The Montessori method is an educational approach to teaching that revolves around each individual child’s learning style, strengths, interests, and learning pace.
This style of teaching is child-centered rather than teacher-directed as one might be familiar with in a typical school setting. Teachers introduce the materials to the children individually or in small groups and the children have the freedom to explore the materials, either independently or with others. They move about freely choosing materials that attract their interest. A child's learning blossoms when he or she is able to make choices. Teachers rely on their observations of the children to determine which new activity or materials to present to an individual child or to a small group. This type of self-directed work paired with the guidance of their teacher in a non-competitive environment, develops positive self-images and grants children just the right comfort level to explore and take risks.
Teachers encourage children to extend their learning through expression and creative exploration. For instance, a child that is using the Montessori world puzzle map, may want to trace the continents on a piece of paper to paint and then label the names of each continent. Children are also encouraged to exchange ideas and discuss their learning with others. Because peer-group learning is an integral trait of the Montessori classroom, this method cultivates in children the importance of communication. There is often more conversation (language experience) in this type of classroom than in conventional early education settings. Teachers also model peaceful conflict resolution skills and children learn how to be a contributing member of their classroom family.
Having mixed ages is also a key component of a Montessori classroom. The beauty of the different aged grouping can be seen when older children help teach younger children concepts or skills that they have mastered. When the older students act as “little teachers”, previously learned knowledge and skills are reinforced. This pairing thus allows younger children to learn socially and academically from the older children directly, as well as, indirectly through observation. The older children also have the opportunity to serve as leaders in the classroom. One of the greatest benefits is the respect and care that the children derive in their relationships with one another.