The Montessori method of education is an approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. It is based on the principles of hands-on learning, individualized instruction, self-directed activities, mixed-age classrooms, and a intentionally prepared environment.
In the Montessori approach, classrooms are designed to promote independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of responsibility in students. Teachers act as guides and facilitators, rather than lecturers, and provide individualized learning opportunities to meet the unique needs and interests of each student.
The method emphasizes hands-on learning and the use of specially designed materials to encourage exploration and discovery. It also values the whole child, including their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. The Montessori method is often associated with a peaceful and collaborative learning environment, where students are encouraged to help and learn from one another. It aims to foster a love of learning, critical thinking skills, and a strong sense of self-motivation in students.
Student-Centered vs Teacher-Centered Learning In a Montessori school, the focus is on the individual student and their unique needs and interests. The teacher acts as a guide, creating a prepared environment that promotes independent exploration and discovery. In a traditional school, the teacher is the center of attention and directs the learning process.
Mixed-Age Classrooms Montessori classrooms typically have mixed-age groups, usually spanning a 2 or 3-year age range. This allows for older students to act as mentors and role models for younger ones, while also promoting collaboration and socialization. In a traditional school, students are usually grouped according to their age.
Montessori classrooms emphasize self-directed learning, where students choose their activities and work at their own pace. This promotes independence, self-motivation, and a love for learning. In a traditional school, students are given a structured curriculum and are expected to follow the same pace as their peers.
Focus on Hands-On Learning
Montessori schools place a strong emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning. Students use concrete materials to explore and understand abstract concepts. In a traditional school, learning is often more focused on textbooks and lectures.
Less Emphasis on Grading or Tests
Montessori schools de-emphasize the use of tests and instead focus on continuous individual assessment, progress tracking, and mastery learning. This reduces competition among students and promotes a love for learning rather than a focus on grades. In a traditional school, students are graded and tested on a regular basis.
Emphasis on Practical Life Skills
Montessori education places a strong emphasis on teaching practical life skills that fosters early development of independence and caring for the environment. These skills are important for the child’s overall development and independence. In a traditional school, these skills may not be prioritized in the curriculum.
Montessori schools create individualized curriculum plans for each student based on their interests, abilities, and learning style. This allows students to learn at their own pace and in a way that works best for them. In a traditional school, instruction is delivered as a whole class rather than specifically targeted to the needs of each individual student.
Environment and Classroom Design
The physical environment in a Montessori classroom is carefully designed to promote independence, freedom of movement, and self-directed learning. Furniture and materials are child-sized and arranged in a way that allows for maximum exploration and independence. In a traditional classroom, the design and layout may be more structured and teacher-centered.
Most Montessori schools are owned or operated independently. Therefore, you may see significant differences between different schools.
There are two main organizations known worldwide that offer accreditation and membership to schools based on various qualifying requirements. The New School is accredited by one of these organizations, the American Montessori Society. The other organization is the Association Montessori Internationale. Accreditation by one of these organizations is a good way to ensure the school adheres to Montessori principles and to the Montessori Code of Ethics.
The Montessori philosophy is based on sound empirical research in child development, psychology, and sociology among other pedagogical disciplines. Montessori classrooms feature several characteristics that reflect this research.
The multi-age grouping is one of these features. The impact and efficacy of peer learning is a powerful tool that benefits both the younger and older children. The younger children have older students to look up to and learn from. The older children are able to enhance their leadership abilities and reinforce an understanding of their own skills and knowledge by sharing with younger children. Children learn to collaborate, problem-solve, and expand their social skills in a way that would not be possible in a classroom comprised of one age group.
Uninterrupted Work Periods
In Montessori, students have long periods of uninterrupted time to work and concentrate on activities. These uninterrupted chunks of time allow for deep exploration and concentration on a particular task.
Montessori classrooms are filled with engaging and unique hands-on materials that are intentionally designed to teach specific concepts and skills. Many of these materials are self-correcting, which means that students can identify their own mistakes and correct them independently.
Choice and Autonomy Within the prepared environment, children are given a choice of selected activities to engage in and are allowed to work at their optimal pace. This promotes a sense of autonomy, encourages intrinsic motivation, and fosters mastery of the each skill before advancing to the next level of material.
Multi-sensory Learning Montessori materials are designed to engage multiple senses, which helps to reinforce deeper learning and cater to individual learning styles.
Whole Group, Small Group, and Individual Instruction
Montessori classrooms incorporate a mix of whole group, small group, and individual instruction. This allows for the teacher to address the varying needs of each student and provide personalized instruction.
Children are encouraged to reflect on their own work and assess their own progress. This fosters independence, a growth mindset,self-efficacy, and allows children to take ownership of their own learning.
Preparation for Real-life Skills Montessori activities are designed to teach practical life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and self-care. These skills help children develop independence, responsibility, and confidence.
Emotional and Social Development
Montessori emphasizes the importance of emotional and social development alongside academic learning. Activities and lessons aim to foster empathy, cooperation, and respect for others.
