The learning environment in a Montessori school is very different from what most adults have experienced as children. Instead of a stronger emphasis on facts and memorization, emphasis in a Montessori classroom is on understanding, thinking and problem solving.
In a multi-age group setting students function at different levels. Older or more skilled students are able to instruct or coach others. By providing time for small group and individualized instruction, self-directed activities and peer teaching, the classroom meets the interests, needs and learning styles of the children.
Montessori taught us that a child who feels respected and competent will develop a stronger sense of well-being than a child who is simply loved and doted upon. Success is linked to a child’s sense of independence and capability.
When I observed in the primary classroom the other day, I saw a 6 six year old child reading to a 3 year old. He demonstrated such confidence and the 3 year old child was immensely interested in the story. In elementary, a third year student was teaching a first year student how to do racks and tubes (a division problem). The older child was patiently explaining while the younger child comfortably asked questions. This opportunity reinforces the concepts for the older child along with developing a working relationship between the children.