“It is high time that movement came to be regarded from a new point of view in educational theory.” Maria Montessori stated that in her book The Absorbent Mind. In modern education, many classrooms still force children to sit still, when in fact, they should be allowed to move. Physical activity is more than just a way to remain physically fit—it conditions the mind, body, and soul. Not only that, but Maria Montessori believed that movement should be “connected with the mental activity going on.”
That is why our Montessori school in Philadelphia allows children to move freely while they work, because movement is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one.
The Role of Movement in the Classroom
Traditionally, educators in the public schooling system looked at movement and saw a problem. Recess and physical education are used predominantly to get “wiggles” out instead of something to incorporate into learning. Children have to expend their energy all at once and then are forced to sit still again. As children get older, the lengths of time they are sedentary gets longer, and physical education is oftentimes completely separated from other forms of education.
However, in a Montessori classroom, purposeful movement is what drives movement. This is where Freedom of Movement comes in. Within the Prepared Environment and with the careful guidance of a Teacher, children can utilize movement to perform a task. For example, a younger student might be asked to make five trips to bring ten blocks to their workstation. Then they have to repeat the action five times to return the blocks to their proper place. Not only does this build a concept of counting 1 through 5, but it also helps with other mathematical concepts, like decimals and percentages later on.
Thus, these concepts are not only imbued within the mind but within the body as well.
Direction, Intervention, and Activity
Movement is vital to life, but the education of movement can be complex, and it must correspond to a coordinated activity in order for children to learn and understand it. In essence, children learn to roll, crawl, and walk because locomotion is a necessity. When a child is left to their own devices, their movements are disorderly. Children might act out and be unruly or naughty.
In a traditional classroom, this unruliness is checked with orders to keep still. Yet, when a child is forced to stay still, any movements that assist with their education are smothered…and that could detract from their education. So, in a Montessori school in Philadelphia, you will notice that children are directed to move.
Montessori described direction and movement when observing a child, by writing that they “grow quiet and contented, and becomes an active worker, a being calm and full of joy.” Again and again, this is seen in Philadelphia Montessori schools. Rather than hyperactive children, the classroom is composed, calm, and everyone is actively working.
That is why Montessori teachers intervene only when necessary to direct movement.
Intervening and Motion in the Montessori Classroom
Intervention is done when content needs to be learned. Otherwise, children are free to operate on their own, because Montessori teachers want to direct children to do what comes naturally: learning through exploration.
Here are some reasons intervention is used:
- Teachers wish to present Montessori materials to be used during self-directed activities
- Interventions used to redirect an activity that isn’t fulfilling a certain purpose or does not allow children to follow certain societal norms, whether to the children themselves, others, or the materials
- Teachers might intervene when an activity needs to be restarted or children need assistance
Montessori teachers will never intervene when their assistance isn’t necessary or when children are completely engaged in movement and work or if the child is displaying certain developments, such as repetition, perfecting a movement, orientation, reflecting on work, or helping other students.
A good example for movement and learning in the Montessori classroom would be teaching a child how to clean.
In order to clean well, children must first understand the gross motor movements. Then, they need to be able to act independently and know when sweeping up or cleaning is needed. Other activities that teach the “how” and “why” certain items work as they do (like why a broom sweeps and a mop mops) will help mature their minds and help them coordinate their efforts better.
Learning how to clean and act when something needs cleaning also fosters a sense of responsibility. For instance, when a child cleans up after themselves when preparing a meal, it shows that they understand that they’re responsible for the mess and are being considerate to others who would want to use the space.
Let’s Get Moving
Dr. Maria Montessori developed a form of education that acknowledges both physical and mental growth through movement. Not only that, but Montessori classrooms use movement as fuel for learning. When you visit a Philadelphia Montessori school, for instance, you will see such a philosophy in action. With movement, you can achieve a peaceful learning environment that is the exact opposite to a traditional school classroom, where chaos reigns.
So let’s get your children moving! If you would like to know more about the benefits of a Montessori education, feel free to contact us.