Core Components of Montessori Education
While there are many components that are integral to quality Montessori implementation, the American Montessori Society recognizes 5 core components as essential in Montessori schools—properly trained Montessori teachers, multi-age classrooms, use of Montessori materials, child-directed work, and uninterrupted work periods. Fully integrating all of them should be a goal for all Montessori schools.
The initial steps of the AMS Pathway of Continuous School Improvement, a framework for articulating the quality of AMS member schools, focus on where a school finds itself in its commitment to these 5 components.
1. Properly Trained Montessori Teachers
Properly trained Montessori teachers understand the importance of allowing the child to develop naturally. They are able to observe children within a specific age range and introduce them to challenging and developmentally appropriate lessons and materials based on observations of each child’s unique interests, abilities, and development (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical).
In this way, the teacher serves as a guide rather than a giver of information. She prepares the classroom environment in order to support and inspire the developmental progress of each student and guide each child’s learning through purposeful activity.
A properly trained Montessori teacher is well versed in not only Montessori theory and philosophy, but also the accurate and appropriate use of Montessori materials. She has observational skills to guide and challenge her students, a firm foundation in human growth and development, and the leadership skills necessary for fostering a nurturing environment that is physically and psychologically supportive of learning.
It is essential that Montessori teachers have training in the age level at which they teach. This training prepares the Montessori teacher to design a developmentally appropriate learning environment, furnished with specially-designed materials, where students explore, discover, and experience the joy of learning. AMS recognizes Montessori teaching credentials issued by AMS, NCME, or AMI, or by any other Montessori teacher education programs that are accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
2. Multi-Age Classrooms
Multi-age groupings enable younger children to learn from older children and experience new challenges through observation; older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered, develop leadership skills, and serve as role models. This arrangement mirrors the real world, in which individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.
AMS-approved multi-age groupings, as detailed in our School Accreditation Standards and Criteria, specify a 3-year age grouping in its accredited schools at the Early Childhood and Elementary age levels. At the Secondary level, groupings may be 2- or 3-years. Children from birth – age 3 may be grouped in varying multi-age configurations.
3. Use of Montessori Materials
A hallmark of Montessori education is its hands-on approach to learning and the use of scientifically designed didactic materials. Beautifully crafted and begging to be touched, Montessori’s distinctive learning materials each teach a single skill or concept and include a built-in mechanism (“control of error”) for providing the student with a way of assessing progress and correcting mistakes, independent of the teacher. The concrete materials provide passages to abstraction and introduce concepts that become increasingly complex.
The AMS School Accreditation Commission and Teacher Education Action Commission offer these lists of suggested learning materials for each Montessori program level.
4. Child-Directed Work
Montessori education supports children in choosing meaningful and challenging work of their own interest, leading to engagement, intrinsic motivation, sustained attention, and the development of responsibility to oneself and others. This child-directed work is supported by the design and flow of the Montessori classroom, which is created to arouse each child’s curiosity and to provide the opportunity to work in calm, uncluttered spaces either individually or as part of a group; the availability and presentation of enticing, self-correcting materials in specified curricular areas; teachers who serve as guides and mentors rather than dispensers of knowledge; and uninterrupted work periods, as described below.
5. Uninterrupted Work Periods
The uninterrupted work period recognizes and respects individual variations in the learning process. During the work period, students are given time to work through various tasks and responsibilities at their own pace without interruption. A child’s work cycle involves selecting an activity, performing the activity for as long as s/he is interested in it, cleaning up the activity and returning it to the shelf, then selecting another activity. During the work period, teachers support and monitor the students’ work and provide individual and small-group lessons. The uninterrupted work period facilitates the development of coordination, concentration, independence and order, and the assimilation of information.
AMS requires that accredited schools offer, at a minimum, a 2- to 3-hour work cycle, 4 days a week, at the Early Childhood level. Requirements for all Montessori program levels, I&T through Secondary, are detailed on our Montessori Uninterrupted Work Period webpage.