How to Setup a Montessori: A Guide for Teachers and School Owners
A Montessori is a schooling system where young kids aged generally 0-12 years learn to refine their skills through a balance of responsibility and freedom. Certain challenges are presented to the kids and they are given the freedom to explore and solve the task however they like. Montessori is unique in the fact that multiple age groups work and play together which is unlike the traditional school classrooms.
While a Montessori teaches kids the regular subjects such as math, science and languages; some other subjects are focused more. These subjects include STEAM education, cultural sensitivity and practical life skills among many more. Education is directed towards honing the skills and abilities kids possess at their age naturally.
This article is a guide for school owners and teachers looking to set up a Montessori in their schools. But before we jump to how to design a curriculum and what teachers to hire, let us have a look at the history and learning outcomes of a Montessori so we know why this education setup is so important.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a hybrid system of a classroom where kids have the freedom to work on different tasks at their own pace. You do have a defined curriculum but the teaching style of Montessori doesn’t require a teacher to stand in front of a classroom and teach youngsters. Here, students can choose tasks according to their interests.
But this system can be chaotic, right? A bunch of young kids all doing what they want! To prevent chaos the environment of a Montessori is designed in such ways that there is a disciple in class and rules have to be followed while giving kids the freedom to do their work. Kids thrive when they can learn in a balanced environment, where they are given a structure and then allowed to be free.
A great feature of Montessori is the mixed age groups. In a traditional classroom, all the students are the same age. But in Montessori older kids can learn to interact with younger kids, and young students can learn how to behave from the older ones. That way kids teach and learn from each other and develop habits.
How a Montessori works is by giving kids purposeful, creative and challenging tasks so they don’t need any form of outside motivation (including the fear of punishment) to do the work. Montessori cultivates a love of learning in kids by making them in charge of themselves.
History of Montessori
Dr. Maria Montessori was a child specialist who devoted her life to understanding the methods of teaching kids using their curiosity as a guide. She introduced the concept of Montessori education in the early 1900s.
She realized the effects of a positive self-guided environment on the minds of toddlers. Her goal was to create a naturally stimulating environment where kids can learn to work on skills which are a part of their natural development. The American Montessori Society has more information on how Montessori schools were developed.
Dr Montessori’s vision for creating a nursery school is shown in her own words –
“My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding on that certification… but of individuals passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity, through their own effort of will, which constitutes the inner evolution of the individual.”
Benefits of Montessori
Montessori is the place-to-be to learn life skills such as cooperative work with classmates of the different age groups, maintaining a routine and for young kids; the habit of staying away from parents for some time.
Some other benefits of Montessori education and experience include:
- Independence and self-sufficiency: doing activities of daily living such as eating and going to the washroom by themselves promotes a sense of independence in young kids. Delaying this process in the development of toddlers can lead to kids being unnecessary attached to parents and not having the self-confidence to explore the world on their own.
- The curiosity of the world: kids are naturally curious; Montessori environment helps them question the world in a positive and comforting environment.
- Exposure to different cultures: being exposed to so many other children from different backgrounds promotes acceptance of different cultures and lifestyles and kids grow to be more tolerant and respectful towards others.
- Respect: in the Montessori kids can observe the hierarchy system, from teachers to older kids. They learn to respect the opinions of others and the skill to put forth their thoughts and share opinions with the group.
- Life skills: a Montessori is a structured place to teach young kids soft skills such as not talking over another person, initiative-taking, putting away the toys and taking care of the environment.
Google’s Larry Page and Surgey Brin went to Montessori school and credit their success to that time because it was in nursery school where they learnt the invaluable habits of self-motivation and questioning the world.
In Montessori, children learn to work using their creativity, problem-solving skills and the ability to explore a challenge. When kids try to achieve something new it stimulates them to develop new skills. The various learning outcomes you can expect in a Montessori child include:
- Social and cognitive growth: with the culture of guidance from teachers rather than a strict pre-established curriculum, the kids can learn to be independent socially and cognitively.
- Collaboration: the mixed age groups encourage kids to learn faster and leads to collaborations between fellows. This is a life skill not many kids can learn but a Montessori environment can motivate kids to be cooperative and understanding of the other people around them.