The role of a Montessori teacher is to guide and facilitate children's learning and development in accordance with the Montessori philosophy and methodology. This involves creating a prepared environment that is attractive and inviting for children, observing and understanding each child's individual needs and interests, and providing them with opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration.
Using detailed record keeping, teachers structure each child's individual program to balance their interests with the required curriculum.
The teacher also serves as a role model for grace, courtesy, and respect towards others, and helps to foster a sense of community and cooperation among the children. In addition, a Montessori teacher collaborates with parents and other professionals to support each child's holistic development, and regularly evaluates and tracks the progress of each child to provide individualized support.
The curriculum covers five main areas: practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, and cultural studies. Each area has specific goals and materials that are designed to support the child's learning and development.
Practical Life focuses on developing the child's independence, coordination, and concentration through everyday activities such as pouring, spooning, and buttoning.
Sensorial helps children develop their senses and refine their ability to observe, discriminate, and compare. Materials in this area are designed to help children explore and refine their senses through activities such as matching, sorting, and grading.
The Montessori language curriculum emphasizes the development of oral language, vocabulary, and literacy skills through activities including storytelling, vocabulary development, and phonics.
The math curriculum is designed to help children develop an understanding of mathematical concepts through hands-on materials and activities. Children work with materials such as number rods,color-coded bead bars, and more to explore concepts such as counting, math operations, and geometry.
Cultural studies include topics such as history, geography, biology, botany, and zoology. Children learn about other cultures, the natural world, and the interconnectedness of all living things through hands-on exploration and activities.
In addition to these main areas, the Montessori curriculum also includes art, music,movement activities, and other enhancement activities to promote creativity and spark new interests.
The Montessori elementary and middle school curriculum is designed to cover a wide range of subjects and areas of development in a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. The emphasis is on developing self-reliance, critical thinking, and other 21st century learning benchmarks. The topics and skills learned in these programs are aligned with NC state standards. Please visit our Programs page for a comprehensive overview of the curriculum for each grade.
A typical day in our Montessori classrooms involves a balance of child-led and teacher-guided activities and lessons.
Morning Meeting During the day, the class will meet as a whole group toshare news and discuss the day's activities. There may also be a short demonstration or lesson presented in these meetings.
Work Time Our classrooms are set up to encourage independence and self-directed learning. During work time, children are given the opportunity to choose activities with the support and guidance of the teachers. The materials in the classroom are carefully chosen to promote hands-on learning and to cater to each child's individual interests and needs. Children have free movement throughout the classroom throughout the work period. During work time, the teachers will also be presenting small group and individual lessons.
Mostclassrooms also have a designated circle time, where the whole class gathers for songs, stories, and discussions related to the theme or concept of the week.
Children are encouraged to have a snack during the morning. They are responsible for preparing their own snack and cleaning up after themselves.
Montessori education values the importance of outdoor play and nature-based learning. Each classroom has a designated outdoor learning environment that is utilized throughout the day, weather permitting. The school also has several outdoor areas and trails also designed to provide children with an outdoor learning experience.
Enhancement Activities We offer a wide range of enhancement activities such as art, music,movement, physical education, sign language, foreign languages, gardening, and more. Older students also participate in activities such as community service projects, running a micro-economy, coding, in addition to pursuing other areas of personal interest. The school also schedules multiple in-house and external field trips each year.
Lunch and Recess Children bring their own lunch to school and eat together in their classroom or occasionally outdoors. Either before or after lunch, children will have at least 30 minutes of outdoor recess where they are free to play.
Afternoon Work Time
After lunch, there is another work period similar to the morning session, where children can continue their independent work or work with the teacher in small groups or independently.
This daily routine may vary slightly depending on the age group and individual classroom, but the core elements of independent learning, hands-on experiences, and socialization are present in each Montessori classroom.
Teachers rely heavily on a variety of assessment tools to monitor, guide, and optimize each child's progress.
Observing students is one of the primary ways to assess each child's progress. The teachers observe the students as they work on different activities and take note of their engagement, concentration, mastery of the subject, and level of independence. Based on this information, the teacher assesses when the child is ready to progress onto more challenging work.
Progress Trackers We utilize a variety of online tools to track a student's progress. This data includes academic achievement across the curriculum, developmental milestones, social-emotional information, cognitive skills, and behavioral monitoring. Beginning in Kindergarten, more formal evaluations and tests may be administered to collect baseline data and to monitor progress.
Work Journals / Work Plans Students utilize a work journal or work plan where they record their own progress and reflect on their learning. These journals are tracked by the teachers or student advisors to assess time management and other executive functioning skills. Use of these journals also promote metacognitive skills and allow the student to have agency over their work.
Portfolios are a collection of a student's work over a period of time. They can include samples of their work, self-reflections, and teacher evaluations. Portfolios provide a well-rounded view of a student's progress and can be used to communicate with parents.
