Sunday, June 03, 2007

Looping – An Option for Managing the Public Montessori Classroom

NAMC montessori public school looping teacher helping girl

Public school Montessori teachers face their own unique challenges. In a traditional Montessori classroom, the curriculum was set by Maria Montessori and can be found in NAMC's Montessori curriculum manuals. When a tradition Montessori teacher teaches, it is determined by student interest and ability. However, the curriculum in the public school is dictated by the year in which the children find themselves, regardless of ability or interest. This can be especially difficult to manage in a multi-age classroom where each age is responsible for learning a preset curriculum for that grade.

I spoke with an administrator of a public Montessori school a few weeks ago who said their biggest challenge was being able to get all the lessons in. She said that their teachers could average 10-12 math lessons per day in order to get through the year-long prescribed curricula of each of their three grades. Teachers find themselves trying to teach three distinct curricula simultaneously. Not only is that exhausting for a teacher, but it’s very limiting. She has little time to walk around and observe her children working. It also doesn’t leave much time for student led exploration.

How then, do public school Montessorians accomplish this task of meeting both mandated curriculum standards and following the child?

What is Looping, and how can it help in the public Montessori School?

Some schools are exploring the idea of Looping, or multi-year placement. Looping was the idea of Rudolf Steiner, who started the Waldorf schools in the early 1900’s. While this is not multi-age classrooms, it is the idea that Montessori teachers stay with the same group of children, usually for two years.

It allows the Montessori teacher and the students the ability to get to know each other better over the course of two years. Looping builds the solid teacher-student relationships and maintains classroom consistency; so important in the Montessori classroom. The teacher is able to implement more coherent instructional plan as well. Teachers are able to “follow the child” for two years of their development and they don’t have to spend the time the following year getting to know a whole new group of children. Students benefit from the additional time spent with the same class because they can afford to develop social skills and cooperative group skills. Students take more risks because of the close social ties that develop.

Looping is being tried in many public Montessori schools. It is not the only solution to the ever increasing challenge of meeting mandated curriculum guidelines while maintaining a Montessori environment. It does not involve children of multiple ages working together, but it does allow the teacher to present the curriculum in a Montessori environment and allows her to follow her children for two solid years before they graduate to the next level. There is more room to follow the child in this environment, rather than the Montessori teacher spending each day locked into just giving lessons.

For more information on Looping in the Montessori classroom, please read the study published by Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory At Brown University, titled:
Looping: Supporting Student Learning Through Long-Term Relationships.
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 Sunday, June 3, 2007.


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