Understanding the Montessori Classroom

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Montessori makes a difference

Montessori children often stand out from the crowd. Graduates of a well presented Montessori programme tend to be compassionate and empathetic, sensitive to the natural world and to others. They sense purpose in life and feel a sense of belonging and social connectedness. This charges them with optimism, courage and inner peace. These children go on to achieve academically, yet it is the love and care they show for each other and their world that compels them to contribute and strive to make the world a better place for all. They tend to become confident, competent, self-reflective, and thereby successful. They are happy to learn from mistakes. Montessori students tend to become self-directed, composed and morally independent. Work becomes enjoyable. These are the children who make a difference now and will continue making differences as adults.

Normalisation is the key

Picture22This well-adjusted, socially connected and self-motivated individual is what Maria Montessori termed a ‘normalised’ child. Trevor Eissley, in his book “Montessori Madness” explained that, “Normalisation occurs once children are regularly choosing their work freely, spontaneously and without help and once they are concentrating on that work for an extended period.”

At Little Sweethearts Montessori we are committed to the path of normalisation for each child and will not compromise this objective. This demands that our Montessori Practitioners are committed to reflective practice, and demonstrate that the key ingredients for normalisation to occur need to be evident in our everyday life as a Montessori community. This means children’s work represents everyday life in our LSM community.

You will see a balanced approach to a child’s development that does not rely on rote learning. You will see us watching and waiting patiently for the child to make academic progress. That is why you will see us expectantly waiting for the five year old child to fulfil their daily plan to work in all areas of the curriculum together with taking on leadership roles as peer tutors in our LSM community.

How children develop normalisation

Working primarily with the activities of everyday living and sensorial materials are the keys to normalisation and the foundation of the Montessori programme. It is the goal of the Montessori Practitioner to ensure that the Montessori child is developing their skills of concentration and the other key ingredients to ensure that they have a balanced ‘brain diet’. In order for a child to develop ‘Normalisation’ it is also essential that they are immersed in the Montessori Community environment. This is the reason we encourage consistent attendance at LSM with our indicative recommendations being four sessions a week by age 3 years and working up to four full days by age of five.

The child’s work

Maria Montessori states that normalisation “is the single most important part of our work”. Helping the child lay this foundation paves the way for success. The child is able to work independently, explore the material they have been presented, working through trial and error thereby paving the way for their natural explosion into all the academic areas. This is preparation for life as the child does not rely on the Directress presenting Maths and Language materials to ensure that they are prepared for primary school – their knowledge and development in these academic areas are natural outcomes of a good Montessori process.

What we do

Our Directresses observe, observe, observe and continue to base each child’s next learning activity on these observations. We follow the child and our support is focused on ensuring children have all the necessary ingredients for normalisation. We therefore look for concentration, independence, cycles of repetition, exactness and precision, order, movement, exploration, free choice, working with others, time to master, and cycles of activity.

For the child, these ingredients are the ‘brain food’ from which the explosion into all curriculum areas spontaneously occurs. Helping the child to develop these key ingredients provides the starting place for our planning and presentations.

Together with our three hour work cycle and six hour day it is the skill of the Directress to be ‘in touch’ with individual children without losing touch with the class as a whole. She must choose what presentations are needed and when they are needed. This is critical because if presenting the apparatus to the child is the main priority (rather than observing the child to determine just what apparatus to present) then that Directress has missed the point of the whole programme. A Directress who simply looks at the materials before looking at the child, and sees presenting as a main priority above connecting with the child, has not embraced the LSM way.

Our Directresses understand that our very specialised resources are not to be deployed simply as tools to be mastered but as keys that a child uses to independently unlock their personal learning.

Why the Montessori World is so excited!

Montessori practitioners talk of “Normalisation.”

Today’s Neuro Developmental world talks of “Executive Functions.”

Whatever the name used, we are talking about how our brains manage attention, emotion and behaviour in pursuit of our goals. These are proven to be better predictors of children’s success in their school and life than a high IQ.

Stephen Hughes, Neuro Psychologist and Montessori Dad, is excited by the positive outcomes for children’s learning and brain development that he has seen as a direct result of children’s Montessori experiences. A recent scientific study of outcomes of good Executive Functions on Montessori five year olds showed they had better performance on standardised tests of reading and maths, they engaged in more positive interactions, showed more advanced social cognition executive control and more concern for fairness and justice. In conclusion they had superior outcomes.

Table 1 below shows the similarities between a child with normalised behaviour as a result of being immersed in a Montessori environment and a child with good Executive Functions. Maria Montessori knew over a hundred years ago what the Neuro Developmental world is discovering today.


Table 1: Speaking the Same Language

Normalisation Executive Functions
  • There is joy and tranquility and happiness
  • Show good judgment and planning
  • Children have concentration
  • Foresight
  • Able to handle frustrations
  • Organisation
  • Can make rational choices
  • Self awareness
  • Can adapt
  • Imagination
  • Have self discipline
  • Monitor progress to achieve a goal
  • Independent
  • Self Control
  • Have positive self image and esteem
  • Dependable
  • Aware and considerate of others
  • Accurate
  • Secure within themselves
  • Responds to needs
  • Helpful, sense of justice sustained by co-operation and mutual support.
  • Takes responsibility

When emphasising the development of normalisation or executive functions, alongside academic knowledge, the outcomes speak for themselves. The Montessori classroom, with its repetition of activities, multisensory experiences and self-guided learning creates the perfect recipe for brain development and the resulting attainment of normalisation and robust executive functions.

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