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what I observed in a class - thoughts?

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

I observed a montessori 3-5 year old class. It was extremely quiet. Everyone was whispering. Mostly kids were working alone at a table. Even they eat snack alone by themselves at a corner - I thought this was very sad. One kid was working at a table doing a puzzle. One kid was arranging flowers. One was shining an object with cloth. She was supposed to fold the cloth certain way but she struggled so asked for help from an older child, who showed her how to do it. But why does the cloth have to be folded in a certain way? One child around 3 year old was working with a stack of cut paper towels. She was simply folding them in half and make another stack. She did it for a while - like 15minutes? What's the point of this exercise? When I described what I observed to my husband, he said it sounded like a mental institution. Is this a typical scene of a montessori preschool?  I'm quite mesmerized by the concentration of the children but in some ways, they don't seem to be having fun. Also, it seems rigid in a way that things have to be done exactly the " right" way.  Any comments?

post #2 of 49

In Montessori, the children are working--the deep concentration is what one strives to get to.  The work is reinforcing to the child, and the children are often at peace during it.  If a child is doing the same work for 15 minutes, then they are actually likely really enjoying it (have you tried to get a child to do something they don't want to do?  They certainly don't work with it for 15 minutes! :lol: ).

 

Each work has a purpose, and the procedures actually all lead to something different.  It teaches the children to follow a process (and all of the works should be self-correcting), and mastering the work can lead to the next extension or activity.  Folding a napkin a certain way helps a child learn the process, and also helps them to learn fractions (folding in half, and then quarters).  But, it can also help with reading and writing, helping them to get used to working from left to right.  The children are not corrected by the adults for doing something "wrong", but since each work should be self-correcting, the child gains a sense of accomplishment when they master the work.  And often, children will spend a great deal of time working with something so they can master it.

 

In a good Montessori classroom, children always have the option of working alone or with someone else.  That goes for snack time too--they eat when they are hungry, with whomever they choose, or they can do it solo.  Some children really crave the peace and quiet!

 

I strongly recommend reading up on Maria Montessori's theory.  It's actually quite fascinating--what adults see as mundane, the children are mesmorized with and will continue to do it over and over again until they are satisfied with it (I can see that even with my toddler...she will open and close something a million times until she has gotten it just perfect). 

 

You also need to really observe an entire day, or at least one full work cycle.  Montessori believed and observed that 3 hours was really a good work cycle--for 3 hours, the children would work and concentrate hard, and at the end of that block, they'd be ready to do something that was non-work related. But children really craved that 3 hour uninterrupted time to work.  It grounded them and gave them a sense of internal peace.

post #3 of 49

Not an expert here, but have done a lot of reading recently.  It sounds like the children are concentrating on what they are doing.  From the ages 3-5, children often prefer to work alone, to concentrate.

 

How long did you observe?  Did children change material and activities?

 

I'm just starting the process with my daughter either starting in January or September.  One of the books I am reading (not an easy read), but very insightful about WHY things work so well with the Montessori Method.  It is called Montessori:  The Science Behind the Genius by Angeline Stoll Lillard - Chapter 3, Choice and Perceived Control .  "Children learn to concentrate in Montessori classrooms.  In one classic example, a girl was concentrating so fully...that Dr. Montessori lifted the armchair she was working in, and the girl did not even seem to notice, but kept working with he cylinders on her lap.  After doing the work 44 times, the girl looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if waking from a refreshing nap...Dr. Montessori noted that Primary-aged children would repeat exercises 30 or 40 times in succession....Primary classrooms often have a "hushed" quality when children are busy with their work.  Elementary classrooms are more likely to include children chatting as they work, displaying an ability to multitask and a greater need for social engagement"

 

About doing things the right way, the curriculum is very structured and to do something correctly is to promote understanding of the activity and the joy of mastery.  A child is not punished for doing something incorrectly, but she reached out to an older child who showed her - that's wonderful!

 

The child eating in the corner alone was making a choice to eat.  He/she was probably eating alone because it wasn't meal-time, but he/she was hungry.

 

There are many excellent Montessori books out there - so far, this one is my favorite because it's about WHY the system works.

 

This book is a difficult read, almost like a college textbook in some respects, but it is the best book I've seen about why Montessori is successful.

post #4 of 49

I totally agree about the recommendation for "Science Behind the Genius" - this is a very well researched substantiation of Montessori's main theories.

