Mixed Age Groups
Montessori classrooms place children in three year age groups, i.e. 3 - 6 year olds, 7 - 9 year olds, 10 - 12 year olds, 13 - 15 year olds and 16 - 17/18 year olds. This arrangement provides an atmosphere of community in which everyone learns from one another and everyone contributes.
As children get older, they assume a greater role within the class groups. Along with becoming an inspiration and role model, they also spontaneously share their knowledge with the younger children in the class. The considerate, respectful and caring attitude, developed from the earliest age, turns outwards with increasing age to include all the world.
Freedom within limits
The structured Montessori classroom provides freedom within clear limits. It gives children a great deal of flexibility to make their own choices about the kind of work to engage in, and whether to do it collaboratively or individually.
Freedom does not mean that children can do whatever they like. Rather, children are encouraged to think independently and act as a member of a social group. This is achieved, within clearly defined boundaries, through the freedom the children have of movement, of interaction and association, and the freedom they have to choose their own work and to learn at their own pace.
The Montessori Teacher
Like all great teachers, the Montessori teacher deliberately models the same behaviours and attitudes she is working to instil in her students.
The Montessori teacher is a trained observer of children's learning and behaviour. These observations are recorded and used to determine where each child is in his or her development. This also leads the teacher to know when to intervene in the child's learning with a new lesson, a fresh challenge or a reinforcement of basic ground rules.
As children learn in many different ways and at their own pace, the Montessori teacher is trained to "follow the child" and enhance the development of each of her pupils. They do this to a large degree, through the design of the classroom, selection and organisation of learning activities and the structure of the day.