- Social awareness: exposing kids to different types of people from a young age helps them be more socially aware of different cultures.
- Easy adjustment to school: when a kid graduates from Montessori, he has the skills to excel at any school. With the refined skills of problem-solving and collaborative working kids do well in higher grades and adjust easily because they have already experienced how to maintain discipline and a sense of self in a structured environment.
- Self-discipline and motivation: the culture of rewards and punishment does not exist in a Montessori. Kids become self-sufficient in motivating themselves and striving to succeed.
The world-renowned musician and Grammy award winner cellist Yo-Yo Ma went to a Montessori and that is where his love for compositions and plying of instruments began.
Step by Step Guide for Setting up a Montessori
Building a Montessori from scratch is no small thing. The responsibility of shaping the young minds to be independent, brave and confident is a duty that should be taken seriously. If you are looking to start a Montessori in your school and feeling overwhelmed with all that’s required then worry not! This article is for you.
Here we will cover all the details of setting up a Montessori in the form of a step by step guide. You will also find mentions of online resources you can use to build a great setup where young minds can flourish! Some online resources to help you get started include the book: The whole school Montessori handbook for teachers and administrators and the free resource American Montessori society.
To make it easier to discuss the various areas to work on while establishing Montessori, we have divided the process into 3 areas, which are as follows:
- Building the infrastructure.
- Marketing your school to the public.
- Designing the curriculum for different levels of education.
Building the Physical Infrastructure – Furniture and Materials
Once you have the idea of creating a Montessori school and gather the required finances, the next step is to find the land and the basic resources such as furniture and interior designing. Decide if you are going to buy the land, lease or rent it. Run a long term financial analysis to determine the best approach. You can buy an old building and renovate the place, or get a construction team to flip it to save money but still get a great building to start your Montessori in.
The location you choose should be easily accessible for school buses or carpool lanes and the area should be safe for children with enough space to play outside and plenty of rooms inside.
The classroom model in a Montessori school is open and stimulating, unlike the traditional classroom with relatively plain walls with a few posters and filled with desks for students. Each classroom should signify the importance of the subject whether its arts and crafts or science. Living Montessori now and Montessori for everyone have free tips on how to set up a Montessori classroom.
The materials you’ll need for a Montessori include:
- Sensorial studies: cylinder blocks, pink towers, cloth fabric, color paper, geometrical shapes, toys with lights and sounds, bells, thermic bottles and more.
- Mathematics: bead chains, cards, posters, number rods, sandpaper numerals, board games, arithmetic boards and more.
- STEAM education: construction play sets, everyday items for science experiments, computers and electronic material for coding and robotics lessons, blocks for engineering, simple machines, magnets, magnifiers and more.
- General classroom environment: posters, size-appropriate furniture, mats and soft flooring, shoe racks, quiet corner accessories, shelves, plants and more.
According to the age of the students, furnish each classroom with the appropriately sized chairs, tables, toys or lab equipment.
Related article: free school management tools and how to use them?
When you create a new school, there is a lot of marketing to do before serious parents and students come your way. Start spreading the word around even before the school is functional so you can have a large number of students ready to enroll as soon as you open.
Use social media marketing, pamphlets in local supermarkets and offices, emails and ad campaigns in your area. Mention your credibility and the names of organizations you are working with for people to take you seriously.
Establishing the curriculum
Independent self-directed learning leads to a long-lasting understanding of the subjects such as math, science, social interactions and language. The Montessori curricula are built to allow kids to study guided by their curiosity. The multi-age classroom approach gives kids the flexibility to choose their curriculum to some extent. Here kids do not feel like they have to work at the same pace as their same-age classmates.
The guiding principles of a Montessori are the same for all age groups. These include respect for ones-self and others, freedom of choice, hands-on learning and independence. Montessori education is divided into three main categories for kids between the ages of 0-12 years.
The basic curriculum of Montessori is set according to the state regulations. Each level of education has certain requirements specific to that age group which we will discuss below
Toddler Classroom – Ages 0-3 Years
For infants, provide a safe environment to play, young kids that are non-mobile require a nurturing place to explore their senses. For older babies that can turn or crawl, have soft, manipulable toys they can chew on and play with. The main goals to focus on in a toddler classroom are
- Develop gross and fine motor skills.
