Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending the afternoon in a Grade 4/5/6 Montessori class from Tyee Elementary. I had been wanting to do this for a long time so when Ms. Hong kindly offered to spend the afternoon with my class so that I could visit her daughter’s class, I took advantage of this opportunity. (Thank you, Ms. Hong!)
It was an amazing experience. What struck me most is that all students were on task and engaged, taking responsibility for their learning. I saw no one misbehaving. As an observer who knows very little about this alternative way of teaching, it felt as if the students were on an afternoon long playdate but instead of playing, they were all working on something school related. It was a student-centered environment as opposed to being teacher-centered. Although the teacher wasn’t delivering traditional lessons to the whole class at once, she was there to support and guide those who needed her.
I recognize that a Montessori learning environment is a lot more than this (their hands-on material is designed differently and they have access to different teaching resources) but I left feeling inspired and open to adapting some of my daily routines to promote a more student-centered learning environment in my own classroom.
As a result of this, I am giving everyone in my class more freedom. The students still have important work to do and deadlines to respect but they are now able to decide when is best for them to work on a specific assignment. So far, everyone has responded extremely well to this and very few students have been off task. And since I am no longer dividing the day in “blocks”, it feels as if more seems to get accomplished.
To help the students transition and organize themselves better, all have to complete their own “to do” list, which is visible on their desk. This helps prioritize and keep track of important deadlines. I never thought I would say this but those who used to avoid some of the work are now keen to get their work done in a more timely manner.
I look forward to seeing what the next few weeks will look like as I continue to experiment with different approaches to teaching.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Heather Mosley and her Division 3 students for welcoming me into their classroom.
P.S. If you aren’t familiar with the Montessori approach, this site may be useful to you. There are a lot more about this on the internet but I chose one that would give you a brief overview of it.