Our Classroom: Fully Prepared!

The picture that readily comes to mind when you think of a classroom is probably a teacher saying to the pupils, “It is the second day of October, so open your math book to page 58 and….,” while the whole class is seated with their books out looking at the teacher showing them how to add up numbers.

The typical Montessori classroom is not designed to function this way, because the Montessori classroom is a ‘prepared environment’ which aids self-learning.

The “prepared environment” is Maria Montessori’s own concept that the environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child.

In the prepared environment, there is a variety of activity as well as a great deal of movement. It is calm and ordered, meeting the child’s physical, intellectual, social and moral needs. In a preschool classroom, for example, a three-year-old may be doing a pegging activity, while a four-year-old nearby is composing words and phrases with letters known as the movable alphabet, and a five-year-old is working with the trinomial cubes.

There are 6 basic components in the Montessori classroom environment. They are:

  1. Freedom
  2. Structure and order
  3. Reality and nature
  4. Beauty and atmosphere
  5. Montessori materials
  6. Mixed Age Classroom
  • Freedom

Freedom is essential in a Montessori environment because a child can only reveal self in a free environment. Freedom does not mean not having any responsibilities! The child is given activities that encourage independence…ones he can perform by himself. Before using any

materials, the child needs a lesson by the teacher. Children speak to each other and join in activities with each other whenever they like.

  • Structure and Order

The underlying structure and order of the universe must be reflected in the classroom if the child is to internalize it and thus build his/her own mental order and intelligence. Through this internalized order, the child learns to trust his/her environment and his/her power to interact with it in a positive way. Structure and order ensures for the child the possibility of purposeful activity. Order means that the child is assured the possibility of a completed cycle of activity in using the materials. To accomplish this:

  1. All the pieces will be provided for the exercise engaged in.
  2. No one will be permitted to interrupt or interfere with his/her work.
  1. He /She will return materials to their place and in the condition they were found.

The child, is therefore, an integral partner in maintaining the order of the classroom.

  • Reality and Nature

The equipment in the classroom needs to be geared to bringing the child into closer contact with reality. This means that it needs to be authentic – real glasses, light furniture, nourishing

food, etc. In the real world, everyone cannot have the same thing at the same time. So only one piece of each type of equipment is available and the child learns to wait his/her turn.

  • Beauty and Atmosphere

Maria regarded beauty not as an extra aid for the developing child, but as a positive need in calling forth his power to respond to life. True beauty is based upon simplicity. The atmosphere of the room must be relaxing and peaceful with the use of life plants and soft music. It should be warm, and inviting so the child will want to participate.

  • Montessori Materials

Montessori materials must correspond to the child’s inner needs, and they must be presented to the child at the right moment in his/her development.  Also, the intensity of

the stimulus of the material needs to be matched to the child’s internal need.

Montessori materials are designed for auto-education. The control of error lies in the materials themselves rather than in the teacher.

Basic Rules in Using Montessori Equipment

  1. Children are required to treat the materials with respect. When a child is using Montessori equipment, he is to bring all the material necessary and arrange them on a table or on a rug. He is to arrange the materials in order. He is expected to return the materials to their

proper places and in the same condition in which he found them.

  1. The child has a right not to be interrupted while working with the materials either by another child or by the teacher.
  • Mixed Age Classroom

The society of the child is therefore the antithesis of adult society, where sociability implies a free and well bred inter change of courtesies and mutual aid, although

each individual attends to his own business. Children have freedom in their social relations and are only limited when their actions interfere with the rights of others. In a Montessori classroom children of differing ages are included. The older children give spontaneously to the younger ones and the younger children observe the older children. It is an imitation of a real society.