- Promote confidence in self and trust in others.
- Opportunity to explore the world in a safe environment.
The classroom is designed as a community for the kids of different ages to interact and learn from one another. The atmosphere is calm and inviting and decorated with appropriate furniture. Equipment should be such that kids can work on gross and fine motor skills, such as low door handles, staircase railing and appropriate height of shelves. Get Brainy box and Montessori academy Australia have ideas on how to design a Montessori classroom for toddlers.
- To set up the Montessori classroom include natural lighting and greenery instead of too much plastic and synthetic materials.
- Put all the books and toys in easily accessible shelves so the little ones can access it easily.
- Use wood materials and open shelves to create a homey feel. Use the walls to decorate the art kids make.
- This space should feel like their space so encourage decoration according to the kids in class.
- Use a lot of mats and keep space open for kids to crawl and run around as they please.
For kids aged 0-3 mathematics class is less focused on numbers and more centered around learning colors and identifying objects of the same size, shape etc. For math class:
- Introduce kids to wooden blocks of different colors to match. That way they can learn numbers and relate them to objects.
- Bring a puzzle where similarly shaped objects have to be placed together.
- Teach 0-10 numbers by using real-life objects that kids can hold and manipulate in hands. Montessori album has tips on different mental math activities to do with the kids. Teach linear counting to kids using colored paper as shown in the picture
- To improve math skills, do mental math activities. Ask them to name the colors on the walls, number the kids in the classroom etc. you can use the game of snakes to add and subtract Hollic Montessori School is an online resource you can use to learn more about setting a math curriculum.
- Puppet shows, reciting stories and having conversations are wonderful ways to work on the language skills of toddlers.
- Use play cards with pictures to ask kids to name the object, this works on vocabulary.
- To improve grammar skills, focus on sentence structure of the kids and remember they will learn based on what they hear, so only play cartoons with good language skills and pay attention to how you form your sentences. Montessori language program and raising child network are free resources on how to talk to kids to improve language development and set a curriculum.
- Play the I-spy game with young kids to teach about object identification and to encourage using more words.
- At this point in a kid’s life, language skills include point and name, music, singing, identifying intentions and following commands. The writing curriculum has more free information on what can be taught to toddlers, you can also buy their curriculum for your school.
- Play with water and sand, look at the sky and pay attention to the structure of the leaves.
- Teach senses by using what they can see and hold in their hands.
- Introduce animals in the classroom and teach about different body parts.
- Have a botany show on the wall, where different flowers are pasted along with one or two words that can help kids identify the shape, colors and textures of flowers etc. Sensorial activities has learning activities you can introduce into your curriculum for toddlers.
- The visual sensation can be improved by using vibrant colors and doing match the color activities.
- Work on visual discrimination by objects of different shapes and sizes. You can cut out pieces of paper as shown in the image
- Play with water and sand, look at the sky and pay attention to the structure of the leaves.
To introduce young kids to STEAM education, the classroom should be designed to work on their skills and senses, for example
- Use objects of different textures such as wood and cloth to work on tactile perception.
- Use rough v smooth boards and fabric of different kinds.
- Introduce engineering and technology principles by toys and puzzles such as building blocks and electronic toys that light up when you plug in the batteries.
- Art is very essential for cognitive growth so give crayons and paints to play with and allow kids to draw whatever they want. Use art to show STEM ideas of science and engineering such as building straw rockets, paper kites and pizza box garage. Montessori science and Rasmussen College are online resources you can check for more information for setting up a toddler STEAM curriculum.
Practical Life skills
Young kids learn life skills from social setups such as home or a Montessori. Practice activities include
- Walking in a line: practice in the classroom by making a chain.
- Picking up the toys from the floor: demonstrate how to clean up after playtime.
- Neatly arranging the tables and chairs etc.: older kids doing it will be helpful for younger ones to learn.
- Teach about the direction by giving action commands and correcting them when required.
- Help clarify what time is and how musical instruments work.
Primary Classroom – Ages 3-6 Years
This is the age to work on your child’s love of learning and self-improvement skills. In a primary classroom, kids learn to collaborate with children of different ages and learn ways to be independent. Kids learn about social equality, justice, and appreciation of oneself and others at this age because the young mind is very gullible so Montessori education is important to teach them basic social behavior. The primary objects to achieve for ages 3 to 6 years include
- Develop appropriate social behavior.
