When you enter a Montessori classroom, differences between it and a traditional preschool are immediately apparent. Firstly, you will notice completely different materials. A Montessori classroom is full of high quality, specially designed pieces of equipment with which students are taught a multitude of lessons ranging from sensorial exercises, practical life experiences, language arts, math and cultural studies.
The materials are designed to be self-correcting, allowing students to learn best from their own independent trial and error rather than having every lesson be dependent on the teacher to provide all information. The materials are also multi-staged and multi-faceted and progress to heightened levels of difficulty. Once a child masters one level, he/she is inspired and motivated to reach for the next one. Children gain enormous self-esteem and confidence by mastering the materials on their own.
Independence is a major component of a Montessori classroom. Because the environment is prepared for children to self-select many of their own activities, there is much more opportunity for free choice and self-reliance. Often times, one will see every student doing different activities from each other because of the emphasis on individual needs and free choice. A Montessori classroom is a structured environment, however, allowing much freedom within the structure. You will also notice a Montessori teacher giving more individual instruction to one student at a time as opposed to traditional group instruction because inherent in the Montessori philosophy is the notion that all children are unique and that individual learning differences must be recognized. It is a method based on observation of each individual child so that each child’s own needs can be met. There is more opportunity in a Montessori classroom for students to learn academic subjects in a non-stressful manner if they are ready because there is a fundamental belief that young children have an academic desire and ability that other educators often overlook.