What is Montessori?
The Montessori method of education is based on the research and practice of Italian physician Maria Montessori. The fundamental principles are that children are innate learners and that they learn best in physical and social settings that permit their natural curiosity to freely develop as they grow. Children need “such liberty as shall permit a development of individual, spontaneous manifestations of the child’s nature” (Montessori 1912:28). Montessori observed that children learned in repeated, sensory-intensive ways without explicit rewards or punishments. She developed a series of “didactic materials,” or activities based on manipulating objects, that help children to understand abstract concepts by first working in concrete forms. For example, arithmetic is first learned by counting and moving sets of beads, rather than writing equations.
Rather than listening to lectures, students are self-directed and work independently until they have mastered the material. Students are encouraged to assist each other in multi-age classrooms; younger students often learn from older students, and older students learn to lead. These activities provide intellectual stimulation and promote social skills, emotional growth, and physical coordination. Montessori believed that students learn discipline and cooperation through independent action: “We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and can, therefore, regulate his own conduct when it shall be necessary to follow some rule of life… A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me a classroom very well disciplined indeed” (Montessori 1912:86, 93).
Mayer’s Montessori Program
At Mayer, classes are based on three-year age groups. The Early Childhood (EC) classrooms have preschool and kindergarten students (ages 3-5 at the start of school). The Elementary One (EL1) classrooms have children in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades (ages 6-8 at the start of school). The Elementary Two (EL2) classrooms have students in 4th and 5th grades (ages 9-10 at the start of school).
Each of the EC and EL1 classrooms have one teacher and one assistant. Teachers introduce students to Montessori works and conduct class and small-group lessons; however, during the work periods, the teacher serves as a guide for the students. Teachers develop work-plans for the students and the students then select among the works.
The classrooms are arranged according to Montessori principles. Furniture is child-sized. Rather than rows of desks, students frequently work on mats or at tables in a common, open space. Materials for different subjects are located in separate areas of the room, where children can access them. Rather than all students in a grade working on the same lesson simultaneously, students in the same grade will be engaged in different activities during work periods.
While the method is different from traditional schools, Mayer students must meet the Illinois and CPS learning standards. Supplementary curricular is used when there is no comparable Montessori material.
All students participate in Mayer’s fine and performing arts program–which offers drama, music, and visual arts–and in the Spanish language program.
For additional information about the Oscar Mayer’s Montessori Program, please contact our Montessori Coordinator, Karen Neary, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in attending Mayer, please see our admissions page.
Further Montessori Information
The American Montessori Society was founded in 1960 to reintroduce Montessori education in the United States. Mayer is a member school. AMS also has a set of family resources, including a guide to Montessori terminology. The Association Montessori Internationale was founded by Dr. Montessori to promote her ideas. Angeline Lillard, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, maintains a website about research on Montessori methods. Mayer’s EC and EL1 teachers were trained at the Midwest Montessori Training Center.
Montessori, Maria. 1912. The Montessori Method. Frederick A. Stokes Company. Online version