Dr. Marlene Barron: Montessori Educator.
Topic: How Montessori Principles Develop Self-Regulation;
with Strategies on How to Implement at Home
Dr. Marlene Barron’s long and distinguished career in Montessori education spans over 50 years. Founder of Staten Island Montessori School; prolific lecturer, teacher-trainer and published author; former Head of West Side Montessori School; Adjunct professor and Director of Montessori Education at NYU; international Consultant across five continents; Chief Academic Advisor in Beijing China and Associate Dean/Director of Research and Development for Shanghai Montessori School.
MONTESSORI PARENT WORKSHOP
Tuesday April 10, 2018
Fenimore Street United Methodist Church: 276 Fenimore St. Lower Level
(Corner of Rogers Ave and Fenimore St)
RSVP: March 26, 2018
Suggested Donation: $10.00
Maria Montessori Welcomed by European royal families, entertained in the White House, and introduced to Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Erik Ericson, and the world as the "great educator, who transformed the education of young children. She developed her theories while working as a doctor in a hospital for special-needs children, and opened her first school for normal children in Rome in 1907. Her approach, teaching materials, and observations were groundbreaking and innovative, and have made a lasting impact on our educational systems.
You might be surprised by the following information about this remarkable woman. Montessori's dedication to her research and to the development of the whole child was far from simple or easy:
For more, see: Maria Montessori: A Little History.
Color image of Maria Montessori is taken from Maria Montessori Poster (R03); black and white images are from Maria Montessori Centenary Cards (R09).
Hainstock, Elizabeth G., The Essential Montessori, An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method and the Movement, Penguin Books, 1978 (revised 1997).
Kramer, Rita, Maria Montessori: A Biography, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976.
North American Montessori Teachers' Association, A Montessori Journey: 1907-2007 - The Centenary Exhibit. The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 2007.
Pollard, Michael, Maria Montessori, Gareth Stevens Children's Books, 1990.
Standing, E.M., Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, Penguin Books,1957.
By Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families
"When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work,
they appeared rested and deeply pleased."
Maria Montessori (author), Paul Oswald (editor),
Basic Ideas of Montessori's Educational Theory
Boy Hammering-Children as young as three-years-old, after several months in a Montessori classroom, are able to choose their own work and focus on, and finish their tasks. Through observation and experimentation, Montessori discovered the importance of a two-and-a-half to three-hour uninterrupted work period. The last hour of a lengthy work period is usually when children are most likely to choose challenging work and concentrate deeply.
Montessori once observed a three-year-old repeat the knobbed cylinders activity 44 times. The girl's concentration did not waver when Montessori tested it, first picking up the girl in her chair and placing her (still in her chair) on top of her desk and then asking classmates to sing. When she stopped working of her own accord, "...she looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if waking from a refreshing nap." Montessori called this a "never-to-be-forgotten" discovery. (Spontaneous Activity in Education)
Phases of the Work Period
Montessori and her directresses carefully observed the phases of children's work during long work periods. They noted that in the first hour and twenty minutes, children often chose an easy initial task, followed by a moderately challenging activity. After this, ten minutes of "false fatigue" occurred as children appeared restless and classroom noise increased. This is the time when many teachers get uneasy and end the work period. However, false fatigue is actually "preparation for the culminating work," when children choose challenging work and concentrate deeply. When finished, there is a period of "contemplation" as children appear deeply satisfied and at peace. (ibid)
Children in Montessori classrooms become absorbed in their work, because they have the freedom to choose activities that interest them. In classrooms where the work period is less than two hours long, children rarely experience the deep concentration where leaps of cognitive development can take place. Children are understandably hesitant to choose challenging work if they think they won't have time to complete it (or repeat it 44 times).
At 10 o'clock, there is a great commotion; the children are restless; they neither work nor go in quest of materials. The onlooker gets an impression of a tired class, about to become disorderly. After a few minutes, the most perfect order reigns once more. The children are promptly absorbed in work again; they have chosen new and more difficult occupations.
False fatigue is similar to adults taking a coffee break after working hard. If children are disrupting others, they can be quietly redirected, but too much interference actually prolongs the period of false fatigue. Instead of anxiously over-controlling or ending the work period, we must trust children to return to work. We can then observe whether they choose their most challenging task of the day.
Is Circle Time Always Necessary?
