What makes Montessori different from conventional methods of education is the use of concrete materials that guide the child to inquire and construct their own knowledge. While conventional classrooms use manipulatives, in Montessori, the children use the materials to discover the laws of nature and learn on their own. Manipulatives used in a conventional setting are only used after the teacher has told the child the laws, and the manipulatives are used to practice, not discover.
Worksheets and Workbooks in the Montessori Environment: Not Always a Good Fit
The Montessori materials bring abstract thought and concepts to life in front of the child. They understand what it means to cube a number because they have built it, touched it, held it, and seen it. They construct whole sentences and stories using the moveable alphabet before they are even able to read. These ‘materialized abstractions’ represent the child’s work. However, the parent is not there to see this work and must, therefore, rely on the teacher to tell them what was worked on.
There are several reasons worksheets/workbooks do not work in the Montessori environment:
- No logical control of error makes them adult-centered
- Child does not create the work
- No room for creativity
- Right answers receive praise or incentives; wrong answers require corrections (punishment)
- The nature of a worksheet, matching/fill-in-the-blank/unscrambling does not lead to real thinking skills
Using workbooks in the first plane of development (ages 0-6) removes the very important element of self-discovery. Moving to paper and pencil immediately moves work from a concrete level to one of abstraction. Young children need movement and the ability to manipulate objects and experience and embrace learning with all their senses.
Parents want their children to succeed and they need evidence that their child is learning. In our next blog, you’ll learn about ways you can document the child’s progress without having to resort to conventional worksheets, as well as when using a worksheet/workbook may be appropriate in the Montessori setting.