Changes to Create a Peaceful Montessori Environment: Proximity and Noise Levels
There should never be a reason to call across the classroom. Children should be close enough to the adult who is speaking to them to be able to speak in a soft voice. When I need to speak to a child or my co-teacher, I make sure that I walk across the room to address them. If I hear a child calling out to me or shouting across the room, I will walk quietly over to that child and explain to her that I would like her to come to me instead of calling out to me. The next time the child calls out to me, I will ignore her until she remembers to come seek me. I then give descriptive praise (“I like the way you came to me when you had a question”) to reinforce the positive behavior.
This was a hard lesson for me to learn as a new Montessori teacher. It seemed so much easier to simply call out to a child. It takes effort to walk to each child individually in order to speak to them. However, after being observed by a mentor, I realized that I was the cause for some of the noise level in my own Montessori classroom. Once I made the decision not call out, I noticed a big difference in the behavior of my children. Children are great imitators of the adults in their lives. If you are calm and using a quiet voice, the children will learn to do so also.
The attitude of the teacher cannot be emphasized enough. Verbally chastising a child for being noisy is ineffective. Often children are noisy or call out because they have learned this is an effective way to gain attention. It is best to quietly approach the child and gently remind them that they are to use quiet, inside voices. Doing this is respectful and engages the child in the process.
When we’re in circle and I’m waiting for the group to quiet down, I sit quietly and wait patiently for them to quiet down. Often, a child who is ready will whisper “Michelle has her waiting face on”. If it seems like I’ve waited longer than necessary, I will casually notice aloud how quickly some have gotten ready or simply state that I appreciate those who are sitting quietly, waiting. The key is never raising my voice. When I wish for the students to be quiet, I keep my voice calm and soft. Raising your own voice only ensures that the children’s voices will rise as well. I also have known Montessori teachers who do not “sssshhhhh” their children as they feel this sound is harsh and only adds to the noise level in the classroom.
When you need to get the attention of the whole class, find a quiet, unobtrusive way to signal for their attention. A peace bell, a chime, a Tibetan singing bowl, or a rainstick are quiet and peaceful sounds. I had a friend who chose to use a small gong, but soon found the sound quite harsh and irritating. Unfortunately, her children had grown to love it and she was forced to use it for the rest of the year!
It is important to remember that in a Montessori classroom, quiet and calm do not come from threats or promises of rewards. A peaceful classroom is the result of children engaged in their work. The Montessori teacher is the best model. If you want a quiet classroom, you must model being quiet yourself.
For more information on this topic and other related Montessori classroom management topics, consider purchasing NAMC’s new Montessori 6-12 Classroom Guide.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, June 13, 2007.