Also would like to point out that in the early 1960s, Dr. Montessori wrote about this very topic in her book:  "The Discovery of the Child" where she relates her experiences in applying some of the materials and techniques that were in fact, developed for children in mental institutions, to the typical child population.  She made a few discoveries that really challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that many adults made (and still do) about human development.

post #5 of 49

Also, to OP - as others have mentioned, the 3 hour work period (one of the fundamental elements of Montessori) allows for this level of concentration.  It usually occurs as part of a rhythm to the day that follows a path from lots of activity/noise and action during morning greeting, calming and "orienting" activities for an hour or so, then another period of activity and noise (called "false fatigue") around 10:30 (if it is a 8:30 to 11:30 work cycle for ex), followed by the calmest period and most concentrated work of the day.  The activity sort of ebbs and flows like this.  Montessori was very scientific about it and created "concentration graphs" and alot of literature about this phenomena.

post #6 of 49
Honestly, I wish that was what my ds's 3-6 class looked like. It sounds so peaceful and calm; how Montessori should be. I have two kids in different 3-6 classes this year (and another in 6-9), and the work cycles tend to be louder and more chaotic than they ideally should be. I have seen it in other schools, though, and remember the first time I observed one when I was 18 (it was part of the hiring process). I thought it was a little strict and odd, to be honest - and what the heck were they doing with real glass? But the more time I spent there, and especially after my Montessori training, I realized just how important that type of environment was for young children (not all the time, but certainly for a typical work cycle). Including all the order and doing things 'just so'. It really does all make sense, and is in the best interest of the child.
post #7 of 49

OP, I'm actually VERY envious of what you witnessed!! I agree with what the others have said.  Great advice!  I have seen classrooms like this that flow nicely, and then I have seen the most chaotic Montessori classroom that has made me really, really sad.  As some of the others have said, all works have a very important function and if a child didn't enjoy doing it, they certainly wouldn't do it for 15 minutes straight!  My 5 year old DD (will be 6 next week) has been very focused on two things - shoe tying and the monkey bars.  She will do both activities over and over and over and over.  She has finally mastered tying (in the classroom with the dressing frame and at home using my Converse shoe :lol ) and BEGS me to take her to the "good park with the best monkeybars" so that she can practice until she gets it right.

 

Her class right now has 4 year olds to 7 year olds and can be quite chaotic at times.  I would love to see 20 kids all focused, having snack alone (instead of playing tag in the snack area!), and concentrating that deeply!!!!!

post #8 of 49

Oh, and asking an older child for help?  WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Man, can I have the name of this school?  I may consider a relocation! ;)

post #9 of 49

I'm not sure our Montessori reaches that level of concentration all the time but - yes, that is Montessori for you.

 

I wanted to just muse a bit. The idea that kids are not "happy" if they are quietly and calmly doing something meaningful to them makes me a little sad for our society.

 

As an adult who works in a creative field I know people who work really hard to achieve "flow" or "get in the groove" and find it impossible to do - and yet when our kids achieve it quite naturally, we think that because they have a serious look on their faces they are not happy and jump in to distract them with rainbow! butterflies! The insistence that our children "look happy" (smile smile smile) and that happiness is a kind of Disneyfied state of excitement to me is not really thrilling. Not that there cannot be that kind of thing in the day too -- there should be -- but just that when we walk into a preschool our first cultural inclination is not to respect quiet and calm and concentration...it's harsh.

 

Obviously if kids are forced to do something they don't want to do like fold napkins for 15 minutes, that isn't nice. But at our school anyway that's not what happens - they want to. It's very zen, like weeding in the garden can get you into a groove. (Or be punishment, depending on whether it's a choice hobby or not.)

 

For the rigidity...it depends. My son quite naturally oriented himself that way with a lot of things at home long before we even thought of going to Montessori. Even at 16 or 18 months old he would watch us and then want to do things the way we did them. He sometimes doesn't too of course, but he takes a lot of pride in doing things 'right' and then sometimes he wants to do them his way. His school is pretty relaxed about that.

 

I have to admit I came to Montessori kind of backwards. I toured a lot of daycares and I really didn't like the ones where the teachers were making the kids excited, or where very young kids (2-4) were forced into group activities. It just didn't feel right to me when I saw how my son preferred to do things at home or in playgroups. So we lean that way.

post #10 of 49
Thread Starter 

My daughter gets easily frustrated if she can't do a job perfectly. If she can't do something perfect first time, she gives up. She would try to trace a letter and she can't do it, then she gets angry and  scribbles all over the page, and rips the page off and throws it in the garbage. I have had a hard time when I'm home with her alone as she constantly wanted me to entertain her.  My daughter rarely does an activity quietly by herself. She always wants me to help her with her puzzle. Only recently, she started coloring by herself. She also does not seem to know how to relax and rest. It's really exhausting to keep her with her. We keep taking her out to different places because she bothers us so much at home.  She whines a lot and throws tantrums often.

