Friday, April 20, 2018

What I Learned From A Montessori Classroom

Today I had the privilege of observing my two children at their Montessori School. Claire who is 5 ½ and Audrey who just turned 4 have both thrived in this school environment. Over the years, I have watched them grow and discovered some of the reasons for their growth and joy of learning.
As I walked into the girls classrooms, I took in all the sights and sounds of their classroom environment. A peaceful, clean, joyful, and busy place, where students took pride and ownership of their work. A place where students persisted at challenging tasks and did their best just because they knew a job worth doing is worth doing well.

As I sat in the observers chair to watch the work going on in the classroom, I reflected on what I had captured over the years from the Montessori classroom and put in place in my own classroom.

1)      Giving Choice

Montessori allows choice.                                                                                                                  

      I give my students control over their day by adding choice in their seating, work spaces, work materials, station work, and cafeteria seating.Giving them some choice in the day helps them own their learning and become learners that are more independent. It also creates an inner drive in my students, which motivates them to continue their learning outside the classroom. Giving choice is something that all children should experience to help them practice making decisions and get to know themselves as learners.

2)      Welcoming Mistakes

Montessori looks at mistakes as part of the learning experience.                                                  
We discuss how learners make mistakes, which give us the opportunity to try something different, making our work better. There is a sense of peace knowing that if I didn’t get it right today, I can continue to work on it until I feel proud of my work, but I can also be proud of myself right now for trying my best and sticking with a challenging task.

3)      Spills Happen
Montessori teaches practical life using every day tools.              
      It is extremely important to me that my students know how to handle spills and other clean up situations in and out of the classroom. I let my students know from day one that taking care of the classroom is a family responsibility and by taking care of the classroom, we take care of each other.

I can always tell when a student has truly bought into this idea when I come over to the café table and find out a big spill just happened, yet is already gone because the kids helped each other clean it up. This seems simple, but this is a proud moment for me because my students have learned they are capable yet also willing to tackle problems with their classmates.

4)      Letting Parents Observe

  Montessori offers observation.                                                                             

I sat in a seat today called the observing seat. When I left the school today, I could not put into words the feelings I had, but I can say I felt grateful for every single educator in that school, just by sitting and watching.

As an educator, I know there is so much that takes place in any given day. If I were to explain to a parent their child’s full day from bell to bell I would overwhelm them. I have found that observation allows a parent to see the windows into your classroom and into their child’s world, allowing much conversation to take place in the child’s home.

If you open your class up for parents to observe not only will they connect more with their child’s learning, but they will also be more willing to connect with you, so don’t just show parents pictures of their child and the classroom, but let parents come in, seeing the action first hand.

5)      Teaching Letter Sounds First 

Montessori focuses on letter sounds, not names  
 I have learned with my own children and my past kindergarten classes that to help a child to read, they need to focus on the letter sounds.  With my own children, I started teaching letter sounds by 16 months old. Many thought this was too early, but playing games with language from an early age has  helped my own children become early readers and improved their speech. In my kindergarten classroom, we name a letter by its letter sound. We do learn, it is also called letter A, but the focus is always on the sounds. By the end of the year most if not all students are reading in the classroom. Once they master the sounds, they can master reading.

6)      Modeling

Montessori schools use intentional and specific language.                                                            I am an encourager, so I tend to want to praise students for great work, and that’s okay, but I have to be careful not to have students rely on verbal praise to do a task. Instead, I want them to be proud of their work. I work on this daily by recognizing task persistence.

Language I am practicing using with my students:
-I noticed (stating what they did)
-Is this work you are proud of, What makes you proud of it?
-How did you feel when you accomplished this?
-Is there anything you will do differently next time?

We can learn so much from all walks of education. 
I am thankful I have witnessed the Montessori approach with my own children, allowing me to use their ideas in my own classroom.
I won’t be turning my classroom into a Montessori one, after all I work at a public school and not all their approaches work for my students and our classroom, but I AM grateful I have learned some amazing strategies to carry with me to my own classroom. Many of these have made me a better teacher and a better mother.

It is my hope that by adding these details found in Montessori schools, I can add more light to my own public school classroom. Making our class a better place where all my students grow to become lifelong learners.

Extra Resources:
Here is an awesome video about the founders of Google and their Montessori experience:

Alana Stanton is a kindergarten and technology specials teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 14 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, second grade, and kindergarten. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.


  1. I can always tell when I run into a Montessori educated student who went all the way through—from the first entry up to college level—there's always something about them; creative, inquisitive, a more focused quality to them. Always recommend it. Great article. Thanks.

  2. Wonderful article. So great when we get to participate in our children’s classrooms. Your takeaways are clear and make sense!

  3. I am going to focus on letter sounds first next year. I usually teach them simultaneously, but I think some students will benefit from this approach.