- Promote self-motivated learning and finding of answers.
- Improve cognitive abilities such as connecting the abstract with the real and work on emotional growth.
The classroom set up is unique to accommodate kids of different interests.
- The decoration includes a lot of manipulative toys, puzzles, engineering tools, and arts and crafts supplies.
- The classroom should challenge kids and encourage them to pick up an object of choice and work on skills of math, science, STEAM etc.
- There are fewer desks in the classroom so kids can play on the floor, the mats or even in the grass if they prefer, the point of education is to let kids use their senses to learn and improve.
- Mini apple Montessori and Montessori for everyone have wonderful tips to decorate a primary Montessori classroom.
- Create separate learning corners to stimulate dedicated study time.
- Organize the toys and accessories in a way that is easy to clean up for kids.
Addition subtraction principles can be introduced at this age.
- Use bead bars or blocks to add and multiple numbers.
- Remember a Montessori education is focused on practical life skills, unlike the traditional classroom. That is why to introduce kids to math principles, use real-life objects where kids can learn to apply abstract concepts.
- Use division working charts or fingers to solve math problems. Maitri learning and Montessori print shop have tips on setting a Montessori math curriculum for the primary class.
- Build towers from wooden blocks to teach addition and subtraction. While doing this activity don’t be too focused on the color or shape of the blocks, focus on one concept at a time.
- Teach decimal points using cards and numbers
- Use bead bars or blocks to add and multiple numbers.
Storytelling is a golden method to encourage vocabulary learning and language understanding in young kids.
- Use chalkboards to write down the word of the day and use that in different sentences throughout the day, this way you will improve the vocabulary and help kids understand how various words are used.
- Pass around large plush alphabets and ask the kids to name 3 objects beginning with the letter.
- Link sounds to words by pronouncing various words.
- Start with basic three-letter words and learn to spell. Use words such as dog, cat, door etc. to start.
- Play question answers games to promote critical thinking and forming answers.
- Learn to write with different crayons, pencils and chalk.
- Picture matching and action commands are also ways to improve language skills. The writing curriculum and approaches to early reading education have more information on what can be included in language studies.
Introduce flags of different countries and musical instruments to prepare the young leaders.
- Geography, arts and world sciences teach the kids about their community and the role of one person in the world.
- Use a globe to teach about different geographical landscapes.
- Make charts to show events from the past.
- Teach about various religious and cultural celebrations in the world using social media and YouTube.
- Teachers collective culture curriculum has free information you can check for more information.
To teach about science and mathematics, use real-life objects such as:
- A demonstration of the plant’s life cycle or how the number of cupcakes decreases when you eat one.
- Engineering can formally be introduced at this age by building blocks and playing games such as Jenga.
- Introduce preschool level coding and robotics classes while allowing kids to choose their activities.
- Introduce life cycles of animals and humans using 3D models and online videos.
- Print out the pictures of the solar system and use it to teach about the sun and the stars.
- Use playdough and slime to demonstrate solids and liquids.
- Teach about indoor v outdoor plants.
- Montessori Mom and preschool STEAM education have learning activities for various STEAM aspects to include in a curriculum.
Practical Life skills
Teach about arts and artists and other significant culturally prominent personalities.
- Teach skills such as picking up the trash and helping the old lady cross the road, or helping mom bring groceries in the house.
- Montessori education revolves around real-life situations and how to behave socially is an important part of it.
- Teach about covering the face when sneezing or yawning.
- Demonstrate how to introduce yourself to a person.
- Include in your curriculum proper manners of sharing food or toys and the social etiquettes of group activity such as storytime.
- Teach table manners and the polite way to entertain friends.
- Observe seasonal changes and ask them about what activities are enjoyable in what weather to stimulate thinking and cognitive powers.
- Developing independence and introduction to practical life have tips on how you can incorporate life skills in a primary class.
