Normalization is not
as scary as it sounds. Dr. Montessori observed that the children in
the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) achieved an integration of
self through their work. First, the child’s cycle of repetition,
concentration, and satisfaction would begin. This cycle would lead
to a development of inner discipline, self-assurance, and preference
for purposeful activity. Dr. Montessori called this process of
psychic integration "normalization." It appeared to be the "normal
state of the child."
Normalization occurs through the child’s concentration and application to his or her work. An interesting activity, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities and leads the child to self-mastery. The essential element is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s entire personality.
As E.M. Standing writes in Maria Montessori. Her Life and Work, "These new children or normalized children appeared again and again in almost every country in the world for a whole generation in Dr. Montessori’s experience. Race, color, climate, religion, civilization, all these made no difference." Everywhere and in all children, as soon as hindrances to development were removed, an integration of the self occurred through purposeful activity and the development of concentration.
Characteristics of the "normalized child" include:
• a love of order. The young child’s natural tendency for order and attention to detai expresses itself in an
intense "love of the environment" and a corresponding desire to preserve the order and beauty in it.
• love of work. The child’s purposeful activity (work) is a form of self-expression and brings the child joy in the
performance f it.
• profound spontaneous concentration. Concentration occurs that is so complete that it focuses and
develops the child’s intelligence and spirit.
• obedience. The children are remarkably obedient. To carry out the command of another whom they trust
becomes a form of self-expression because it involves the joyful exercise of a newly found faculty—the will.
• independence and initiative. The child acquires as much independence as is possible within each stage of
development. The child initiates his/her activity. Mutual aid naturally takes the place of competition. The
children help each other and appreciate each other’s achievements.
• spontaneous self-discipline. This discipline is one of the fruits of liberty. Even in the absence of an adult,
the children carry on in a responsible manner. The discipline comes from with the child.
• love of silence and working alone. This characteristic manifests itself during those times of profound
concentration when the child is focused on his/her activity and inner growth.
• sublimation of the possessive instinct. The attitude of the normalized child to his/her prepared
environment and to all the engaging occupations contained in it is not one of possessiveness. Possession is
transformed into love, intellectual interest, and appreciation. "For example: the child who once pulled plants
out of the garden now watches for its growth, counts its leaves, and measures its size. In is no longer my plant.
It is the plant." (E.M. Standing, Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work.)
• joy. The crowning characteristic of a group of normalized children is joy. Joy pervades the classroom
community. The happiness shines in the children’s faces. Their demeanour suggests an inner peace and
fulfillment from their experiences. It is the joy of acting in obedience with the laws of one’s nature.
Every year I am amazed to observe in the primary class the characteristics of the "normalized" child. Many of the children in their final year consistently manifest these characteristics. Their joy and love of learning spreads throughout the class. [top]
Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they've been encouraged to make decisions at an early age, these children are problem solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. They have also been encouraged to exchange ideas and to discuss their work freely with others and good communication skills ease the way in new settings.
To facilitate the transfer, good communication between the Montessori school and the traditional schools in a community must be maintained. Montessori parents and teachers can visit the traditional schools and prepare the child for whatever will be different. Teachers from traditional schools can be encouraged to visit the Montessori classes to observe the level of academic work.
Any good teacher will meet a child at that child's own level of development and make the necessary allowances for what has already been achieved. It is important for parents to monitor their child's work in the new academic situation and to keep in close contact with their child's teachers. Parent and teachers working together can ensure that the child will continue the love of learning acquired in Montessori.
The habits and skills which a child develops in a Montessori classroom are good for a lifetime. They will help him to work more efficiently, to observe more carefully and to concentrate more effectively, no matter where he goes. If he is in a stimulating environment, whether at home or at school, his self education - which is the only real education will continue.Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a sense of self esteem. Montessori programs, based on self directed, non competitive activities, help children develop good self images and the confidences to face challenges and change with optimism. [top]
By surrounding the child with appealing materials and learning activities geared to his inner needs, he becomes accustomed to engaging in activities on his own. Gradually, this results in a habit of initiative - an essential quality in leadership. "Ground rules" call for completing a task once begun and gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance for replacing materials after the task is accomplished. This "completion expectation gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance.