 

Would she benefit from Montessori? I did not register her in the montessori preschool. We recently moved to a new city and she was feeling really lonely not having any friends. So we put her in a play based preschool so that she has fun playing with kids rather than learning.

post #11 of 49


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sora View Post

I observed a montessori 3-5 year old class. It was extremely quiet. Everyone was whispering. Mostly kids were working alone at a table. Even they eat snack alone by themselves at a corner - I thought this was very sad. One kid was working at a table doing a puzzle. One kid was arranging flowers. One was shining an object with cloth. She was supposed to fold the cloth certain way but she struggled so asked for help from an older child, who showed her how to do it. But why does the cloth have to be folded in a certain way?

 

 

Why does it not have to be folded a certain way?  Why shouldn't the child be allowed to fold it properly?

 

[quote]One child around 3 year old was working with a stack of cut paper towels. She was simply folding them in half and make another stack. She did it for a while - like 15minutes? What's the point of this exercise? [/quote]

 

Children this age are in a sensitive period for order.  They love organizing things and making them orderly...it's their nature.  I'd have to see exactly how they did this exercise, but I assume it was to:

--Help the child develop that sense of order.

--Give the child the opportunity to learn how to fold, thus helping them learn the practical life skill.

--Fine motor exercise

 

You're looking at "what's the point?" from an adult perspective...not a child's perspective.  Adults do things to get things done.  Children do things to aid in their development.

 

 

[quote]When I described what I observed to my husband, he said it sounded like a mental institution. Is this a typical scene of a montessori preschool?  I'm quite mesmerized by the concentration of the children but in some ways, they don't seem to be having fun.[/quote]

 

Sounds like they were having fun.  The examples you posted were clearly showing that.  The child wanted to learn something and asked another student for help.  Why is wanting to learn something a bad thing?  Why is being forced to eat a snack with someone a good thing in your mind?

 

[quote]Also, it seems rigid in a way that things have to be done exactly the " right" way.  Any comments?[/quote]

 

Why is wanting to learn how to do something the right way considered too rigid?  When I learned how to wash the dishes as a child, I didn't throw them in the sink from across the room.  When I learned how to sweep the floor, I didn't do it by smacking the broom on the floor as hard as I could.  Was my mom being too rigid by showing me how to do things properly or was I being too rigid by asking for help when I needed it?

 

I apologize for the sarcasm in the questions, but I don't understand exactly the problems you saw. 

post #12 of 49

By the way, I used to add [quote] and [/quote] when I replied to quote multiple parts.  Now I can't.  Am I missing a setting in the new format?

 

Quote:
One child around 3 year old was working with a stack of cut paper towels. She was simply folding them in half and make another stack. She did it for a while - like 15minutes? What's the point of this exercise? When I described what I observed to my husband, he said it sounded like a mental institution. Is this a typical scene of a montessori preschool?  I'm quite mesmerized by the concentration of the children but in some ways, they don't seem to be having fun. Also, it seems rigid in a way that things have to be done exactly the " right" way.  Any comments?

Never mind...just found it.  That's annoying!!!!!

 

Is there a way to go back to the older way?  I'll post on the appropriate board, too.  Just wondering if anyone here knows.

post #13 of 49

Sora - post here is just some questions I'd ask myself about my daughter in same situation, so it is not a reflection on your daughter, but more musings (to use Jenn's term above) about the  process rather than the person. 

 

For the frustration aspect, are these activities that your daughter chose?  (meaning, did she choose to trace letters?)  Were you sitting at the table with her? (meaning, she wants you to be proud of her, but maybe it does take several tries and can be done with less drama if she's directing her own activities and can try again quietly).  Does she have the right fine-motor skills to be able to write?  Does she like to color or write?  For example, maybe her current need is to develop the fine motor skills so that she can hold a pencil correctly.  Or maybe her interest lies in another area and learning to trace letters might be something she wants to do next month.  Maybe she wants something more physical like cleaning a table at certain times or rearranging her books so they're tidy on the shelf.  Time of day?  There are probably hundreds of skills/activities to be learned (again, I'm "new" here, but from one of my earlier concerns, it's almost unlimited - that a child can occupy self for 3+ years easily).  If they're learned at by the end of primary, then that is wonderful - how the child gets there may not be important, as long as he/she willingly develops the mastery of the activities.  With a list of 100+ skills to be learned, there are other things your daughter can excel as she learns others.

