When we first arrived at our placement nursery I was told that I would be working in the orange class otherwise known as the Montessori classroom. To be honest my first thought was, what exactly is a Montessori classroom?! I knew there was going to be a good bit of reading and researching that night! For anyone who, like me, is unsure what it’s all about here’s a good video that explains how Montessori’s method may be transferred to practice in the nursery classroom.
Over my time on the placement I got a great opportunity to experience the Montessori method of teaching and learning through discussions with Linda, the trained Montessori teacher, as well as through observations of the classroom practices and activities. Here’s a few things I noticed during my time in the orange room that I will consider for my own practice;
In our classroom there was a range of resources that may not be typically seen in the nursery or primary classroom. The class had a range of small but life-like resources that may typically be seen in the home. The first thing I saw when entering the classroom was one child using a real grater to grate a carrot and share it with his friends – this was the moment when I knew this class would be different to anything I had ever experienced before! The teachers encouraged free exploration of resources – even scissors, graters or knives – things that may be seen as too risky for such young children to use in Scotland.
There was also a specific Montessori corner which had a range of blocks, 3D shapes and coloured slides. The children were free to explore the resources during free play time. Each week Linda would carry out a Montessori based ‘samling’ or group activity to show the children how the resources could be used to manipulate and organise shapes and colours methodically or by following patterns and designs.
Careful consideration of the resources and beneficial to the teacher and learning. This experience highlighted how the resources, as opposed to the direct teaching, can help to drive the learning. When designing or selecting these it is important to consider if they can be used in more ways than one to develop a range of knowledge and skills. I will also think about how best to use the resources; Linda used a range of modelling, free play, group activities and peer activities to support the learning.
Another thing I had to adjust to was the encouragement of the teacher to ensure the children take responsibility for themselves and their belongings from such a young age. This included things such as dressing for outdoors, tidy away games, serving food, going to the toilet. This was something difficult as I became conscious that the time taken for individuals to do this may be entering into their learning time. For some children it would take up to an hour for them to dress themselves for outdoor play. However, teachers reassured the importance of developing these skills for school and life; something that is particularly in keeping with the Montessori method.
I will consider whether my own fears or apprehensions may be hindering the children’s learning. For example the use of scissors or knifes is something that children need to learn to do through practice and experience. Therefore limited experiences and opportunities to use these may stop children from developing these life skills.