Have you ever noticed the mixed-age classrooms in a Montessori school and wondered why? The beauty of the Montessori classroom comes through strongly because of the inclusion of multiple ages in one environment. The classrooms typically have an age span of three to four years, which creates a community of students who possess beginning, developing, and proficient skills in all concepts being taught. Because of the social nature of children, they naturally want to share their insights and experiences with each other. When allowed to share work time together, children impart knowledge to each other in a way that adults cannot. The older students relish the opportunity to be mentors, which increases the independence and competence of the older students. This model is also beneficial to the younger children as they look to older students as their role models and helpers. They know that they can count on them for help and, because of this, they can accomplish tasks they may not be able to do independently yet.
By fostering learning in a multi-age classroom, children are empowered to teach and guide each other, learn collaboratively, and work to their particular abilities and interest levels. The multi-age experience mirrors real-world experiences where people of different ages work together and learn from each other. As a whole, children can cooperate rather than compete, creating an environment of learners who support and care for each other. Check out this video to see Montessori mentorship in action!
“The child’s progress does not depend only on his age, but also on being free to look about him. Our schools are alive. To understand what the older ones are doing fills the little ones with enthusiasm. The older ones will be happy to teach what they know.” Dr Maria Montessori, from The Absorbent Mind
This article is a contribution by Pherooz F Karani, Head of School, International Montessori School of Prague.