An observation in a Children’s House classroom

This morning I sat in on my daughter’s Montessori Children’s House classroom for one hour for an observation. This was my second time doing a classroom observation for the 3-6 year age group. The last time I did an observation was well over a year ago and was not in my daughter’s classroom.

There are some basic guidelines when observing such as;

  • Turn off your mobile phone so you are not using it while observing.
  • Wait to be invited into the classroom before entering.
  • Don’t interact with or talk to the children as not to distract them from their work.
  • Don’t look overtly at children’s work.
  • Stay seated in one of the observation chairs (sometimes there is more than one).
  • Don’t walk around the classroom.
  • Feel free to take notes.

Things to notice;

  • There is a 3 hour work period with a mixed age group of children working together.
  • Observe a child around your child’s age.
  • Notice what work they choose and how long they work at it for.
  • Everything has a place and is kept in its place- all children learn to put things away.
  • Each subject area has its own space within the classroom.
  • Children can only do a piece of work if they have had a lesson on it. Part of the lesson is to return the piece of work to its place upon completion.
  • During the work period, children can have a snack or go to the toilet when they need to.
  • Younger children tend to work on their own; as they get older work is done in pairs or smaller groups.
  • A lot of work is done with the hand, because the hand calms the mind and this allows concentration.
  • The 3 hour work period encourages the development of critical thinking skills, you can’t teach critical thinking by telling someone how to fill their time. Critical thinking encourages self-regulation.
  • The Director is found amongst the children, giving lessons one on one or to small groups.
  • Notice when the adult steps in to help the children. Notice when the adults allow the children to figure things out for themselves.

What is different about a Montessori environment?

Montessori encourages independence. From a young age we encourage children to look after their belongings and care for themselves. This is demonstrated with children managing their own time and work responsibilities. A child learns to make sure they are doing a variety of age-appropriate work and learns to evaluate their own work.

3 hour work period. Allows for deep concentrated work. Allows for concentration at different times- some children concentrate first thing, others take some time to warm up. Encourages critical thinking- children need to make work choices and follow through with their decisions.

3 year age grouping. Allows children who are advanced or work faster to move ahead with the curriculum; while allowing children who need more time to work at their level. Allows younger children to observe older children, setting expectations of work in the future. Children start in a classroom as a youngster, observing and becoming safe and secure in their routine. In turn this allows them to develop their own leadership skills and develop empathy by helping younger children. Allows older children to give presentations and become mentors to the younger children. An older child then transitions to the next age group and the cycle begins again when they are the youngest in a group. This results in children who are socially very capable, who are not afraid of talking to older children, because they are regularly interacting with older children and younger children.

*Please note that the above information was taken from a print out at a Montessori school. 

My observation in my daughter’s classroom;

My observation started just after 9 am. When I entered the classroom I first spent time in the area of the classroom mostly designed for 3-4.5 year age group. Many of the children were working on their own or in groups of two, mostly at a table or on a floor rug. There was lots of quiet chatter going on amongst the children that were working together. This was the space where daughter was working with a friend. I saw some of the other children doing flower arranging, scissor cutting, sewing and bead work, weaving, puzzles and some eating a snack. I didn’t stay long in this space as my daughter was keen for me to watch her do some work with a friend in the area mostly designed for the older children (4.5 -6 years).

My daughter and her friend chose to work with some large number cards and the wooden squares and cubes. This work they did with some help from the classroom Director.  Afterwards my daughter chose to do some reading work on her own. I observed some of the other children working on letter writing (cursive), some Botany and Zoology puzzles, one child was using a movable alphabet and another was working with a Hundred Board, some reading books or working with the bead chains. This space of the classroom was a bit quieter and the children were very much engaged in their own work. It was nice to also see so many of the younger children watching the older children work.

I will admit, I think I was a bit of a distraction in the classroom due to knowing so many of the children in the class and they all wanted me to watch them work or just to talk to me. The one hour observation felt like it went so quickly, but I am grateful that I got to do so. My daughter only has a couple of terms left in the Children’s House until she transitions to Cycle 2.

Working with your child. I have mentioned in previous posts that parents and caregivers are invited into their children’s classroom after school, for an hour each term. This time is called ‘working with your child’ and gives parents or caregivers the opportunity to sit with their children whilst they show you some of their work. My husband and I take turns attending this session with my daughter. Once my son is more settled in his classroom, then we will do the same for him as well.

Today’s ‘observation‘ was an opportunity for me to sit back and quietly observe not just my daughter but also what goes in the classroom during the morning 3 hour work period.


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