schools with much younger children. Traditional Montessori didn't used to start until age 3 though. I tried to do at least an abbreviated version in my home daycare but it didn't work out. I found it pretty impossible to do it correctly with mixed ages BUT I tried to do it Montessori-like as much as possible.

Your questions:

1. How do you teach independence in a Montessori setting?

One of the biggest plusses to Montessori is that the children learn independence and just as importantly working together just by following the methods themselves. I think Maria Montessori said "Never do for a child what they can do for themselves."

2. Do the children choose their own activities at will throughout the day?

Kind of but not like you probably think. The day has a schedule. In our school it was like any other school as far as scheduling. Arrival, free play, class time, lunch, nap, outdoor time a.m. and p.m., free play or special activity depending, go home. BUT in the classroom or before and after daycare room it was a bit different than traditional schools. In the classroom there are specific rules overall but generally children pick their activity. They are given what is called a '3 period lesson' and shown how to do the activity during that lesson and then it is put on the shelf. They can choose anything on the shelves that interests them during class time going from activity to activity. They learn the general rules for any activity such as roll out a rug to put work on or take it to a table. Do it for as long as it interests them and then put it away. There are no group activities as a general rule during class time but we did have Circle Time at the end of class. This was like Circle Time at any preschool. So basically you see children working independently or with a teacher or with each other or in groups of their choosing. If a child wants to work with another child they just ask. If the other child says yes then they work together. If they say no, the child must walk away. Pretty much common sense classroom rules.

3. How long is an appropriate amount of time to expect the children to explore the toys/activities on their own?

I can't remember how long class time was. I think about 2 or 2 1/2 hours but that included circle time. There was no snack time because we had a system set up for children to prepare their own snack if they were hungry during class time. There really is no appropriate amount of time to do the activities. They work on something until it no longer interests them and then move onto something else. They did this plus snack about the same amount of time a traditional preschool holds their preschool class. Then continue on with the rest of the schedule such as getting ready to go outside.

4. How do you as the teacher interact with the children during this time without interrupting their work

Montessori is child led rather than teacher led but the teacher has a role, of course. The teacher's job is to give the 3 period lesson when introducing a new activity to the classroom, it is also to give assistance to a child who asks for it or who obviously is having trouble with an activity. If a problem arises, the teacher is there to set things straight again (like when I had some children fighting at the snack table when we had a guest observing ) Another job of the teacher is to observe each child each day (if they are doing Montessori correctly). We had more than one teacher in the room so one would sit with a clipboard each day, observe Suzy and takes notes on Suzy, then she'd do the same for each child. In reality, we didn't get to it every day with every child but I think that is the ideal.

If a Montessori school is run according to the philosophy it runs like a well oiled machine (with an occasional run in at the snack table or elsewhere ). It is not a free for all as there are specific rules for each thing. For example, a child can paint at the easel at any time during class but there is a specific set of things they must do in a certain order. Take a piece of paper, clip it on the board, put on the apron and so on including clean up. So a child can't just go up to the board and do it however he wants to. There is a whole system with steps to follow. There are particular rules for some activities as well. Like ours was paint one picture and then clean up rather than painting picture after picture so some one else could have a turn. The classroom reminds me more of an office than a traditional classroom. Not everyone is doing the same thing at the same time but working sometimes by themselves, sometimes with others, and sometimes with the teacher. Older children also teach younger children. There is usually a 3 year age span in each class.

In conclusion, for example, you can paint every day but you just can't go at will any time of the day and paint. Once class is over, the classroom is closed. Then we had a daycare room for before and after class. Same rules but different equipment. In the classroom it was academics and in the daycare rooms were things like dress up, play kitchen, blocks, etc. No 'play food prep' in the classroom but real food prep. They could spread their own peanut butter on a cracker and pour their own juice into their own cup. Things like that.

I so loved Montessori. Sent my own three to Montessori preschool.

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