Lower Elementary Classrooms – Ages 6-9 Years
An elementary Montessori classroom promotes individually paced learning rather than the same standardized teaching as in a traditional school. Children learn best when they are guided by their curiosity and when they can apply abstract concepts to real-life situations. Between the ages of 6-9 years, a Montessori works on different abilities of kids including
- Understanding of the traditional subjects of the school including mathematics, science, language and STEM education.
- Collaborative learning and self-initiative towards new activities.
- Improving the child’s understanding of the world, various relationships and social phenomena of poor v rich etc.
The class setup should promote collaboration between kids of different ages, students work in groups or individually on the floors or desks.
- Although a sense of disciple is maintained the primary focus is to create a natural homey environment for kids to learn at ease.
- With the multiage class, kids learn from older students and proceed with education at the pace best suited to them.
- For an elementary setup, decorate walls with subject matter related materials, such as math tables, language words, or science pictures.
- The tables and chairs should be of different sizes to accommodate kids of ages 6-9.
- Use of space should be efficient, use mats and encourage the use of floors naturally rather than sitting at the desks.
- Remember, let natural light in.
- Don’t overcrowd the room, have some unused space so kids can use it however they like.
- The Montessori notebook and Edutopia have design tips to set up an elementary classroom.
Advancing on the concepts on previous basic concepts, kids learn equations and next-level math problems.
- Dealing with bigger numbers, relating abstract concepts of divisions to real-life situations such as cutting an apple and making a certain number of pieces etc. distributing candy to all the people and counting it right are mental math activities practised to work on mathematics.
- Use number rods and spindle boxes to introduce 10s, 100s, 1000s etc.
- Include in the curriculum the concepts of divisions and fractions.
- Use stories with numbers to help kids grasp concepts. Ask questions to examine understanding.
- Montessori teachers collective and Montessori world have wonderful math activities to include in the curriculum for kids aged 6-9 years
Reading and writing are worked on using advanced words. Include the following in your curriculum:
- Formal grammar rules are introduced and kids are encouraged to point out the use of different sentence structures in cartoons and audio clips.
- Spelling is taught using arts and crafts and memory activities.
- Tell stories and ask kids their perspectives to encourage communication.
- Practice pronouns; he, she, they, us, me, mine etc.
- Teach possessive words such as Sara’s ball.
- Lessons on the tenses; past, present and future.
- Teachers encourage good penmanship while also working on fine motor skills.
- Lower elementary and American Montessori has more information on what can be included in the curriculum
Science lessons focus on zoology, botany and other sciences to help kids form a connection between the different species. Include the following in the curriculum:
- Kids work on coding classes and robotics lab work by watching the older kids do experiments and achieve millstones in coding class.
- Engineering and math principles are introduced using real-life examples in the form of 3D model bridges and buildings.
- Perform science experiments such as a rainbow in a jar, magnetic objects and electricity from a potato. Let the kids guide the experiments based on the questions they have by observing the environment.
- Build a sand volcano and use sticks to build a bridge, teach the kids principles and theoretical knowledge while demonstrating practically.
- STEAMsation and the STEAM laboratory have ideas on STEAM education that you can incorporate into the curriculum.
Practical life skills
Elementary Montessori builds on what was learnt in the previous stage. Here kids are encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviors and decisions. An important life skill that teachers work on is the concept of action and consequences. For students to become productive members of society, they learn how good actions breed good consequences and likewise with bad behavior. They learn this by small tasks such as telling the truth, submitting assignments on time, doing their tasks, meeting deadlines and setting priorities; always guided by teachers throughout the process.
Upper Elementary Classrooms – Ages 9-12 Years
Here structured academic studies are mixed with practical work to build based on learning laid in the previous years. Older kids have a deep understanding of how they can connect the conceptual knowledge to the practical life therefore they do not require teachers to guide them constantly. Between the ages of 9-12 years, a Montessori works on preparing the child for high school and all the skills needed as an adult such as
- Polite and helpful treatment of the younger siblings and other younger kid.
- Practical application of what is learnt in school, such as practising the concepts of solar energy, recycling, courteous behavior in real life.
- Work on self-identification of the adolescent and recognizing the value of emotions and the different ways to express yourself.
While the teachers conduct most of the classes, but the setup encourages kids to form groups and study together by putting forth their points of view. Design the classroom environment in the following way:
- Give uninterrupted alone time to the students to work on whatever they like. This allows them to concentrate on what they need to work on more and stay engaged in one task giving it their full attention. Study all night and we are teachers are online resources you can get inspiration from to design the classroom for adolescents.
