Structured Classrooms — Montessori Style

by Marie McCain
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"But there's no structure in a Montessori classroom, right? Aren't the children free to do whatever they want?"

This is what I hear when people learn that my children attend a Montessori school. And it's the biggest misconception I can imagine. When my daughter started in her primary classroom, there were 28 children ranging in ages from 3 to 6. And one teacher who gives one-on-one lessons during an uninterrupted 3 hour work cycle! How could there be no structure?

The shelves in my children's Montessori classroom look like displays. They are so carefully planned and organized, allowing even the youngest child to independently find what he or she needs to complete her work. I have been a public school teacher in my career and have had to organize literacy centers with much angst. I understand the great structure required to have 28 children be able to pull out 28 different pieces of work.

As for the idea that the child does whatever she wants, that is true as long as those choices involve materials on which they have been given a lesson. And, of course, the child needs to use the materials safely. There is discipline in Montessori classrooms. Discipline is an internal process honed by each student. This discipline is instrumental in the success of each child's freedom to make their own work choices.

My son spent some time walking around the classroom with the teacher as she gave lessons, acting as her shadow until he was ready to make work choices for himself. After observing the other children in the classroom navigate the options for work on the shelves as well as the role model provided by his teacher, he naturally absorbed the routine and began to choose his own activities.

The Montessori teacher is a great observer. When the children aren't making a variety of choices in their work, or choosing materials that don't match an appropriate level of challenge, she will offer guidance towards new and exciting lessons!



Aquinas Montessori blog was created in November 2014 as a place to share our ideas, experience and inspiration through articles, tutorials and advice to parents. Be the first to see new posts and have new content delivered by Email, or join Aquinas Monessori School on Facebook.