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Montessori Elementary

Why Montessori Elementary at Montessori Academy?

“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” — Dr. Maria Montessori 

At around age six, children enter what Dr. Montessori described as a new plane of development. They become more social, eager to work in groups – and begin to grasp more abstract ideas. Naturally, as children mature and change, so should the educational program tailored to their needs! Purpose, autonomy, and mastery are the most effective motivators for learning. At Montessori Academy, these principles guide us as we foster the intrinsic motivation and curiosity of each child in our care. We invite you to schedule a tour or observation—you will instantly see just how different Montessori is and why our students love it here!

Comparison of Montessori Elementary with Traditional Elementary Schooling A girl and a boy sit on their knees and look at a map of the world

The Montessori Method uses the following techniques to harness the natural sociability and curiosity of this age to motivate students intrinsically:

Mixed-age groups

A community of peers, mentors, and mentees—a chance to follow and lead.

Nowhere in life but at school do people interact only with same-age peers. In life–and Montessori–we benefit by being around people who know more than us–and we solidify our understanding when we teach those who do not know as much. In mixed-age Montessori Elementary communities, children benefit from the social dynamic of mixed-age groups in multiple ways:

  • Motivation – aspiring to do work done by older children.
  • Mentoring – solidifying skills and knowledge by teaching classmates
  • Leadership – organizing the community and managing the work of the classroom. 
  • Individualized learning – working at each student’s pace, independent of artificial age cut-offs. 

Extended, Uninterrupted Work Periods

Time to engage deeply, choose work, and practice until mastered.

In Montessori Elementary, the school day has two long, uninterrupted work periods—usually three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Here’s what happens during Work Periods:

  • Lessons. Children receive lessons from their teachers in small groups or one-on-one.
  • Practice. Children apply what they learned that day and week and practice new skills. They practice at school—instead of needing to bring their practice home as lots of homework. While practicing, they have access to resources to help them when they get lost or stuck—peers, older students, and their teachers.
  • Projects. Children work on projects they initiate—such as research on a country, follow-up work on a historical period they study, science experiments, or longer creative writing projects.
  • Community work. Children take an active role in ensuring their community functions—taking care of their environment (e.g., watering plants, putting materials back), leading group meetings, and keeping themselves organized (e.g., updating their work journals).
  • Engagement. Instead of switching from one subject to the next every 50 minutes, Montessori children have the opportunity to engage deeply, practicing until they achieve mastery. They experience the power of making autonomous decisions by choosing their work instead of following an adult-directed schedule throughout the day. 

Small-Group or One-on-One Lessons

Individualized learning at each child’s pace – tailored to interests and talents.

boys and girls sit at a wooden table with a teacher who has an open bookDuring our extended work periods, teachers give lessons–sometimes to the entire class, but usually in small groups or one-on-one. This allows our teacher to precisely select the appropriate challenge level and prevents the boredom that occurs for some students if the material isn’t challenging enough or the struggle to keep up when it is too challenging. (An issue that inevitably occurs when teaching 25+ students!) Small groups also allow teachers to verify understanding– and the child is more likely to be engaged – both because the material meets their needs and because it is hard to hide in a small group or one-on-one! Our small groups are brought together based on interest, previous knowledge, and talent. For example, a math group may include an advanced 4th grader, several 5th graders, and maybe a sixth grader or two who need a refresher on that particular lesson.

A Carefully Prepared, Inviting, Beautiful Environment

Materials, workspaces, and organizational tools

We all do our best work in a beautiful environment, one that meets our needs. Children need to move to think and do their best work, but many elementary-age children struggle to sit still at a desk for hours at a time. In our classrooms, children can work at a child-sized table (alone or with 2-3 others), on a rug on the floor, or curled up on a beanbag or a small rocking chair while reading a book. Shelves, plants, rugs, and worktables define workspaces where small groups and individuals can work comfortably—instead of the rows of desks in traditional schools. Beautiful materials, plants, flowers, art, and even music playing quietly, make a Montessori elementary room a peaceful and inviting work environment.

Freedom Within Limits

Responsibility and agency—supported by careful scaffolding—support authentic motivation

a boy sits on a grey chair and knits with blue yarnDr. Montessori believed that, in the right environment, children are eager to learn and want to do well. As Montessori educators, we do not micro-manage children but strive to provide just the right amount of scaffolding and support they need to do their best work and to be their best selves. We call this approach freedom within limits: it is an approach founded on trust and respect rather than control and command.

Here are a few ways this plays out in class:

  • Supporting time and work management. Children receive differing levels of support in managing their work, depending on their maturity and responsibility. A young, more impulsive child may need to check in with a teacher every 30 minutes or after every completed activity, while a mature planner may have a weekly meeting to plan out work and then be trusted to carry out the plan all week long until the next weekly meeting.
  • Supporting responsible choices. Teachers give children freedom as they see them behave responsibly. An easily distracted child may be assigned a workspace in a quiet corner, while another child who has demonstrated his ability to make good choices may be free to work anywhere. 
  • Children are trusted. Children move about the classroom and attend to their needs (a glass of water, a restroom break, a mid-morning snack)—without asking a teacher’s permission to get up. 

We hope you will learn more about the benefits and differences of Montessori elementary by visiting our blog, where we discuss the academic rigor and joyful learning inherent to our approach in more depth. You are also welcome to schedule a tour: the best way to understand the benefits to your child is to see the Montessori approach to elementary education in action!