Through a well ordered, enriched but simplified environment, the child's need for order and security is intensely satisfied. This is noticed in the calming effect the environment has on the child. Since every item in the Montessori classroom has a place and the ground rules call for everything in its place, the child's inner need for order is directly satisfied. [top]
Each child works through many cycles and thrives upon many plateaus throughout his development. Objective observation and the knowledge of the needs and characteristics of the child at each plane of development guide AMI-trained Directresses in recognizing when the individual is ready to move onto the next level of development, and how to prepare the environment to meet his needs. Observation of the needs and characteristics common in the planes of development affords us greater knowledge of how to respond to and assist the development of the whole child at each stage.
Grace and courtesy lessons are presented daily to Primary children. Children between 2 _ to 6 years old are especially drawn to these activities because of their sensitive periods for learning precise movements and for learning social skills as well as their need to adapt and belong to their particular culture.
The main purpose of a Montessori school is to provide a carefully planned, stimulating environment which will help the child develop an excellent foundation for creative learning. The specific goals for the children who attend a Montessori school are:
· Developing a positive attitude toward school - Most of the learning activities are individualized: i.e., each child engages in a learning task that particularly appeals to him...because he finds the activities geared to his needs and level of readiness. Consequently, he works at his own rate, repeating the task as often as he likes, thus experiencing a series of successful achievement. In this manner, he build a positive attitude toward learning itself.
· Helping each child develop self confidence - In the Montessori school, tasks are designed so that each new step is built upon what the child has already mastered, thus removing the negative experience of frequent failure. A carefully planned series of successes builds upon inner confidence in the child assuring him that he can learn by himself. These confidence building activities likewise contribute to the child's healthy emotional development.
· Assisting each child in building a habit of concentration - Effective learning presupposes the ability to listen carefully and to attend to what is said or demonstrated. Through a series of absorbing experiences, the child forms habits of extended attention, thus increasing his ability to concentrate.
· Fostering an abiding curiosity - In a rapidly changing society, we will all be students at some time in our lives. A deep, persistent and abiding curiosity is a prerequisite for creative learning. By providing the child with opportunities to discover qualities, dimensions, and relationships amidst a rich variety of stimulating learning situations, curiosity is developed and an essential element in creative learning has been established.
· Developing habits of initiative and persistence - By surrounding the child with appealing materials and learning activities geared to his inner needs, he becomes accustomed to engaging in activities on his own. Gradually, this results in a habit of initiative - an essential quality in leadership. "Ground rules" call for completing a task once begun and gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance for replacing materials after the task is accomplished. This "completion expectation gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance.Fostering inner security and sense of order in the child - Through a well ordered, enriched but simplified environment, the child's need for order and security is intensely satisfied. This is noticed in the calming effect the environment has on the child. Since every item in the Montessori classroom has a place and the ground rules call for everything in its place, the child's inner need for order is directly satisfied. [top]
Great teachers help learners get to the point where their minds and hearts are open, leaving them ready to learn. In effective schools, students are not so much motivated by getting good grades as they are by a basic love of learning. As parents know their own children’s learning styles and temperaments, teachers, too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending a number of years with the students and their parents.
Dr. Montessori believed that teachers should focus on the child as a person, not on the daily lesson plan. Montessori teachers lead children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover. Their ultimate objective is to help their students to learn independently and retain the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born. As we said in an earlier chapter, Montessori teachers don’t simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches, and guides.
Traditionally, teachers have told us that they “teach students the
basic facts and skills that they will need to succeed in the world.”
Studies show that in many classrooms, a substantial portion of the
day is spent on discipline and classroom management.
