Friday, September 28, 2012

The Role of the Third Year Student in the Montessori Classroom

Role of Third Year Student NAMC Montessori Classroom planes of development girls work with blocks
In the Montessori classroom, third-year students apply
their knowledge and model behavior for younger students
When Maria Montessori developed her educational method, she created programs that encompass a three-year learning cycle. This three-year cycle corresponds with Montessori’s planes of development, each of which spans six years of the child’s life:
  • First plane: 0–6 years (Absorbent Mind)
  • Second plane: 6–12 years (Childhood)
  • Third plane: 12–18 years (Adolescence)
  • Fourth plane: 18–24 years (Young Adult)
Within each plane of development, there is a natural separation and transformation that occurs every three years.

Planes of Development and the Role of the Third Year Student in the Montessori Classroom

  • First plane:
    • 0–3 years: The child absorbs everything in her environment, subconsciously
    • 3–6 years: Child is now conscious of what is being learned
  • Second plane:
    • 6–9 years: Child has the ability to comprehend. He questions everything. He has a very curious and active imagination. It is the time for creating a personal code of ethics.
    • 9–12 years: Child is able to work more abstractly and enjoys BIG works. Inner order takes precedent over external order. Ethics now expands to peers and the world at large.
  • Third plane:
    • 12–15 years: Puberty
    • 15–18 years: Adolescence

The Montessori Classroom

Let’s take a look at how the three-year cycle works in the Montessori 3–6 environment. (The same model can be applied to the Montessori elementary and secondary environments as well).

Role of Third Year Student NAMC Montessori Classroom planes of development

The Montessori method works best when a child can experience all three years of the cycle. The first year is really laying the foundation for learning at that stage of development. And the successive years build upon that foundation. In the second year, children explore the lessons and materials in more detail and in the third, children really start to apply their learning in new ways. This third year is critical for the formation of higher level thinking skills.

The third year in the Montessori environment is really the “capstone” or senior year. Third year students are confident in who they are; they are the role models and leaders of the class, taking younger children under their wing to teach and nurture. These older students pass along what they have learned to the younger children and celebrate their learning and acquisition of knowledge and skills. They know how hard it was to learn these skills and are delighted to show their peers.

The third year is a rite of passage much as the senior year in a traditional high school. There are some high-school students who graduate early, not having to complete that senior year. However, many students reflect later at never having had a sense of closure; they were just “finished.” Often, they feel that they were removed from their environment too early, without having the opportunity to celebrate the conclusion of their 12-year work cycle. Similarly, removing a child from the Montessori environment before he has the chance to complete his third-year of the Montessori continuum robs him of a sense of completion. The final year of his Montessori program gives a child the chance to develop leadership skills and to apply his knowledge in a new direction — and that is a valuable opportunity every Montessori child should be afforded.
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 Friday, September 28, 2012.


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