A Montessori directress is a skilled observer who uses her knowledge and training to provide children with the necessary guidance to facilitate individual development. A directress frequently observes her Montessori students to determine where they are at developmentally and to guide them to appropriate lessons and activities. The Montessori directress also observes her students to determine what, if any, changes need to be made in the environment to facilitate student growth and development. Perhaps an area is too open or too narrow … a skilled observer will notice if the Montessori environment can be altered to promote safety, encourage ease of movement and overall, create a more productive work space.
Another important part of being a skilled observer is being a meticulous note-taker; doing so through checklists, narrative reports, jotting down quick comments through the day, etc. It is so important to regularly track a child’s progress to ensure you are in tune with their individual needs and to help paint a true picture of where each student is at in all aspect of his/her development.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to observe many children in a Montessori environment, including my own — and I can honestly say that I always learn something new! Observation gives the Montessori teacher a chance to see where a student is developmentally and what skills he or she is working to perfect. It is such a gift to be able to step back and observe without distractions, and I think one of my favorite aspects of observing in my Montessori preschool classroom is being able to hear the interesting and often humorous exchanges between the children.
The Art of Observation in a Montessori Classroom — Sensitive Periods, Productivity and Humor
I’ll never forget the time I was observing two students working with the World Puzzle Map. I overheard one child tell his friend that every Thursday he goes to Antarctica for skating lessons… how cute is that? Or the time I observed two children exploring the items on the Nature Table, and the little girl told her friend that the prickly pine cone felt exactly the same as her mommy’s legs. (I’m sure her mommy would have loved that comment!) Just the other day, my three-year-old student Jordan picked up a shark’s tooth and said to his friend, “Wow, the tooth fairy must be a great swimmer and very brave to have taken this tooth!” The logic of a preschooler is absolutely priceless.
Observing children in the Montessori classroom is truly a skill that takes years to perfect, developed over time with a great deal of practice.
Today, I had the opportunity to observe Jordan, and I noticed many important aspects that will help me be more in tune with his sensitive periods and individual interests. Jordan is definitely in a sensitive period for counting, as he made a point of counting anything and everything that he could find, from the smooth river rocks on the Peace Table to the cutlery on the snack shelf. I observed that he still needs practice with one-to-one correspondence, and consequently, have made a note to myself to provide lessons with the Number Rods and various other counters in the coming weeks. I also noticed that he is in a sensitive period for washing his hands. In a 20-minute period, he washed his hands FOUR times and was clearly proud to be able to do it all by himself!
Over the weekend, I think I will prepare a handwashing activity for the Practical Life area, and I am certain it will be one of Jordan’s favorites. Another observation that struck me is that Jordan has a much harder time focusing on his work when he is at a group table. He works SO much better at an individual table… the difference is like night and day! I will definitely make a point to guide him towards individual tables from now on, until his attention span increases and he learns to tune out distractions more effectively. Over the years I have definitely learned to appreciate the power of observation, and there is always something new to be learned.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, January 5, 2011.