Without a doubt, observation in a Montessori classroom is absolutely vital to the learning process, so this article will discuss the basics of how Montessori teachers observe students in the classroom – and why they do it too.
Certainly, students will learn faster than each other in different areas, so the “doing” part of their education will come easy to them in that area.
Instruction can be difficult without paying attention to a child's interests, strengths, and areas where they need help.
Standardized learning techniques fall short in this area, as children are all expected to progress at the same pace and in the same areas.
That's the challenge educators face every day in the classroom, so if you're teaching your children at home, you'll need to learn a few tricks of the trade, like observation in Montessori.
Montessori observation makes the unique education Method possible – so, let's find out what exactly it is and how to do it.
Essentials of Montessori observation – Watchful but always with a purpose
At first, you might have difficulty understanding what exactly observation means in an educational setting.
After all, isn't an educator's job to observe anyway? The answer is not necessarily, and here's why.
The idea behind Montessori observation is to make a genuinely objective perspective at how your child is performing in school, being watchful but always with a purpose.
A simple metaphor is that you have to think more like a behavioral scientist and try to take your emotions and preconceptions out of the equation as much as possible.
Besides, observation may come naturally to educators because it’s easier for them to separate their subjective opinions from objective observations; however, parents usually find the task much harder, and some never really master it.
No matter what, it's always a challenge to teach children at home, which is why staying true to the facts you see before your eyes are so important.
Montessori observation depends on staying true to the facts and only the facts.
Again, you have to take the emotion out of it because everyone views the world through various perceptions and value judgments, our own lens of reality, and our place in the world.
That may sound like a lot of psychobabble gibberish, but it's a vital concept in Montessori observation.
So, the next question is, how do you see the facts for what they truly are and not what you feel they should be?
When trying to adapt Montessori teaching techniques to a home school setting, staying truly objective is how you make the most impact.
Still, simple objective observation doesn't have an agenda beforehand, and it doesn't come to a predetermined conclusion, seeing what you want to see, not what's actually in front of you.
For instance, let's say a child shows an over-the-top aptitude for reading comprehension. The instinct is to shower praise on the child and reinforce the positive behavior until it becomes second nature.
But if you take an objective look at the same hypothetical situation, the question really becomes: how far along is this child compared to their peers?
Yes, the ability to read well is a gift, so the idea is to nurture that innate ability by having the child do more of the activity.
Learning interests without interruptions
Not only do we recognize developmental changes, but we also learn what piques a child's interests. Indeed, actual observation inherently leads to a more profound understanding of a child's learning style.
But the one rule is never to interfere when using the observation technique! Even if your child does something remarkable like spell their name without any assistance, resist the urge to show joy and simply write down the observation.
Silence is golden
It may be easier for you to stay completely silent while observing your child's learning behaviors along those lines.
Being quiet and sitting still is a lot harder than you might think it is, but with practice, you'll get used to staying silent and objective.
And self-observation is how you ultimately learn that silence really is golden in observation.
What drives your passions? Is it your talents, or is it the support you receive from loved ones and friends?
The answers are different for everyone, and that's why self-observation takes time to master.
Most people need to start writing down self-observations as they occur, and that's a perfectly viable way to begin. But you may also naturally have a self-reflective personality that suits observation in Montessori perfectly.
Starting a Montessori observation journal
Lastly, to put it all together, you write everything down in a Montessori observation journal, including your own self-reflection.
Again, the goal is to document an accurate, structured, and objective record of how the child is developing from day to day – and your role in their education.
But another option is to keep an ongoing record of how the child is developing each day as well as how well they're doing since the start of the program.
Without this kind of information on paper, it makes it incredibly difficult to judge whether or not the child is keeping pace – or vastly outperforming – their peers who are learning in a traditional classroom setting.
So, at the very least, an excellent Montessori journal should include notes on things like:
- Emotional development
- Cognitive development
- Social development
- Eating and sleeping
- Clothing and appearance
- Motor skills (both gross and fine motor)
If you monitor a child's learning along these dimensions, you'll eventually master the art of staying quiet, objective, and mindful of how your child learns best at home.
When you've taken the opportunity to step back and really observe your child, what kind of things did you notice that you had been missing?
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