During the morning work period, children receive individual or small group lessons, work at their own pace with materials they choose, and serve themselves snack. Many schools have a mandatory circle (often lasting 30-40 minutes) near the start or end of the work period. At the beginning of the school year, before the class has normalized, more whole group activities are often necessary.
However, any interruption to the work period (including circle) disrupts the child's exploration, focus, mastery of skills, critical thinking, and problem solving. Lengthy circles significantly shorten the work period. Without sufficient time, children rarely concentrate deeply on really challenging work. Instead of mandatory circle time, you could invite smaller groups of children to sing, listen to a story, or observe an art lesson. A good time for a short circle (to do the calendar or sing songs) is during the transition to lunch, while children are cleaning up from the work period.
If your school enlists specialists to teach enrichment subjects (music, Spanish, etc.), perhaps they could all be scheduled on the same day. This would maximize the number of uninterrupted work periods.
Implementing a Longer Work Period
As an intern supervisor, I have visited dozens of Montessori classrooms. Only a handful had a lengthy, uninterrupted work period. Here are some steps you can take to move towards a three-hour work period:
Evaluate if daily circle is truly necessary. Even at the start of the school year, you probably have a few children who could be given the choice to work quietly rather than attend circle.
Motivate parents to bring their children to school on time, explaining that when children miss class time, they are less likely to choose challenging work that requires more concentration.
Reschedule outdoor/lunch time to give children a longer work period.
Sometimes teachers wonder if it's still possible for today's children to attain the kind of deep concentration that Montessori called a "miracle." Are our children, surrounded by screens, incapable of the same focused attention as children in Montessori's time?
I was recently inspired by observing Montessori philosophy in action, in the kind of classroom that Montessori wrote about so eloquently. It had all of the key elements, including a three-hour work period and a mixed age group of three- to six-year-olds. The children were engaged in a variety of interesting activities, working without seeming to need the teachers. An older child spontaneously helped a younger one clean up a spill, teaching her how to use the mop. A large group of five-year-olds organized their own lesson, taking turns picking out rivers in an atlas. After the short period of false fatigue, there was a hush in the room as many children worked with profound concentration.
A Montessori teacher put it this way: "Protect the three-hour work period with your life! It's one of the most important ingredients in our method."
—by Irene Baker, MEd, Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She holds both primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-12) Montessori certifications, and has taught at all three levels. For over 15 years, she has served as a Montessori teacher-trainer for both primary and elementary levels, and has presented workshops for teachers at schools and AMS national conferences. Her work with both students and teachers is infused with the knowledge she has gained from her passions: History, social justice, non-violent (compassionate) communication, nature, meditation, music, and poetry.
Harper will be my last grandchild. At 20 months old, the world of language opened its floodgates. She's actually quite verbal for her age. At her 18-month check-up, the pediatrician asked if she had a vocabulary of at least three words. At that point she probably had close to one-hundred words, and now, a few months later, it's more than doubled with her talking in two, and three-word sentences on a regular basis.
This becomes a double-edged sword because, when young children are this verbal, we tend to confuse vocabulary with comprehension. This can lead to frustration and fits of some temper and crying. In some, it may also manifest as a biting phase.
When Harper can't do something on her own, she'll plaintively call to me and say, "Help, help
Someone wise once told me that the best guidance she could give to me was, to provide me with a toolbox of skills to help me navigate my way. I've never forgotten that piece of sage advice, and have tried to hold back that overwhelming urge to rush in and solve all the little things challenging my grandchildren.
me, Gammie.'' While my heart goes out to her, the best help can offer is to give her time to figure something out on her own. Of course, it's important to first make sure she's safe from
whatever she's trying to manage. Sometimes, It works to ask her simple questions to figure out how she can be guided to work through her own situation. This is not always easy, because parents are busy, and often they do not have the luxury of extra time, and let's face it, we all reach our limits on certain days with patience.
Someone wise once told me that the best guidance she could give to me was to provide me with a toolbox of skills to help me navigate my way. I've never forgotten that piece of sage advice and have tried co hold back that overwhelming urge to rush in and solve all the little things challenging my grandchildren. I try to consciously hold myself back from doing that and, instead, help them use the tools in their boxes to solve their own problems. I must continually remind myself that it's not about me, but about fostering the child's independence.
It's not about my 'wants' to keep them small and dependent upon me, but to make sure they become confident and independent.