Student-Led Conferences Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning, and student-led conferences are a great way to involve students in the assessment process. During these conferences, the student can share their work and progress with their parents and discuss their strengths and areas for improvement.
Standardized Tests Standardized tests can provide a benchmark for a student's progress. However, it's important to note that these tests have limited use and do not determine a student's level of personal success.
We offer several after-school programs for both pre-elementary children and elementary students. There are usually 3 sessions per academic year, beginning in the fall. Each activity typically lasts for 10 weeks. For a complete list of our current clubs, please visit our after-school page.
The school offers a Student Services Program that provides collaborative support to both the teachers and families of children who are in need of additional services or tracking. Children who are gifted, neurodivergent, or who may be experiencing social-emotional difficulties are tracked and provided additional support as needed.
As part of this program, the school utilizes the services of the NC State Psychoeducational Clinic. Families may be referred to this service for additional testing or evaluations as needed.
Our Montessori programs are designed to address the individual needs of children regardless of their abilities, interests, and background. The Montessori method allows each child to progress at his or her own optimal pace using a variety of materials, instructional techniques, and activities. Whether your child is gifted, advanced, average, or has a learning disability or delay, the Montessori approach to learning has a great deal to offer your child.
We want all of our students to be happy and successful. However, there are circumstances in which the school may not be able to provide a student with the services they need. For any circumstance where there is a need for a high level of intervention requiring increased supervision, we may assist the family in locating an alternate environment that will best suit the needs of the child.
Yes, there are multiple opportunities for parents and families to be involved!
Community Engagement Committee (CEC) Parents can volunteer to be part of the CEC. This group helps organize events and volunteer activities, assists with initiatives, and provides networking opportunities.
Each classroom has one or two parent representatives who help the teachers organize volunteers for classroom events and activities. Some classrooms also have library or other specific volunteer positions.
We are in frequent need for volunteers to listen to younger children read.
Parent Workshops and Information Sessions Our teachers and administrators offer a variety of workshops and information sessions for parents to attend and learn about topics such as child development, the Montessori curriculum, and more.
These are important opportunities for parents to meet with their child's teachers and discuss their academic progress and any concerns they may have.
Fundraising Events and Activities The school hosts a variety of events and activities to raise funds for school improvements and developments.
School Events and Celebrations
Parents can attend school events such as sports day, the talent show, field trips, and other events throughout the year.
We believe that social and emotional development is just as important as academic development. We have a holistic approach to education that considers the overall well-being of our students.
Our approach to fostering social and emotional development includes the following strategies:
1. Incorporating social and emotional learning into the curriculum: We have integrated social and emotional learning (SEL) into our curriculum to teach students important skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
2. Promoting a positive school culture: We have a positive and inclusive school culture where students feel safe, supported, and valued. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and providing resources for conflict resolution and peer mediation.
3. Providing opportunities for social interaction: We encourage students to collaborate and work together in group projects and classroom activities. We also organize extracurricular activities and events that promote teamwork and community building.
4. Offering support for mental health: Our Student Support Services offers support from trained professionals. Additionally, the school contracts with the NC State Pschoeducational Clinic which offers children access to licensed mental health professionals. We also have a peer mentoring program where older students support and mentor younger students.
5. Teaching mindfulness and stress management techniques: We have integrated mindfulness practices into the school day to help students build resilience, manage stress, and improve concentration.
6. Training and professional development: Our teachers and staff undergo training and professional development on social and emotional learning and how to support students' social and emotional development effectively. This ensures that our approach is consistent throughout the school.Overall, our goal is to create a nurturing and supportive environment where students can develop strong social and emotional skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
The New School has provided students an excellent Montessori education since 1984. As part of our commitment to quality, we have followed up with many of our alumni to find out what, if any, transfer issues they encountered. Our alumni's feedback has indicated the vast majority transferred very successfully to a wide variety of academic institutions. Acceptance rates of our alumni into private and magnet high schools and to universities all over the country and the world are impressively high.
Montessori education is based on the principle of fostering independent, self-motivated, and lifelong learners, which has been shown to set students up for success in a variety of areas. Here are some specific statistics and research findings that demonstrate the success of Montessori students:
1. Academic achievement: Study's conducted by the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector found that Montessori students scored higher on standardized tests of reading, math, and science compared to their non-Montessori peers. They also showed more advanced writing and problem-solving skills.
2. College readiness:Montessori students tend to display better organizational and time-management skills, and have higher levels of motivation and engagement in the learning process, all of which are important for college success.
3. Career success: In a survey conducted by the Montessori Foundation,59% of Montessori graduates reported being entrepreneurs, and many others reported successful careers in a variety of fields, including medicine, law, engineering, and the arts.
4. Other studies: Additional research has indicated that Montessori students also excel in social-emotional and conflict resolution skills. Studies also indicate Montessori students are curious, independent, self-motivated, and maintain a love of learning throughout their lives.