Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Delving Deeper: The Importance of Simplicity in the Montessori Environment

NAMC simplicity in montessori environment teacher girl working with math

A few years ago when I was teaching at a Montessori public charter school, the lower elementary teacher next door invited me to observe her classroom and look at her shelves. When I walked in her classroom, I could see that in her eyes, more was better. Soon to retire, she had amassed a great quantity of materials over her teaching career and every piece of it was on display. In comparison, my classroom looked rather simple and plain, a fact she was very quick to point out.

The Montessori Environment: Simplicity Supports the Method

This teacher believed it was her responsibility to present every lesson and material possible each year. There were so many things on the shelves that it was difficult to know where to start. The sheer number of works was overwhelming. Sadly, many of the Montessori materials had been pushed aside as flashier plastic materials took up room on the shelves. The effect of the busy shelves could be seen on the students who seemed to wander around at a frenetic pace, picking up materials only to quickly discard them for something else. While the students looked busy, they did not seem to be focusing on anything long enough to truly understand and learn about it.

NAMC simplicity in montessori environment boy writing

Looking at my colleague’s room reminded me of encountering a vast holiday buffet at a fancy restaurant. When you first enter, you are instantly amazed at the sight before you. You rush to take as many tiny samples as you possibly can, having only a little bite of many different things. When asked what your favorite or most memorable dish was, you are hard pressed to remember. However, if you were to have an intimate, well-prepared three-course meal, it would be easy to remember not only what was served, but the flavors of the ingredients and how well each dish paired with the other. You would understand the thought and the preparation that went into each dish and would be thankful for the artistic presentation created by the chef. While seemingly more simple, the depth of the gustatory experience would be vastly enhanced and your memory of the meal greater.

The Montessori curriculum is amazing in both scope and sequence. To give every single lesson every year to every child is not only impossible, it is impractical. Moreover, it is does not respect the child’s learning, since the focus is more on giving lessons and getting through the curriculum than on following the passions and abilities of the child. It is for this reason that Montessori teachers begin each year in the elementary programs with the simple telling of the Five Great Lessons. Through these impressionistic stories we give the children the keys to the universe, thus freeing them to explore, ask questions, conduct research, and create their own understanding. When you think about it, we explain all of creation in just five stories. Nothing could be simpler and, at the same time, so very critical to understanding. And this simplicity is really what Montessori is all about.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, October 8, 2013.


Post a Comment

Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!