Normally, Montessori teachers will not spend much time teaching lessons to the whole class. Their primary role is to prepare and maintain the physical, intellectual, and social/emotional environment within which the children will work. A key aspect of this is the selection of intriguing and developmentally appropriate learning activities to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class.
Montessori teachers usually present lessons to small groups of children at one time and limit lessons to brief and very clear presentations. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials.
Montessori teachers closely monitor their students’ progress. Because they normally work with each child for two or three years, they get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well. Montessori teachers often use the children’s interests to enrich the curriculum and provide alternate avenues for accomplishment and success.
An essential part of the learning environment is the other children in it. The Montessori classroom provides ample opportunities for making friends, interacting with others, developing consideration for others, learning how to cooperate and fostering a sense of interdependence.
In the prepared environment, cooperation and a sense of community are stressed. Individual differences are easily accepted and appreciated while each child is treated and taught as an individual. Children of different ages are together in the same group. This provides abundant opportunities for learning and helps to create a sense of family while everyone contributes and takes responsibility for the functioning and maintenance of the environment.
Because of the multi-aged group, the classroom has a heritage. The older children provide leadership, guidance, and act as models for the younger children. The older children also benefit by helping younger children, reinforcing previous skills and knowledge and benefiting from the satisfaction of helping others. The mix of ages also provides opportunities for a variety of safe, lasting, and meaningful friendships.The social life of the children is a vital aspect of the Montessori classroom and curriculum. Assisting the social skills, development, and abilities of children is vital to the implementation of an effective Montessori program. It is important that the complexities and ups I downs of relationships are supported and enhanced by adults sensitive to the needs and social development of children. [top]
The Montessori classroom is a "living room" for children. Children choose their activities from open shelves with self correcting materials and work in distinct work areas - on tables or on rugs on the floor. Over a period of time, the children develop into a "normalized community" working with high concentration and few interruptions. The classroom includes the following components:
The practical life exercises enhance the development of task organization and cognitive order through care of self, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy, and refinement of physical movement and coordination. The sensorial materials enable the child to order, classify, separate, and describe sensory impressions in relation, length, width, temperature, mass, color, etc. The Montessori math materials and thorough concrete manipulative materials allow the child to internalize the concepts of number, symbol, sequence, operations, and memorization of basic facts.
The language work includes oral language development, written expression, reading, grammar, creative dramatics, and children's literature. Basic skills in writing and reading are developed through the use of sandpaper letters (loose alphabet letters), and various presentations allowing children to effortlessly link sounds and symbols and to express their thoughts in writing.
The child is also presented with geography, history, life sciences, music, art, and movement education.Virtually every environment will also have an elliptical line on the floor. This is generally used for "walking on the line" activities that help children develop gracefulness and for the "silence game" where children can practice sitting without making a sound. The line is also frequently used for a large group meeting area. It is here, or in some other designated area, where the class meets as a whole. Often a class will have on or two large group meetings each day. One will usually serve as an opening meeting and precede a more individualized work period, and another will serve as a closing or transitional group time preceding the next activity (i.e., time out doors, lunch, dismissal, etc.) The group meetings may be used for large group presentations of materials, movement, and music activities, group celebrations, snacks, games, and discussions. [top]
The parent of a Montessori student will have an opportunity to be involved in the Montessori program. Parents learn more about Montessori by: Attending orientation meetings to explain the program.
Attending meetings where the unique aspects of a particular classroom as well as the specifics of Montessori curriculum are presented.
Attending open houses where the children, as the host / hostess to their parents and siblings, present their favorite activities.
Attending parent discussions groups dealing with aspects of child rearing, home environment, and child psychology.
Observing the class and discussing any observations with their child's teacher. Receiving a regularly published newsletter which includes a calendar of events information on major developments at the school, books reviews, and a list of needs and requests for help.
For most families,
television is a part of our life. It is important to evaluate the
television experience carefully however, especially in terms of the
effect it has on young children.
