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Maria Montessori: Theory, Method & Quotes

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  • 0:00 Who Was Maria Montessori?
  • 1:07 The Montessori Theory
  • 1:45 The Montessori Method
  • 3:02 Quotes From Montessori
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
Learn about Maria Montessori and the theory behind her unique and pioneering approach to teaching children. Find out how the Montessori method is applied, and then review some of her famous quotes.

Who Was Maria Montessori?

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator who developed the Montessori Method of teaching. The Montessori Method is generally based on the idea that children learn best when the environment supports their natural desire to acquire skills and knowledge.

Born in 1870, Montessori grew up in a family that supported her education and love for reading. She later went to medical school, choosing psychiatry as her specialty. From there, she went on to develop an interest in education and pedagogy, eventually opening a childcare center for underprivileged children. Through her methods, Dr. Montessori discovered that the children in the center enjoyed puzzles and learned more quickly when they were taught subjects, like math, by manipulating materials.

Dr. Montessori noted how these children learned through these specialized surroundings, choosing what they wanted to work on and how they taught themselves in the process. From this, Dr. Montessori developed learning materials and environments that supported a child's innate interest in learning.

The Montessori Theory

In her observations of children, Dr. Montessori identified developmental phases, each with its own set of goals for learning: the development of an individual self, social development, the 'birth' of the adult phase and the mature phase.

During each phase, children are driven to acquire certain skills. For example, a very young child is driven to develop language and speech. These phases, or stages, are what Dr. Montessori called 'windows of opportunity,' and she designed the classroom with age-appropriate tasks and materials to maximize learning during these stages.

The Montessori Method

The Montessori classroom is designed around three key points: the teacher, the child and the environment. Each child works at his own pace, and any help from other children happens spontaneously. There's no pressure from teachers to work faster, and teachers offer guidance for building on skills as needed.

Montessori classes consist of children of different ages, which more closely resembles a real-world environment. The younger children (ages 3-5) focus their 'work' on materials that develop cognition through seeing, tasting, smelling and touching through direct experience.

Elementary-aged children in the upper grades shift away from the concrete (or sensory) to focus more on abstract tasks. The materials and curriculum are interdisciplinary, and children begin to apply their knowledge to the real world. Students explore the same subjects as in other schools, math, science, languages and history, but the approach to these subjects is different. For example, students examining a map of Europe not only learn about the geographical aspects, but also the art and history of the continent. This process allows students to fully explore a topic and not be restricted to discrete parts separate from the whole.

Quotes about Montessori

Let's look at Dr. Montessori's philosophy of life and education, in the founder's own words:

And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.

And also:

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