Montessori divides the whole human life into four parts and calls them the Four Planes of Development. They are 0 to 6 years, 6 to 12 years, 12 to 18 years and 18 to 24 years. Among all these planes the first plane of development i.e. 0 to 6 years is very crucial and important, that the child of this age possess the potentialities, which an older child doesn’t. Recent researches confirm that 70% of an adult’s personality develops during the first plane. Hence the first five years are called the ‘formative years of life’. Moreover, this is the time when the child learns to be a part of the society he/she lives in by absorbing language, attitudes, manners, values and traditions.
Montessori classroom consists of children of three age groups instead of one single age group. Example 3 to 6 years in one classroom, 6 to 9 years in another classroom. This mixed age group improves social development and enables the younger ones to look up to older ones and older one being responsible for the younger ones. Incidents like older children feeding, carrying, helping the younger ones is very common sight in the Montessori classrooms.
Montessori believes that the children develop, not as a tree but as a butterfly and goes through several stages of metamorphosis. Like cater pillar, pupa and butterfly the children are different at 0 – 6 years compared to 6 – 12 or 12 – 18. The children below six years cannot be taught directly. They absorb the culture and language from their environment, like a sponge, and learn through experience using their hands and senses. Though sit in a group, they play/work individually. This is the stage when the foundation for good behaviour is laid.
Accordingly, the Montessori pre-primary classrooms are designed to have a maximum of 35 children between 2 ½ and 5 ½ years. Each classroom has one set of Montessori equipment and two Montessori teachers. In these classes, the children develop through the experiences gained by doing the various activities provided, by making mistakes and finding out the solutions by themselves or with the help of the teacher. The classroom provides scope for learning good behaviour through the real situations.
Exercises of Practical life are the activities which we perform in our day to day life like dressing, dusting, sweeping, washing, etc. The children of three years have a strong attraction towards these activities. Through these the children can taking care of themselves, care for the environment, being courteous and graceful. In addition, Exercises of Practical Life improve the concentration of the children and gain control over their movements.
According to Dr. Montessori a human being has ten senses including the sense-of-pain. Apart from visual, hearing, taste, smell, touch, she recognises four more senses – muscular, thermic, baric and Stereognostic. The Sensorial Activities provide activities for each of the above nine senses and develop scientific thinking skills like observing, comparing and deciding.
By three and a half years the child is no longer satisfied in knowing that something is more or less. The child now wants to know precisely by how much it is more or less, which is called awakening of ‘mathematical mind’. The child is introduced to numbers beyond 100, up to 9999, to the decimal system and meaning of the four arithmetical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and the basic combinations around them.
Language in a Montessori environment has a unique approach. Here, in contrast to the regular school, the child is helped to know that language is nothing but sounds. Each sound has a symbol. We use these symbols to express ourselves. This method develops the eagerness to write and read. Later on, the child is introduced to the fact that each word we speak has a function to perform in a sentence, and the sentence has a structure i.e. grammar.
Cultural activities expose the children to the basics of geography, history, botany and zoology, music, art and movement, which form the integral part of Montessori’s curriculum.