Concentration, Where the Magic Happens!
As I was scanning this picture of a Montessori 3-6 birthday party celebration—where a child carries the globe around a candle representing the sun, one time for each year of life—and looking at it on the computer screen, I could see for the first time the look of boredom on the faces of the children. They had been pulled away from concentrating on their individual work to “celebrate.” I did the math: 30 children x 3 years in the class = 90 birthdays! This brought home to me the reason why there are no regularly scheduled, no “required” group or collective lessons, no regular “circle” time, in authentic Montessori classes. Yes, concentration on individual work is where the magic happens.
Seeing this boredom on the faces, and body language, of the children at this birthday celebration was an eye-opener for me as a Montessori consultant and course examiner. Such a birthday celebration is not presented in any AMI Montessori teacher training course, rather an example of many practices that make their way into the classroom when the teacher does not understand the implications. For example, the relationship between the earth and the sun is one of the first “great lessons” in the elementary, age 6-12 class, when the minds of children are such that they can reach back into time and far into space. But before this age, during the sensorial period of life, all concepts must be real and understandable through the senses in the here and not. Giving information too early, or at the wrong stage of development, is confusing, and harmful in too many ways to go into here.
When work and concentration on activities appropriate for the child’s stage of development are protected the potential for optimum development is seen in ways previously not thought possible. A human being is revealed who knows that happiness does not come from things or fame, who exhibits a love of silence, a natural impulse to do good work, to learn, and to help others. This is the magic of Montessori.
See the whole article “Concentration, Where the Magic is” on the Michael Olaf Montessori Newsletter:
CLICK: Where the Magic is
These two pictures – examples of the natural tendency for concentration, and to have this “work” respected and not interrupted, are from the book The Universal Child, Guided by Nature.
CLICK: Universal Child
—Creative Development in the Child, The Montessori Approach, Volume II” (Page 207-208)
(Speaking of a lesson)
This presentation is given, not to a group of children, but individually, to help the child to grow mentally. We prepare this special environment to help his growth, to offer him freedom so that he can proceed with his work in a normal way. The collective lessons are given only to the child who has not yet been normalized. After normalization each child grows individually, in his own way. One child may be ready for the lesson one day and another child another day. . . . If we give a lesson we do not command all the children to stop what they are doing in order to listen. Many children may have absolutely no interest in the lesson and we may bore them.
From Creative Development in the Child, The Montessori Approach, Volume II” (Page 296)
(In a letter from one of Dr. Montessori’s students working in France, after Dr. Montessori had suggested, when she was just beginning to learn about the importance of individual lessons and still was suggesting collective lessons)
It is marvelous to see how these children work. They work by themselves, and they are occupied the whole morning. The only thing at which I do not succeed is in interesting them in a collective lesson.
TEACHING WITHOUT COLLECTIVE LESSONS
In the book Aid to Live, Montessori Beyond the Classroom there is a many-page recorded observation of a 2-6 class at the AMI training center in London. It is a excellent example of authentic Montessori without group lessons.
CLICK: Aid to Life
Even though there are no regularly scheduled group or collective lessons in authentic Montessori classes, groups are spontaneously formed in several ways such as in the beginning of a new class. In this case large and then small group lessons occur all day long as children learn to act independently, gradually the time between collective lessons increasing until the whole class is functioning independently.
There will also be group, or “collective,” lessons with new children who are joining a class at the same time.
Sometimes a small group forms spontaneously, teacher beginning to read to a child and a few others joining in; or if a child gathers a few friends for a vocabulary game; occasionally a “going home” group as children await their parents.
The 5 Great Lessons are given in the beginning of a 6-12 class year, and later children in the 6-12 class group form groups to plan a research project which often will be a group presentation to the rest of the class, or small group lessons form with the teacher when everyone is researching the same subject. But the uninterrupted 3-hour work period always takes precedence and no one is required to attend a group activity.
Above age six—and in adult life—there are many age-appropriate ways that children and young adults learn to collaborate and work together. But periods of silent concentration is always important and must be planned for. This is still “where the magic happens.”
When work and concentration on activities appropriate for the child’s stage of development are protected the potential for optimum development is seen in ways previously not thought possible. A human being is revealed who knows that happiness does not come from things or fame, who exhibits a love of silence, a natural impulse to do good work, to learn, and to help others. This is the magic of Montessori. It is the most important element of Montessori at any age and any place.
This, and other essential principles of Montessori, for home and school, are discussed at length in these books: CLICK: First Montessori Books