Too much television not only reduces the time spent on concrete learning activities, it can reduce their capacity to learn. Young children are naturally curious, busy and active, which allows them opportunities to learn about the world around them. Movement is the key to their development, as it allows them to develop their muscles, and through endless repetitions, they learn skills. At the same time, the child is learning about their social environment by interactions with other people and seeing the reactions to their behaviors from the people around them.
Television is a passive experience, whether it is educational or based on fantasy. Educational TV does not offer the child opportunities to focus attention on one subject for a long period—the segments designed to “teach” young viewers, are short and frantic, which research has suggested may lead to a shortened attention span, lack of reflectivity and an expectation of rapid change in the broader environment. Being one-way communication, TV doesn’t allow the child to respond and interact either, to improve and develop their communication skills.
These are some of the negative influences of TV on our children, so what can we do? In moderation and with careful selection of programs (excluding any which depict violent superheroes or realistic looking violence) some monitored TV viewing is fine. Taking the time to watch selected programs together can help, by being available to explain concepts and soften the effect of undesirable portrayals. Simply turning off the TV however, is often easier than it may seem! Children thrive on adult attention and interaction and generally enjoy participating in the running of the household. Children need blocks of time left unplanned also, where they are on their own to fill their time. They may need some ideas at first to “get over the hump” and be creative, but once they’re off, they relish their newly found “free” time!
The following extract is from an
article Dr. Montessori wrote on 'Disarmament in Education'. The
article first appeared in the Montessori Magazine Vol. 4 No. 3, July
It is not enough to be well intentioned and perceptive. Love is dynamic. If we love someone, we want to do something for him. If we love the child, we must realize that he has been neglected and forgotten in a world very rich in varied and beautiful things that are superfluous. We must therefore follow a new and wider path. This will not only make the child happier but will be a source of unimagined wealth and glory for our own lives.
From this we realize that an adequate social environment must be created from the start of life. Love teaches us to be constructive. Not only that, but if one looks back on the dim trail of human existence we find something very strange. Love has made us humble and has made builders of us. We are like bees which not only collect honey for their very young, but build for them a house of wax because both the honey and the wax are essential to them. This is so for the physical side, but as far as mental health is concerned the human young is still a 'forgotten citizen'. This is why we must construct a social environment. On the physical side the child's needs have begun to be recognized and many architects are now specializing in the building of houses for children whose needs and tastes are different from ours and who have the right to a house of their own and to all that is needful for their physical life and growth.
This is the direction which we must take if we wish to create a new humanity because the loving child who feels himself loved has a dynamic character. He is a child who works a great deal, who has no fear of effort and who seeks that discipline which is natural to men who live normal lives. The loving child if provided for, when reaching maturity will be the New Man.
I maintain that it is possible to foresee a new society in which man will be more world-social, because when he was a child, people had faith in him. He will also be more cultured, have more mental energy and more equilibrium. I also hold that, if properly provided for, the children - who love to work and who therefore work spontaneously and without fatigue - will absorb by the time they are twelve as much as is expected now of a child fifteen. 'But', it will be objected, 'when the children grow old, they will not always be fresh spiritually; you have too much confidence in human goodness'.
No, I am not over-confident. My personal experiences with humanity have been such as to make me the most fanatic pessimist. Mine is not a vision, it is reality. It is possible that when these children I speak of will grow old, they will no longer be spiritually fresh, so pure and dynamic. But they will have this advantage over us, they will have faith in youth and provide for their spirit. The spirit should be eternally young - and it is the spirit which recognizes the essential goodness of mankind.
Dr. Maria Montessori
"This is the direction which we must take if we wish to create a new humanity because the loving child who feels himself loved has a dynamic character."
The importance of multi-age classrooms
Educational theory and research indicate that learning is an individual process in time frame, style, and interests and children learn from one another. Even though most schools are organized by homogeneous, single-age grouping, research has not found this to be beneficial. Conversely, heterogeneous grouping by ability and age avoids identification of slow students, improves relationships between students, and facilitates the use of common learning objectives and expectations. It improves peer culture, resulting in peer modeling and peer reinforcing.
