The Montessori Method

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In order to discuss the suitability of the Montessori Method to the revised primary school curriculum, one must gain some understanding of both. This essay will briefly explore the revised primary curriculum, the Montessori Method and finally discuss the suitability of the Montessori Method in teaching the new curriculum.
The revised Primary School Curriculum (1999) developed as a result of input from the Review Body on the Primary Curriculum (1990), the National Convention on Education (1994) and the White Paper on Education (1994). It considers the Philosophical ethos of Curriculum Na Bunscoile and is guided by the Education Act (1998). It is in fact an amalgamation of “current educational thinking” and the most innovative and effective
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She opened her first school over one hundred years ago and the method is used in over “22,000 schools in over one hundred countries” (p.16). The method offers a holistic approach to development of “body, mind and soul”. It is a scientific approach which encourages education through real life experiences. Montessori encourages Independence and strives to assist the child to develop and learn at their own pace. Incorporating structures to enable children to understand boundaries but at the same time through the use of the imagination and exploration develop into independent, assertive and creative adults (Montessori, 2007).
The following are the features of the method used:
1) Power of observation: Montessori developed her practice by constantly observing and learning from children. This she believed let to “a transformation of perspective and practice” (p16). She teaches observation without interfering with the work of the child. The method acknowledges that all children are unique and develop and learn at different paces. Hence the importance of the Montessori teacher through observation getting to know each child, so she can guide each child to the next “zone of development”
2) Play and the work of the child: The Montessori Method focuses on a “play based Curriculum” the environment and its preparation is hugely important it must be inviting to the child. Play is seen
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Working in a Montessori classroom that promotes choice, demands one to move constantly, particularly when choosing what or who to work with (p21).
Montessori curriculum can be broken down into the following headings. Each has a selection of graded exercises which are presented to the child in sequence when they are ready:
• Practical life exercises,
• Sensorial
• Number work
• Language
In John Holt’s very interesting book “How Children Fail” (1966 ) he poses the concept that although children love learning they don’t like being thought. He argues children thought in traditional ways become “unintelligent” (p56). They strive for teacher approval by focusing importance on getting the right answer; mechanisms such as reflecting and having an enquiring mind are supressed. Holts (1966) suggests children had to “teach him before he could begin to teach them” (p.22), he emphasises the importance of teachers observing, listening, and encouraging creative ways of being. This philosophy sits very comfortably with the Montessori Method of teaching. As mentioned earlier directors must be a “guide” observing children in their work. The new Primary School Curriculum calls for this approach in that it promotes the development of children’s capacity for “creative expression and response”
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