Montessori Learning Community 6-12

What are the essential ingredients of the Montessori learning community for six-twelve year olds ?

What age are the children in Montessori primary?

Essential Elements
The Montessori classroom is characterised by multi-aged groupings of three or more years.
In Montessori primary children start at six years and stay until 12 years of age.

What this results in …
The children are a mixture of ages with groupings from 6-9 year-olds, 9-12 year-olds or 6-12 years.
The multi-age groupings allow each child to find his or her own pace without feeling ‘ahead’ or ‘behind’ in relation to peers.
There should be no segregation by age level or year level in any curriculum area.
The mixed age group allows the children to develop socially, intellectually and emotionally at their individual pace- it is an essential part of any Montessori school.

Questions you could ask the Montessori teachers
Are there enrolment criteria to enter the Montessori class or school?
How does the school decide when my child is ready to start in the Montessori primary classroom?
What is the optimal age to start? Why?
Does my child need to have attended a Montessori early childhood entre?
Why do children start in Montessori primary at six years?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Can I see children of all ages in the class?
Do I see children segregated by age groupings or can I see children interacting across the age groups?
Can I see older children ‘teaching’ younger children and being encouraged by the adults to take on this mentoring role?

Why is a respectful community important?

Essential Elements
The Montessori classroom is a community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone’s contribution is valued.

What this results in …
The classroom functions as a community with each child playing his or her own part and contributing to the daily life and functioning of the class in a positive manner.
Children will be confident and comfortable in their interactions with each other and adults.
Children will be familiar and confident with classroom routines.
Children will seek and offer feedback, ask and offer help not only with their teachers, but with each other.
Students play a real role in deciding and managing classroom activities and routines from preparing food to be shared, community lunches, learning conflict resolution skills and hosting class meetings to presenting lessons to classmates and doing community service projects.

Questions you could ask the Montessori teachers
How are the children taking responsibility for the classroom routines, environment and activities?
What community service projects are the children involved in?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Can I see children confidently asking adults and older children for help?
Do I see the children interacting with each other in nurturing and respectful ways?
How is conflict resolved?
Are respect, social graces and cooperative work evident?
Do I hear the teacher as well as the children respectfully acknowledging each other’s efforts?

How long do children attend Montessori?

Essential Elements
The most optimal Montessori primary experience is one where the children have come from a Montessori early childhood centre at six years of age and stay to complete the primary Montessori programme at 12 years.

What this results in …
Children starting later or finishing Montessori earlier will not make all the gains possible from a full Montessori early childhood (3-6years) and primary programme (6-12 years).
The delivery of a rich Montessori primary programme is enabled by children who have already developed independent work habits and are familiar with the Montessori approach with a working knowledge of and respect for the Montessori materials and activities in and out of the classroom environment.

What is the school’s policy about the age at which children start and leave the Montessori classroom?
How long can my child stay in this Montessori programme – does the programme run until the children are 12 years old?
Do you have children starting in the class at five or do you take children who have not experienced Montessori early childhood? How do you manage this and what effect does it have on the Montessori primary programme?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Are there children in the classroom spanning at least a three-year age range?

How do children socialise in Montessori?

Essential Elements
Each child's individualised activity occurs within a community of children and spontaneous social interactions occur throughout the day.

What this results in …
Children interact respectfully with each other and adults.
Children interact with each other freely and show kindness to each other.
Children are supported by teachers to interact and are free to choose to work and talk with each other.
Through positive social interaction children learn many valuable social skills and experience the benefits of communal life.

Questions you could ask the Montessori teachers
How do you help children to learn the skills of interacting appropriately in the classroom?
How do you support the development of a respective school community outside the classroom?
When children are free to be spontaneous in their socialising is EVERYONE included, nurtured and accepted by their peers?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Do I see examples of children offering to help another child?
Do the children respect the right of other children to work undisturbed?
Do I see responsive, respectful relationships between teachers-children, children-children, between teachers and between teachers and families?
Can I observe children using strategies to solve disagreements peacefully?

Why are Montessori students motivated to learn?

Essential Elements
In Montessori primary children learn because they are free to choose work that is personalised to their interests, needs and abilities.

What this results in …
Children are free to choose work that meets their current needs, interests and abilities, with appropriate limits negotiated with their teacher.
Montessori children take an active role in planning their work and setting goals for themselves.
Children do not work for grades or external rewards, nor do they simply complete assignments or worksheets given them by their teachers.
At any time the children in the classroom will all be involved in different tasks – you will rarely see a Montessori classroom with all the children doing the same subject at the same time.
Montessori children have the freedom to choose their own work and activities – they do not have the freedom to choose to do nothing.

Questions you could ask the Montessori teachers
How will you involve my children in setting appropriate goals for learning and other aspects of their development?
What will you do if my child avoids a curriculum area – how will they be directed and encouraged to cover all aspects of the curriculum?
Are there any compromises or adjustments your Montessori class must make if it is within a NZ state primary school?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Do you see children all doing different activities?
Do I see children working with concentration and enthusiasm on their chosen activity?
Can I see children choosing what they would like to work on or is it predominantly teacher directed?
Are children encouraged to question?  Are they given the freedom to seek out answers to the questions they have come up with?
Does the environment have a busy ‘buzz’ or ‘hum’?
Are children able to work without frequent interruptions from the teacher?

How are my child’s interests and needs met? 

Essential Elements
Montessori teachers are skilled in ‘following the child’ - responding to the changing interests and needs of each child as a unique individual,

What this results in …
Children are engaged in activities which are interesting to them and become deeply focused and involved in what they are doing.
Teachers know the children well and respond to their unique interests and needs, engaging parents in this process.
Each child's individual needs are assessed through observation so that he is introduced to new concepts when he is developmentally ready and new knowledge is always built on what he already knows.
The learning opportunities in the classroom are frequently changed to cater for the needs and interests of the current group of learners.

Questions you could ask the Montessori teachers
If my child shows an interest in a particular area how this would be responded to in the classroom? Can you give me some recent examples of this?
What would you do if my child was engaged in an activity and did not want to join a group time?
How will I know what my child does each day and what is being planned for his/her learning?  What feedback will I get from the staff?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Are children choosing and focusing on their own chosen activity?
How does the staff respond to the questions and interests of the children?

Will my child have fun?

Essential Element
Montessori learning environments meet the developmental needs of all children in a safe, interesting and caring community.

What this results in …
Children are relaxed and confident with their classmates and teachers. Learning is fun and children find joy in their discoveries and in the activities they choose each day.

Questions you could ask the Montessori centre staff
Is this a place where my child will have fun? What do you enjoy about being with children each day?

Questions you could ask yourself while you observe the class
Do the children and adults look like they are enjoying themselves? Will my child have fun in this learning community?