 

 

 Going back to my book du jour, Science Behind the Genius, which I read a few pages each day, From a Primary perspective (that's how I'm reading it now since my daughter will start in January or September) I'm getting the impression that there are a set of skills to be learned in Primary.  Many activities build upon each other.  Children who choose their activities seem most satisfied with the results.  Children are internally driven to develop in a certain way even if folding towels 50 times seems silly, it gives a sense of order (per Matt's comments about - "aid in their development" or Jenn's "zen" of gardening) and should be given a choice of activities to learn/enjoy/master.

 

I look forward to others' responses about how to deal with frustration over perfection.  Being so new, I do look forward to hearing some practical advice on these types of items.

post #14 of 49

My son just turned 3.5. Right now he loves coloring, drawing, stamping, trying to write his name, doing art projects, etc. Three months ago, he was doing exactly what you describe your daughter doing. Getting frustrated, not really interested, wanting to have it perfect the first time etc. It may be that she's just not quite ready yet. One of the things that Montessori is big on is independence. It's really cool to see a child get a snack all by themselves and clean it up--not sad! They are becoming responsible and independent. It carries over to the home, too--my son the other day took out all the fixings for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and made it himself. Other kids in our neighborhood are older than him and still drink out of sippys--he can get a glass glass, pour his own drink, put his glass in the sink when he's done...i think it's about trusting the competence of the child and then the parent (or teacher) kind of getting out of the way.

 

I just had the opportunity to observe my son's Montessori classroom and he was very focused--he didn't even notice I was there for a while! While he wasn't all smiles and excitement, the room had a quiet hum of activity and all the children seemed content. Perhaps you can do a parent/child class together so you can get an idea of how the Montessori environment works and see how your child would act in it?

post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 

In this particular example, the girl was supposed to fold the cloth over her hand first left side over, then right side over and then the top over. I don't do this fold when I shine something with cloth. I just grab a cloth and shine. It still does a good job. I guess there are always better ways of doing things. Or it has other purpose.

post #16 of 49

Maybe early geometry and spatial awareness or shapes as well as household activities?  When folding something in half, the area is half as much.  Fold it again, 1/2 as much, ultimately 1/4.  That's what is so fascinating about Montessori - over a hundred years of refining activities, each with a purpose.  Maybe extend the knowledge from that activity to be able to fold towels to put neatly in linen closet.  Re:  folding - I know I'm trying to do that with my little one's tissue, first we fold in half, then we fold again - and then wipe her nose with a soft pinch, rather than just smearing the snot across her face with a crumbled tissue (or worse, with her sleeve).ROTFLMAO.gif

 

It will be interesting to hear from one of the teachers or experienced parents what this particular folding activity helps teach.  If there is set way of doing something, there is inevitably a reason for doing it.  This is what is so fascinating about Montessori - virtually all activities have a purpose even though it's not always clear to an observing adult.

 

post #17 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sora View Post

In this particular example, the girl was supposed to fold the cloth over her hand first left side over, then right side over and then the top over. I don't do this fold when I shine something with cloth. I just grab a cloth and shine. It still does a good job. I guess there are always better ways of doing things. Or it has other purpose.



What's wrong with the girl wanting to fold it that way?  I still don't understand the problem with her wanting to fold it a way she likes.....

post #18 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sora View Post

In this particular example, the girl was supposed to fold the cloth over her hand first left side over, then right side over and then the top over. I don't do this fold when I shine something with cloth. I just grab a cloth and shine. It still does a good job. I guess there are always better ways of doing things. Or it has other purpose.


This is specifically for exercising the pincer grip in preparation for holding a pencil. Because children at this age are in a "sensitive period" for order, they are attracted to specific fine motor manipulation and exercise and so, they practice this over and over without coercion, pleading, etc.  It is a natural desire of the young child to perfect their hand movements and so we give them specific exercises that lead to skills they will need in life, like handwriting. 

Sora, I think it is cool that you observed so much detail about what the children were doing.

post #19 of 49

I knew there was a reason!  I love how all of the activities are tied together towards learning and growth!  This is fascinating how activities tie together!  I was way off base on my guess with shapes and sizes.  That's why it is so wonderful that there are so  many experienced contributors here.

post #20 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbarr_NY View Post

I knew there was a reason!  I love how all of the activities are tied together towards learning and growth!  This is fascinating how activities tie together!  I was way off base on my guess with shapes and sizes.  That's why it is so wonderful that there are so  many experienced contributors here.



I just wanted to say AMEN to this!!! Matt, Lillianna, Jenn, etc.....  I am SO glad to have you guys here! Whenever I feel crazed about something I see, they always put it into perspective! bow2.gif

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