A Montessori program is different from other educational programs in a number of ways….
a) Teaches to individuals as well as to groups. In many other classrooms, lessons are presented to the whole class and only sometimes to small groups. In Montessori schools the general rule is reversed. Most of the time the teacher presents lessons to individuals. Other children can observe or participate, as they are interested. In this way, the teacher can address the specific needs of a child and can respond to that individual child’s interest and level of understanding. The child does not have to sit through something for which he or she is not ready. This individual attention also helps the teacher be much more familiar with the child. Thus, the teacher understands the child more fully, and better provides for that child. At the same time, it is important for children to feel a part of a group, and to learn how to be a contributing member of a group. Therefore, cooperative and collaborative group work is also encouraged as appropriate.
b) Children learn and remember through activity rather than through listening only and having to remember. In many non-Montessori classrooms children are expected to learn by listening to the teacher. Work is usually with paper and pencil. In a Montessori classroom, on the other hand, children learn by practicing with apparatus, which embodies the concept to be mastered. For example, when learning about shapes such as triangles, squares, circles, etc., instead of listening to a teacher talk about the shapes and watching her draw them on the chalk board, the children trace real figures and use them to make designs.
c) The Montessori curriculum is much broader than many other programs. The Montessori program teaches more than just the basics. First of all, it has exercises to develop the child’s basic capacities – his or her ability to control movement (motor development), to use senses (perceptual development), to think (cognitive development), to intend (volitional development), and to gain conscious awareness and control of emotions (affective or emotional development), to use language (language development), to belong, have friends, and be a contributing member of a group (social development), and have an ability to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behavior (moral
development). In this way, the program helps the child become a competent learner. This develops independence and responsibility.
In addition, the curriculum also helps the child develop a strong foundation in the language arts and math, and engages children in an in-depth study of physical and cultural geography, zoology, botany, physical science, earth science, astronomy, history, art, music and dance. In addition, children further learn practical skills for everyday life such as cooking, carpentry, and sewing. But, more than this, they learn how to be contributing members of a social community.
d) With regard to discipline, in a Montessori program the emphasis is on self-discipline developed through helping a child learn how to appropriately meet needs rather than attempting to control a child through the use of reward and punishments. The emphasis is on teaching skills and helping children develop socially, emotionally, morally, and intellectually.
e) In a Montessori classroom, the organization of the room allows children easy access to a variety of learning experiences. The room is specifically organized to appear attractive and orderly. Materials are displayed on shelves. The children understand the arrangement and work to maintain the order for the benefit of all.
f) The materials in a Montessori classroom are carefully designed and thoroughly researched to fit the developmental needs and characteristics of children.
g) Montessori teachers are trained to teach respect and positive values through their modeling as well as through the way they teach. The Montessori method of helping a child is through a process of showing a child what to do in a positive manner.
h) The Montessori program is systematic and carefully sequenced according to principles of development. Every activity is carefully thought out to build upon previous preparation and lessons and to lead the intelligence on to a higher activity.
i) The Montessori program is designed to develop independence and responsibility. The organization of the classroom, the method of teaching, and the practical life lessons are oriented toward helping the child become a self-sufficient and disciplined individual.
j) The routine of the Montessori program is based upon the principle of freedom of choice rather than on set times for prescribed activities. Since everything in the Montessori environment is something planned that is worthwhile and educational, the child can be free to work by choosing what best fits his or hers needs and interests.
k) In the Montessori classroom children are viewed as positive beings whose primary aim is the work of constructing a competent adult. Rewards and punishments, therefore, can only get in the way. Development and learning by themselves are adequate motivators. Likewise, children do not need to be appealed to through fantasy, bright colors, or gimmicks, as theses things come between the child and real learning. Therefore, joy is discovered and experienced in the real world through the study of nature, science, math, music, reading, history, and geography rather than in a world of comics, cartoons, and fantasy. Imagination develops through concrete experience, development of in-depth knowledge, and freedom to use one’s mind.