Setting Up a Montessori Classroom

When you walk into a traditional preschool, the first thing you might notice is the classroom decore. Bright, colorful decorations often fill the walls in a traditional classroom. Plastic toys may clutter your view. In a traditional Montessori classroom, on the other hand, you will see only a few carefully selected Montessori materials on the walls. In this kind of classroom, you’ll find mostly wooden furniture, open shelves, and high quality wooden Montessori materials. There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. Visitors often describe Montessori classrooms as “minimalist.” The sense of minimalism and organization extends far beyond the classroom walls; it is also an essential part of Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy. Today, we will look at some ideas for setting up the Montessori classroom, and at how to extend those ideas even further, into a Montessori style education.

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Montessori Classroom Setup

“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

– Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Montessori classrooms are simple in design, yet rich in education. The primary purpose of a Montessori classroom is to give the child an opportunity to focus on one task at a time. Many children find flashing objects, screens, and loud noises disruptive. Therefore, you won’t often find these in a Montessori room.

Montessori materials are often made of wood. The teacher arranges material on open shelves and in open containers. Additionally, all the materials are set up within easy reach of children. Easy access means the student can work with any material in the classroom; one of the hallmarks of Montessori education.

Compared to many preschools, a Montessori classroom looks almost old fashioned.

A classic Montessori classroom with math material displayed on a table.
You will find mostly wooden furniture in a traditional Montessori classroom The open shelves allow students to easily access any material on which they would like to work.

Learning Areas in a Montessori Classroom

The traditional Montessori Classroom is divided into five learning areas. A teacher groups Montessori materials from the same learning area on adjoining shelves. This way a students can easily find materials they would like to work on, and progress at their own pace. The five areas of a Montessori classroom are: Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, and Cultural.

At the end of this article, you will find an infographic to help you remember the five areas.

Practical Life

The practical life area is designed to help a student develop life skills. While working on life skills, students also develop character traits such as confidence, care of the environment, grace and courtesy. In a practical life area, the student might work on gardening, cleaning, washing a doll or sewing. This area is a favorite with younger students.

A young girl works on practical life skills in a Montessori classroom.
A student working on her gardening skills (and fine motor skills) in the practical life area of a Montessori classroom.
Lacing dress frames are a popular learning tool in and out of the Montessori classroom

Sensorial

In a Montessori environment, sensorial activities include anything a child might do to study and classify their environment. Classification, sorting, and organizing are the key activities in the sensorial portion of the Montessori classroom. The pink tower is a famous sensorial activity; and a universally recognized Montessori symbol.

Other sensorial activities include smelling bottles and touch tablets.

Two preschool age children construct a pink tower in a Montessori classroom.

Math

A young Montessori student begins with number identification and counting. Eventually, she proceeds to the decimal system, geometry and beyond. Teachers introduce Montessori materials such as bead stair, wooden number cards, and trinomial cube to help the student discover the wonderful world of math.

A young girl works on wooden number board in a Montessori classroom.

Language

From phonetics all to composition, the language area focuses on the student’s native language. To this end, teachers introduce Montessori materials such as the moveable alphabet, sandpaper letters, and books. Eventually, the student learns to use Montessori grammar symbols, an ingenious way to cover this difficult topic.

Cultural

The cultural area of a Montessori classroom covers a wide array of topics. From geography to zoology, science, botany and foreign language, the cultural Montessori learning area is a bit of a catch-all. Therefore, many teachers rotate the cultural area in a classroom at least once a month. The goal is to constantly introduce new material. We designed Brainy Boxes to help create an inspiring cultural area in a Montessori classroom.

Brainy Boxes are a perfect addition to the cultural corner of a Montessori Classroom.

A Montessori Education is Child-Led

The founding principle of Montessori philosophy is that the environment should inspire the student’s natural desire to learn. To this end, Montessori education is child-led. After setting up an attractive classroom, the teacher’s job is to step back and allow the child to explore the area. It is up to the child to show the teacher what they would like to learn.

For instance, let’s say you set up a small Montessori homeschool, and your child goes straight to the pink tower. This is very common for small children. After you demonstrate how to use the tower, allow your students to repeat the process as many times as they like. They might construct the tower many more times than is necessary.

Or rather, more times than you think is necessary.

The point is – the child feels it’s important to repeat the process, and therefore it is important. Only after they finally stop building the tower, it is time to introduce another sensorial material.

Some children will naturally move faster than others. There is no wrong or right speed in a Montessori classroom. The child always leads the learning.

Montessori education is child-led. Once a student expresses interest in a material, the teacher will demonstrate how to use the material to the student.

Montessori Teaching Tip:

You can find fantastic, totally free tutorials on how to use virtually any Montessori material on Youtube.

How to Create a Montessori Inspired Classroom Decore:

In this Montessori inspired room, materials are kept on open shelves and all furniture is child-sized. Clutter is reduced to a minimum.

Montessori Classroom – A Conclusion

“The work of education is divided between the teacher and the environment.”

Maria Montessori

Montessori classrooms are designed to provide a relaxed and respectful learning environment. Everything in a Montessori classroom is set up to benefit the student. By giving your students small, manageable tasks you instill confidence. By allowing them to proceed at their own pace, you instill a love of learning. By giving them the ability to take care of their classroom, you instill independence. And finally, by limiting materials and screens you help them develop a longer attention span.

The peaceful, yet the orderly design of the Montessori school rooms plays a major role in the child’s development. When presented with too many options, a child may become overwhelmed. When you create a relaxed environment the student can explore the material without feeling rushed.

A Montessori classroom is much more than just a room. A Montessori classroom is the first step on a journey to a peaceful, loving and fulfilling educational experience. And, it is the first step to raising an incredible adult. After all, an adult who loves to learn can accomplish virtually anything.

Explore the five learning areas of the Montessori classroom with this helpful pinterest friendly infographic. data-pin-title=Five Areas of the Montessori Classroom
5 learning areas of the Montessori Classroom – a helpful Pinterest friendly infographic.
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