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About the Montessori approach


           Maria Montessori

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The Montessori approach emphasises the development of each child, respecting their individual needs, interests and abilities. It is based on children’s natural desire to learn, and allows them to experience the excitement of learning by their own choice and at their own speed. Children learn willingly under these circumstances, and the Montessori teacher / key person spends time with each child individually.

The Montessori approach was formulated by Dr Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian doctor then educationalist who worked with children over many years. She revolutionised the idea of education, giving children the opportunity for self-expression, for decision-making, for exploration and discovery, for following their interests, and for developing their own abilities and self-confidence. “We cannot create a genius,” she wrote. “We can only give each individual the chance to fulfil their potential possibilities to become an independent, secure and balanced human being.” She developed an amazing range of practical, sensorial, cultural, physical, maths and language materials for children to use on their own and with their teachers, leading them step-by-step through every area of their development. 

Maria Montessori had a fascinating life, was a pioneer and way ahead of her time in terms of developing a child-led approach to education and to life. Although she died in the 1950s, what she advocated is still absolutely relevant in today's world. She saw the value in nurturing each child's individuality without interfering, in modelling how to act in the world by guiding and not dictating, and in opening the door to a child's future by allowing them to discover it for themselves.

You can find out more about Maria Montessori, her life and her beliefs and her "method" and teaching materials.  


How we use the Montessori approach

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Small group activities

Small group activities - including story-times, snack times, chatting times, art and crafts, cooking, music, drama and outdoor sessions -  help children develop a range of social, creative and physical skills alongside other children.  Please see our activities for more details. 


Free choice and 1:1 teacher interactions

Children have daily free choice time to explore a wide range of practical, sensorial, cultural, maths and language resources as well as to engage in social play. Our teachers observe, support and introduce them to new knowledge and skills, and they progress through all areas of learning at their own pace. Children with areas of special or particular need benefit from tailored sessions to support them and meet their needs.


Respectful guidance

We take a calm and consistent approach to teaching acceptable social boundaries. Children are treated with respect and are expected to treat others and the environment with respect. Children express their emotions freely, build empathy for others and develop good self-esteem. Teachers act as role models and foster positive interactions between the children.

In addition to Montessori, our nursery also adheres to the Department for Education's Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. The DfE's Statutory Framework for the EYFS document specifies the requirements for learning and development and for safeguarding children from birth to five years old, and for promoting their welfare. The learning and development requirements cover: the areas of learning and development which must shape activities and experiences for children in all early years settings; the early learning goals that providers must help children work towards (the knowledge, skills and understanding children should have at the end of the academic year in which they turn five); assessment arrangements for measuring progress; and requirements for reporting to parents and/or carers.

There are seven areas of learning and development that must shape educational programmes in early years settings. All these areas are important and inter-connected. Three areas are particularly important for building a foundation for igniting children's curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, forming relationships and thriving. These are the prime areas - communication and language; physical development; and personal, social and emotional development.

Providers must also support children in four specific areas, through which the three prime areas are strengthened and applied. These specific areas are: literacy; mathematics; understanding the world; expressive arts and design.

The safeguarding and welfare requirements cover the steps that providers must take to keep children safe and promote their welfare.

The Statutory Framework is supported by "Development Matters", a non-statutory curriculum guidance for the EYFS for practitioners, and by "What to Expect in the EYFS" a very useful guide for parents. 


About the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)


How we use the statutory and non-statutory EYFS guidance

1. Early learning goals

2. Understand stepping stones

3. Planned curriculum and activities

For each area, the guidance sets out early learning goals. These goals state what most children will know and be able to do by the end of the Reception year of their education.

The guidance sets out stepping stones, which describe the stages through which children are likely to pass as they move to achievement of each goal. It also highlights the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning. 

We use the stepping stones  to plan and provide activities that allow a child to progress. This may be led by how the child wishes to use the activity and at other times the adult will take the lead in helping the child to take part.

At Elmwood, we cover all areas of learning, and fit a balance of activities into each session. A cycle of observation, assessment and planning is undertaken on a continuous basis for each child. There is no pressure on the children to "perform" for anyone else's satisfaction, nor to go faster than is right for them. Children's progress is recorded, and a Learning Journal for each child is added to weekly, with photographs, individual observations, examples of their work and input from parents. 

The themes that we cover throughout the year are led by the interests of our children. These themes will determine some of the activities, resources and play areas that we have out in the classroom as well as being reflected in our group activity sessions


Some examples of themes we might cover are:

  • The Solar System (including caring for our planet)

  • All About Me - Healthy lives, healthy bodies

  • Mini-beasts (including life-cycles)

  • Gardening and growing vegetables

  • Transport

  • Favourite rhymes and stories

  • The jobs people do

We celebrate festivals throughout the year including Diwali, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, Eid al-Fitr and more! We love to celebrate birthdays at school, and involve parents in many of our celebrations.


To see examples of what we have covered recently at school see our blog 

Example curriculum themes

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