Another 'tool' in the box is the ability to master a skill. Have you ever seen your child, or grandchild sit and repeat doing something endlessly? Have they ever asked you to repeat a story over and over again? While it can often become tiresome for the adult, it's the way children learn and master a skill. In their classrooms, children are given the time, especially during the uninterrupted work cycle of two to three hours in the morning, when most are at their best, to repeat an activity over and over again.
lt's fine to make suggestions, question, or even demonstrate, but when we do something for them each and every time they ask, we aren't helping them reach their full potential. Dr.
Montessori's Method and materials help toddlers and young children learn from concrete to abstract. Each part of the practical Life lessons adds new tools to their personal boxes.
By reinforcing this method at home (or at grandparents' houses) on a consistent basis, it helps keep young children on the path to independence. Remember, holding your grandchild on your lap to read, pushing them in a stroller, and comforting and loving them with hugs and kisses, is more vital than rushing in to do something for them that they are totally capable of doing for themselves. Enjoy each moment. It's just amazing how fast grow up!
Margot Garfield-Anderson is on staff at the Montessori
Foundation and the Membership
Director of the International Montessori
Council. Her four granddaughters have
often been the inspiration of her writings.
To view the adorable videos that
accompany this article, please check out
it's digital counterpart on montessori.org
32 TOMORROW'S CHILD ® • SEPTEMBER 2017 • WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG
Most of us live our lives in the city or the suburbs and have vague ideas about the rhythm of life lived by farmers and ranchers. We all benefit from their work when we go to the grocery store. We might actually know when it is strawberry season (prices are lower), but to understand the cycles and seasons gives us an appreciation for “real” life.
This is why Montessori classrooms put a major emphasis on botany and zoology – to introduce our children to the mystery and magic of springtime and harvest. Whether planting is done in pots or garden plots, to prepare the soil, to plant a seed, to water it, to watch it grow, to pull the weeds, to see it flower, to observe the fruit and to enjoy the harvest; it is a celebration of life.
What is the most important step in this botanical experiment? They are all important, but the critical step happens long before you start the process; you have to have the seed! Where does the seed come from? The seed comes from that part of the harvest that you didn’t consume or sell. It is not part of the harvest that you get to “enjoy.” You keep the very best seed, bury it, and then you work the soil so that it flourishes.
Your seed is your Montessori investment. Montessori education is expensive - sometimes even approaching college tuitions, and a question often asked is, “shouldn’t I be saving this money for prep school or college?” The best time to plant your educational seed is in the springtime of your child’s life. Now!
There are five seeds planted in a Montessori Preschool or Elementary that bloom in college.
The first is order. Order is a foundational need of the child - it even has its own sensitive period in the child’s development. When a child enters this sensitive period, he builds for himself the internal apparatus that will guide his future acquisition of knowledge and give him the ability to construct all the other areas of his life. In a Montessori classroom everything has its own special place. This is not only efficient but impacts the whole psychological nature of the child. Order (especially from within) brings calmness and focus, saves frazzled nerves and produces the environment (both physical and emotional) in which concentrated work can occur.
The second seed is initiative – learning to start on your own. Traditional schools spend twelve or thirteen years telling your child what to do, when to do it and how to do it. College is the first freedom from such constraints but it is hardly the time to begin to practice initiative that has been inactive and dormant.
The third seed planted in preschool is the seed of mastery – finishing what you start. In Montessori you don’t take an “F” and go on. You go back and work on it until you master it. It is a major lesson (and habit) not only for school but also for life.
The fourth seed is taking responsibility. In college there is no one looking over your shoulder (or to blame). You are the young adult expected to take responsibility for your actions. For thirteen years of traditional education someone else bore the burden of responsibility. College is not the place to begin especially when Montessori children welcome the responsibility so early and young.
The fifth seed is curiosity. This is not so much of a seed that is planted in preschool but a seed that is nurtured, encouraged and kept alive. Curiosity is the difference between a life of boredom and a life of fascination with the world around you. Curiosity helps you not to settle, it helps you to dream, it helps you to look beyond the next hill. Curiosity can help to not only make a living, but to make a life also.
These seeds are a gift you plant in your children’s life now that bloom in college, and for the rest of their lives. It is the best seed that you can give.
Original Author: Edward Fidellow
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