Montessori School Method of Education
By Denise Underwood
Maria Montessori observed the children in her first school, noting
the activities they preferred, and developed her educational
theories from these observations. She saw that children have a
natural love of learning and experience great exhilaration and
satisfaction if allowed to complete tasks chosen freely.
Montessori also found that children, from early in the first year
of life, pass through a series of "sensitive periods where they
are absorbed" when they are absorbed in one element of their
environment with an intense desire to explore that aspect, often
repeating many times actions related to that interest until this
leads into the next phase. Grasping the opportunities for
development in each "sensitive period" is most important.
Consequently, the Montessori classroom is devised as a total
environment to aid the child's development into a fully integrated
and independent individual, with areas which cater for all the
"sensitive periods" which appear in the age range of the
classroom. This classroom is composed of three essential parts:
the child, the prepared environment and the director/directress.
The child teaches himself/herself using especially designed
Montessori equipment, which is attractive and self-correcting. In
this classroom the teacher is known as a director/directress, as
he/she acts as a guide and facilitator, demonstrating new
activities and pieces of equipment to individual children or small
groups. In a child-centered classroom, with each child working at
their own pace, the director/directress also observes and monitors
their progress to assist and encourage their activities and
The Montessori classroom is non-competitive and, because a
child may choose his/her own activities and do them at his/her own
pace, the child has many opportunities for success and is able to
build a positive self-image.
The pre-school program is designed to cover an important
three-year development span of the child. Between the age of three
and six years this development is characterized by increasing
abilities to explore the environment. During the first year the
child is introduced primarily to the practical life and sensorial
apparatus. These refine skills and help the child function in the
classroom and at home. Further work in these areas helps prepare
the child for concepts and co-ordination needed for maths and
The third year is the culmination of the program with the
previous two years preparing the child for creative and meaningful
exploration and progress in many areas. Often it appears to
parents that the child develops greatly in the first year of the
program but outwardly shows little progress in the second year.
Yet these first two years are laying the foundations. Many of the
benefits of the Montessori approach are only truly seen in the
third year when concepts and skills come to fruition and the love
of learning becomes a real part of the child.
Socially, in the third year, the opportunity exists for the
child to develop leadership qualities, self-confidence, caring
attitudes towards others and a sense of responsibility as he/she
interacts with the younger children and in his/her own social
group of the older children.
Denise Underwood is the Directress for The Children's House Montessori Pre-School in Sydney, Australia. You can find out more information on the Montessori method and this pre-school at