In Montessori, we believe that the child is drawn to certain activities and that he instinctively knows what he needs. A child may try an activity and struggle with it initially. But he may return to it a little later with more success and then repeat it many times before mastering it. All of which may happen naturally without the interference of a teacher.
Following The Child — Observing and Guiding Learning
Montessori’s phrase “follow the child” does not mean you let the child do whatever she wants. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the child has her own pattern. The key to understanding this idea is observation. As Montessori guides, we constantly observe the child in the classroom. We pay careful attention to her interests and the activities to which she is naturally drawn, and we monitor her understanding and development of skills. We then use this level of ability as our guide.
Montessori teachers take into account where each child is at during a specific point in time rather than imposing our idea of what the child should learn at that time.If a child needs more time in a particular area, we have the freedom to give her that time to really learn that concept or skill. If she has mastered a skill or concept, we give her the opportunity to learn more about the concept through extensions or we present her with more complex work related to build on her knowledge of the concept.
From our observations, we are able to follow the child and determine their needs. Maria Montessori stated, “Follow the child, but follow the child as his leader.” We provide the opportunities to learn, grow, and develop in a safe and carefully prepared environment. The environment is created with the child in mind, considering both his current development and his future needs. We respect the child and his natural progression, honoring his spirit and independence.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, December 29, 2015.