Understanding Student Work in the Early Childhood Classroom
Upon entering the prepared the prepared environment, parents and children begin hearing terminology specific to the Montessori setting. One such term is the ‘work’completed by students. In our classroom, all activities are referred to as work, rather than play. “Purposeful activity is called work. Montessori observed that children learn by engaging in purposeful activity of their own choosing. When children can choose what they do, they do not differentiate between work and play” (For Small Hands). Furthermore, the children utilize Montessori materials for learning. These specialized, scientifically designed equipment are therefore referred to as materials rather than toys. Lillard (2007) elaborates:
Some think that because Montessori classrooms do not have toys and do have an emphasis on teaching about reality, Montessori does not value imagination. Yet, Dr. Montessori clearly held human imagination as one of our highest powers… Correct use of Montessori materials [in the early years] guides children’s minds from the concrete to the abstract, whence the children’s creative imaginations can take over. (p. 185-186)
Parents can be instrumental in maintaining this philosophy in the home, thereby strengthening the home-to-school connection. Maintaining an ordered environment, teaching real-life skills, providing opportunities for building concentration, and nurturing a sense of inner pride are all ways to promote the Montessori philosophy at home. The following websites provide additional information, ideas, and encouragement:
We do not encourage school work to be completed at home. Children in the three to six year age range complete all learning activities in the classroom. “Practically speaking, this is because the learning materials stay in the classroom… [Likewise,] Montessori children appear to achieve enough during the school day to obviate the need for homework” (Lillard, 2007, p. 80). Rather, it is most advantageous for parents to promote a strong sense of independence and guide children in self-help skills. These are the skills that create the foundation for all other learning and are most important to nurture during the earliest childhood years.
The following video demonstrates how children in our mixed-aged setting learn from each other. An older student leads a younger one in a writing lesson while a group of students gather to observe. Please notice the way in which the children watch their classmates without touching or interfering with the work that is unfolding. This video also shows the cycle of activity in a Montessori classroom as the observing students finish watching and choose another activity, while the writing lesson continues.
Read more about the lesson in the video HERE
The Beauty of the Mixed-Age Setting
For small hands: A resource for families. (n.d.). What do you mean by normalization? Montessori vocabulary made clear.
Lillard, A.S. (2007). Montessori: The science behind the genius. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.