As you walk into the room you notice a child in one area of the classroom cutting up an apple. He cuts it into small pieces and places it on a plate. He then wipes down the cutting board and takes his plate to a table set with cutlery and a serviette. There are already two other children sitting there and he joins in the conversation. Another child is nearby washing dishes.
The staff are inconspicuous. One is sitting with a child as she matches colours on a table. They run through the names and the teacher helps the child with one of the colours she can’t remember.
At another table a child is struggling with a puzzle. An older child walks by, taps her on the shoulder and asks if he can help. The child nods and the older child sits down and places a few pieces on the board.
One of the teachers approaches a child who is unoccupied. They have a quick conversation and then move over to a set of boards with letters of the alphabet in sandpaper. They sit at a table and run through a few letters the child appears to know. The child then runs over to some children who are making words on the floor with a box of wooden letters. He asks if he can take a letter and returns, placing it on the sandpaper one. He does this again for the other two letters.
A child asks a teacher to tie her shoelace. A cry of “I can do it” goes up and another child runs over to show off his newly acquired skill.
Throughout the room children are working individually or in groups of two or three. Some of the children appear to be wandering aimlessly but on further observation, it turns out they are absorbed in watching others at work. Children select an activity they can do, then when they are finished, ensure it is ready for the next person. Activities are designed to develop independence, life skills, a sense of order, care of the environment and care of each other. The staff move about discreetly and from time to time can be seen at a shelf recording their observations. They also prepare the classroom each morning with great care, ensuring the activities are complete and in good order.
In a Montessori School the children come into the classroom at three years of age and remain with the group until they are six years old. As they grow they move from being a child who is helped by others to one that is considered a teacher in the room, developing confidence, self esteem and nurturing skills as well as a love of learning. The three year age range means the children can work according to their abilities, moving into different groups as needed, and by keeping in touch with the childs’s natural development, learning is much more enjoyable and positive.