What exactly is a normalized classroom? A normalized classroom refers to a Montessori environment where the children are working purposefully and cooperatively. Dr. Montessori described the normalized child as “...one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness.” (The Secret of Childhood).
The goal of any Montessori teacher is to recognize each child’s nature and allow it to grow. As the child chooses his own activities and becomes absorbed in meaningful work, he soon begins working with continued concentration and inner satisfaction. When we see this in a single child, we call it inner discipline. When we see it in a whole classroom, we call it normalization. It is truly impressive to see a group of children work together in peace and harmony and it is what every Montessori teacher strives for!
Tips for Encouraging Normalization in the Montessori Preschool Classroom
Sitting back and observing normalization in a Montessori environment, you would see a mixture of independent and small group work that is productive and purposeful, a high level of independence, and very few discipline issues. You would observe self-directed students are able to focus and concentrate with determination and purpose. A normalized classroom is peaceful, harmonious, and beautiful, and the normalized child learns to respect each material and appreciate its beauty.
There are some days where I look at my class and see nothing but a harmonious, normalized classroom … but other days I look around and wonder, what has come over my students? There are days where the children seem so needy and unfocused that I wonder what I may be doing wrong, and then there are other days where everyone is working purposefully, and there is a sense of calm in the classroom that is so beautiful. For the most part now, my classroom is a normalized environment, but it certainly didn't begin that way in September.
I still have a handful of children who wander throughout the class lacking focus, and purposely try to disturb their classmates. It only a few children who behave this way, and their Montessori preschool classmates work hard to help them. When I observe a child who is not yet normalized, my goal is to guide them towards purposeful tasks.
Today, my three-year-old student Jordan seemed very uninterested in being at school. He was disturbing his friends and couldn't seem to find anything that appealed to him. He was really struggling with choosing an activity to work with, and I finally said, “Jordan, it is important that you choose an activity to work with. You may choose it yourself, or I can choose it for you.” Jordan chose a sorting activity. After ten seconds or so, he finished and was ready to move on. Throughout the morning Jordan continued to struggle with settling into the daily activities, and I continued to choose work for him in hopes of helping to refocus him. After very little success, I asked an older classmate named Olivia to lend a hand. Quite often, I will pair up an older child with a younger child and today, it worked like a charm. Olivia was able to find a few different activities that appealed to Jordan, and with encouragement and continued dialogue she managed to keep him focused and interested … what an achievement!
I am so fortunate to have many young Montessori students like Olivia; they are incredible role models for the “not-yet-normalized” children. Jordan is on his way to becoming normalized and with time, patience, and consistency, he will get there. I have to continually remind myself that laying the Montessori foundation takes time, and that every child adjusts to new surroundings, new friends, and new routines at their own pace. The good news is that the next day Jordan came to school, he was ready and eager to work, and did so with purpose and joy … phew!
Here are a few handy tips for encouraging normalization:
- Take care when preparing the environment to ensure it is neat, orderly, enriched, and beautiful.
- Be diligent in redirecting children who are having a difficult time remaining focused.
- Ensure that your classroom has an enriched Practical Life area. Montessori Practical Life activities are the framework for a normalized environment!
- Work hard observing to guide children toward purposeful activities that appeal to their individual needs and interests.
- Set the tone by emphasizing Grace and Courtesy in your Montessori classroom community.
- Be patient and confident with the notion that your Montessori environment will one day be a peaceful community.
- Pair a “not-yet-normalized” child with one who will serve as a “normalized” role model … it’s amazing how much children can learn from one another!
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, February 8, 2011.