- Kids this age are not necessarily going to get excited about pretty walls and colorful desks, so the classroom should reflect the age of the kids. Use neutral colors and natural light.
- Have separate corners where kids can have alone time for dedicated study.
- Place posters representing the various skills they need to work on and the topics of study.
- The class environment should be welcoming and stimulating. This means promoting harmony between kids and encouraging tolerance.
- Be creative when designing the classroom, use funny pictures and motivational quotes on the wall.
Now that the students are proficient in linking abstract concepts of addition and multiplication to real objects, they can solve questions on a paper without the help of an external source. Include the following in the curriculum:
- Introduce an advanced level of geometry and calculations that require multiple steps.
- Squares, cubes, graphs and algebra are in the curriculum at this level.
- Solve real-life math problems such using the algebraic principles.
- Perform daily tasks using only the rational numbers or decimal points.
- Represent the numbers using graphs.
- Include decimal charts in the wall decorations.
- Solve questions about real-life problems using angles and surface area concepts.
- Our kids have tips for you to design the mathematics curricula in a Montessori way.
Reading, writing and conversation skills are refined during this age. To language curriculum, include the following:
- Montessori education encourages the learning of multiple languages so a student works on the vocabulary, conversation fluency and understanding of different languages.
- When you give a book to read, ask students about what they learnt from it to inspect and later help them with their understanding of storylines.
- Play word games and riddles to improve cognition and understanding of language.
- Promote the use of a journal for kids to write more.
- Encourage kids to speak in their mother tongues if you have a culturally diverse class.
- Have storytelling sessions in class with a requirement to use certain words creatively.
- Listen well, and teach them that listening is just as important as speaking.
- Approaches to writing education and the engaging educator have informative tips on what should be included in a curriculum to improve language skills.
Cultures and human history
The curriculum includes concepts of wars and peace, cultural independence and acculturation etc.
- Somewhat advanced concepts such as human interdependency and economic geography are part of curriculum which, always relating it to the world and encouraging students to dig deep and research more if they like and ask the questions they are thinking of.
- Teach about different time zones and the history of evolution.
- Teach history with activities such as dress-up days.
- Take significant past events and spend the day learning about it. Encourage kids to change voices and pretend to be characters to enjoy it more.
- The upper elementary progress report and the American Montessori Society has more information on what can be included in the curriculum.
Include the following in the curriculum for STEM education:
- Adolescents learn advanced coding and robotics topics to become proficient in the field of technology.
- The science includes physics and chemistry lessons on top of the general science classes and experiments.
- The curriculum of engineering includes working on the models of real-life building and dissecting various puzzles to get to the bottom of a problem.
- Create various robots inspired by movies kids like.
- Use household items to apply science concepts such as straws, tape and colored water etc.
- Demonstrate the greenhouse effect as shown in the image below.
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are the goals of STEM education. EDVON lessons for 9-12years and we are teachers have STEM lessons you can add into your curriculum.
Practical life skills
Responsibility is the prime objective that teachers achieve in the upper elementary classroom.
- Kids aged 9-12 understand the commitment and all that entails
- Kids do chores and duties, such as feeding the class pet and arranging the bookshelves etc. to make them responsible
- Keeping in mind the emotional and physical growth at this age, kids do physically challenging tasks such as competitive sports
- Practice courteous behavior in daily interactions
- Give students small chores such as cleaning up or helping some younger kids
- Helping with the dishwasher and laundry etc. are helpful for preparing kids for adult life
- Socializing in an elementary setting and St Catherine’s Montessori has information on what you can include in your curriculum
Setting up a Montessori the right way requires you to follow the basic guidelines and principles laid by the founder of the concept; Dr. Maria Montessori. Here in this article all the recommendations and resources provided are per said guidelines.
Follow this step by step guide if you want to create a wholesome nursery school. Information on everything you need from infrastructure to legal matters and curriculum is provided here in vivid detail. Use these approaches and your process of creating a Montessori should go smoothly and without any unexpected hiccups.
Let us know about your experience with a Montessori school in the comments!