Montessori educational theory supports multi-age grouping and Montessori teachers have implemented it for almost 100 years. This concept has recently moved into the mainstream due to the recent work of many current educational theorists, researchers, and practitioners. Several states and early childhood organizations are recommending or requiring multi-age grouping in preschool and elementary settings.
While the success of multi-age grouping has been demonstrated, an analysis of specific methods and strategies is helpful as a guide.
1. Children learn from each other. This can be seen in family and play situations where children are free to observe and interact in a variety of activities. Young children learn higher level cognitive and social skills not only through mental development but also through observing others as models.
2. Multi-age grouping usually incorporates a 3-year age span based on similarities in physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Children from birth to age six respond most positively to environments with concrete, sequential materials which help them interact with and learn about limits and realities of their world.
3. Each group of children remains together in the same environment and with the same teaching team for 3 years. Ideally, therefore, only one third of the group is new each year, enabling children and teachers to get to know one another very well. This avoids the yearly stress children face of new teachers, new rules, and new expectations. For the teachers, it offers the opportunity to know each child's development over time, personalizing instruction.
4. Multi-age grouping helps children develop a sense of community and supports social development. Older children act as models and, sometimes, teachers of younger children. This aids development of responsibility, collaboration and cooperation. There is less competition because all children are not expected to have identical skills and perform equally. This leads to respect for the individuality of each person in the group and recognition that each child has unique strengths and contributions to offer the group.
5. Multi-age grouping encourages peer teaching, which helps the child as teacher and learner. As groups work the teacher has time for individual or small-group instruction.
6. Children work at their own levels, which may be different for different curriculum areas. Groups are flexible and often vary, depending on interests, subject matter, and/or ability. Children learn from the many activities within the environment and often find interest in the work of another child or groups of children. Because they see the older children interacting successfully with the more advanced curriculum, children don't develop fears of succeeding in higher grades.
7. Collaborative learning is encouraged. This occurs not only when a teacher has formed a group for a specific lesson, but often happens without specific assigned groups. Spontaneous grouping can occur when the teacher suggests that a child ask another child for assistance. Also, children working independently, but at the same table, often look to the group for brief assistance.8. Curriculum and materials are multi-dimensional and concrete, especially for children from birth to age eight. Children re-explore the same materials at different levels. For example, a group of geometric solid figures can first be explored sensorially, then named, then matched to similar objects, then analyzed, then compared to other objects for differences, then constructed out of clay, duplicated using paper, pencil and scissors, and eventually explored mathematically and geometrically. warm and accepting environment in which each child feels secure, respected, and valued. [top]
The environment is extremely important
at any level of the development of the child. To inspire the child
we choose the best of every thing for the environment. Shelves,
tables, and chairs are more durable and satisfying if they are made
of wood instead of plastic. Pictures on the wall can be framed art
prints, or simple posters
Environments in the home
There are two important things to keep in mind in organizing a child’s environment in the home.
1. Have a place in each room for the few, carefully chosen child’s belongings: By the front door a stool to sit on and a place to hang coats and keep shoes. In the living room a place for the child’s books and toys-neatly, attractively organized. Think out the activities and arrange the environment to include the child’s activities.
3. Don’t have too many things. A few shelves with baskets or trays holding those items that are being used at the moment are sufficient. It is a good idea to rotate-taking out those books and toys that have not been chosen lately and removing them to storage for a time. Children grow and change and they need help to keep their environment uncluttered and peaceful.
The environment and the mind
Everyone at every age is affected by their environment. Habits of organizing the environment reduce stress and aid the development of an organized, efficient, and creative mind. The Chinese art of placement, or Feng Shui, teaches that clutter, even hidden under a bed or piled on top of bookcase, is bad for a person. A child who joins in the arrangement of an environment, at school or at home, and learns to select a few lovely things instead of piles of unused toys, books, clothes, etc., will be aided in many ways with this help in creating good work habits, concentration, and a clear, uncluttered, and peaceful mind.