If you were to walk into a traditional preschool classroom, you might notice the décor first. Many classrooms fill the walls with brightly colored charts, posters, and decorations. Some of these items have educational purposes, such as bulletin boards to track students’ progress, but many are simply intended to liven up the space.
In a Montessori classroom, you might also notice the décor first, but not because of its bold colors. In this blog, we discuss the principles behind Montessori classroom elements and how those principles benefit students.
Hallmarks of a Montessori Classroom
Montessori classrooms are designed to be intuitive and conducive to a child’s needs at multiple developmental stages. Most Montessori classrooms feature the following:
- Designated learning areas. Each classroom is divided into multiple learning areas. Typically, these areas are dedicated to either sensory, practical, language, math, or culture experiences.
- Limited wall décor. In a Montessori classroom, decorations are kept to a minimum. Any decorations found on the walls are generally both practical and simply designed.
- Natural furnishings. Whereas many traditional classrooms use brightly colored plastic desks and chairs, Montessori classrooms mostly stick to natural wood furnishings. The furnishing arrangement is also less strict and tends to include more circles than rows.
- Soft lighting. Montessori classrooms use lighting similar to what a child might experience in his or her home. Instead of fluorescent overhead lighting, the classroom may have fixtures designated to specific sections to create a cozier atmosphere.
- Specific organization. While Montessori spaces are designed to encourage self-driven learning, they’re far from chaotic. These classrooms include neat and predictable organization of supplies, toys, and educational items.
While the design of each classroom may differ according to room architecture, student need, or resources, educators create these classrooms with the intention of optimizing the way children interact with the environment and with each other.
How Montessori Classrooms Benefit Children
This simpler, neater classroom design has numerous benefits for students. Read more about the advantages of Montessori style classrooms below.
Encouragement to Learn
The entire design of a Montessori classroom is intended to encourage learning at a child’s own pace. The sensory and practical areas of the classroom help students develop different skills, such as perception and motor skills.
Additionally, the designated spaces and clear floorplan encourage children to find areas of personal interest. This exploration encourages creativity, feelings of freedom, a sense of self, discovery, and hands-on learning experiences.
Greater Overall Comfort
If you have a child who has already started school, you know how difficult the first day of separation can be. This feeling of discomfort can come from uncertainty or attachment to individual family members, but children may experience more anxiety if they also must deal with a completely new environment.
Touring the classroom before you take your child to class can help minimize this effect. Additionally, the soft lighting and natural furnishings of a Montessori classroom make the space more welcoming and less intimidating. In many cases, children recognize familiar elements from home and adjust to the space more quickly and easily.
Studies suggest that students are more likely to become distracted in classrooms with too many types of visual stimulation. In 2014, Carnegie Mellon compared a group of 24 kindergarteners. Half of the students were taught in a heavily decorated classroom and half in a more minimalistic space. Researchers noted that children in the more visually stimulating environment spent more time off task.
By eliminating these common distractions, Montessori educators facilitate greater engagement in group activities and less discouragement from personal learning endeavors.
Minimized Management Issues
In a traditional classroom, educators may have to sacrifice some of their focus on students to ensure supplies are being used properly. The disorganized layout of a classroom can make managing the space and the students more difficult and more time consuming.
With the clear, separated areas in a Montessori classroom, educators can easily survey the space and identify any issues that need to be addressed. This organization allows teachers to work with students according to the students’ needs rather than attempting to manage the classroom in its entirety at all times.
Opportunities to Develop Specific Character Traits
Traditional classrooms focus on instilling a specific curriculum. Montessori classrooms are designed to help children develop their whole selves. The shelf and materials organization encourages children to develop discipline and socially conscious habits.
Similarly, the spaces available for self-driven learning and age-appropriate stimulation help students develop independence, learn to make personal choices, and become more confident.
While no one approach is perfectly tailored to the needs of every child, many children work better in the orderly and comfortable environment found in Montessori schools.