The Multi-Age Montessori Classroom
Each student in grades K, 1, and 2 joins a classroom with 10 students of each grade, and stays with their teachers for three years. Students learn together and in fluid groups to address their unique learning needs, and students benefit from the presence of older and younger students.
Montessori education is designed to foster independence, love for learning, and increased focus and attention span. In our classrooms, students have two 2-hour work blocks where one teacher pulls groups for math or English language arts and the other teacher takes responsibility for the rest of the learners in the room who are having work time. The uninterrupted work time builds students’ stamina for focused work and ownership of their own learning.
What You’ll See
Unlike a traditional classroom which is teacher-directed, our classrooms give students the opportunity to choose work for themselves and work independently at their pace. The teachers prepare the environment so the shelves are full of math, science, English language arts, and social studies “works.” These trays of learning activities are each designed to engage the learner and increase in rigor as the child masters the task. Students move freely around the room, selecting works for themselves and returning to a place of their choice in the room to work. Once finished with their work, they move their name on the magnet board to signal they are ready to have their work checked, and they read their book while they wait for the teacher. Each student has a personalized checklist that outlines their works, which the teacher uses to track mastery. Once they have checked in with the student, another work may be selected and the cycle starts over.
While the “heads up” teacher circulates, and connects students to work, and checks mastery of standards, the “head down” teacher is pulling grade-level groups in math or ELA. For the afternoon work block, the two teachers switch roles.
How We’re Unique
Our program combines Montessori principles with a standards-based approach to teaching. For ELA and math, each of the works on the shelves connects to a teaching unit and set of standards. Some works stay on the shelves all year, but depending on the unit being taught, the works change periodically to build on the direct teaching. In addition, our science and social studies works rotate between classrooms to expose all students to geography, the scientific method, observation skills, and the seasons and weather.
Unlike a traditional Montessori setting, we use a structured curriculum in math (Engage NY) and ELA (Core Knowledge) to ensure our students are exposed to grade-level standards and challenging, Common Core aligned materials.
In the first years of our program, we have noticed students have more attention for tasks, can stay with problems longer, and have a profound sense of ownership over their work. This has directly impacted their academic progress as measure by MAP. This year’s 2nd graders (who have been in the program 2 years) are projected to perform at 73% Basic+ and 49% Mastery+ on state tests next year. This represents a 20-point performance growth from years past.
Our program is a standards-based approach to Montessori education, and the following principals drive our philosophy:
We exchange the push for silent on-task behavior for a purposeful engagement in work. The head up teacher is actively supporting students, and evaluating their work, while recording their progress on mastery of standards. Students get uninterrupted time to practice at their pace, check their own work, and develop their focus as opposed to teacher-lead drills that reinforce automaticity. We want students to develop their own sense of stamina and rigor.
Each “activity” is called a work. Scholars are assigned works to do on their weekly worksheet and choose when they want to complete them. Working independently, scholars develop pride in their work and a capacity for academic performance. The “head up” teacher is tasked with helping all scholars engage with their work and find meaning and purpose in their independent work.
Abstract to Concrete
Montessori uses physical objects to translate abstract ideas into concrete form. This helps scholars manage complicated concepts and have something physical to manipulate as they make visible their thinking.
Control of Error
Montessori materials are designed so that the child receives instant feedback as he works, allowing him to recognize, correct, and learn from his mistakes without adult assistance. Putting control of the activity in the child’s hands strengthens his self-esteem and self-motivation as well as his learning.
Multiple Levels of Challenge
Each task has multiple levels of challenge built in to the work. Scholars can choose their own level of challenge or teachers can assign or encourage moving to the next level when the scholar is ready. This becomes part of the excitement of learning in a K12 classroom.