When your Montessori students arrive in the morning, do they have a place to hang their coats? If they switch to indoor shoes, do they have a “home” for the shoes they are not wearing? Can they easily put on their indoor shoes? The start of the school day is only the start of the opportunities the Montessori classroom provides to students for building independence.
Montessori Classroom Design: Fostering Independence in the Prepared EnvironmentAllow your Montessori students to help prepare a snack. They can chop fruit, pour pretzels in bowls, etc. Students can also wash snack and lunch dishes and cutlery. Whether laundry consists of cloth napkins, place mats rags, or nap mat sheets, students can fold and put away laundry. They can also help put laundry in the washing machines if available.
Make sure all pencils, colored pencils, crayons, paper, tape, glue, and any other commonly-used materials are readily accessible in the Montessori environment. Think about the questions you are most often asked. For example, are you constantly asked to sharpen pencils? Find a home for a pencil sharpener or place two close to your pencils.
Work with your Montessori students’ parents to assure that, as much as possible, students can easily open their own lunch boxes and their lunch food containers. Keep place mats napkins, cutlery, a trash can, and recycling bin near the classroom lunch area and low enough for students to reach easily.
Spend some time on your knees or sitting on the floor so you can see the Montessori classroom at your students’ eye level. If you have labeled areas or shelves, are they at the right height? Can your students reach everything they need on a daily basis? Does every sink have towels and soap within reach? Are step stools readily available? If your Montessori students keep an extra set of clothes at school, are the clothes packed away or accessible in baskets or cubbies?
Ask students if they have any suggestions for changes that would enhance the Montessori environment. Ask a colleague to help you assess your Montessori classroom design with a fresh set of eyes. Visit other environments at your Montessori school and borrow ideas that may work well in your classroom. As you revisit the design elements of your Montessori classroom on a regular basis, keep in mind that your Montessori students are very capable and that this is their environment. Be aware of their growing independence, make your design adjustments accordingly, and enjoy the benefits of a well-prepared Montessori environment!
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, January 12, 2011.