Freedom, Discipline and Behaviour Management in the Montessori classroom

In the Montessori classroom, freedom and discipline play a crucial role in creating a harmonious and effective learning environment. The Montessori approach emphasizes the importance of giving children the freedom to explore and learn at their own pace, while also providing the necessary boundaries and structure to ensure their safety and well-being.

Freedom in the Montessori classroom refers to the child’s ability to choose their activities and work at their own pace. Children are encouraged to choose activities based on their interests and developmental needs, and they are given the freedom to work on their chosen activities for as long as they need to. This promotes a sense of independence and self-motivation in children, as they take ownership of their learning and take responsibility for their own progress.

However, freedom does not mean chaos or a lack of structure in the Montessori classroom. Discipline is also an important aspect of the Montessori approach, and it is achieved through the establishment of clear expectations and consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior. Montessori teachers use positive reinforcement and redirection to encourage appropriate behavior, and they work closely with parents to ensure that the same principles are applied at home.

Behaviour management in the Montessori classroom also involves creating a calm and orderly environment that is conducive to learning. This is achieved through the use of practical and intentional materials, such as the Montessori Peace Table which helps children understand the concepts of respect, peace, and responsibility. Additionally, Montessori teachers model appropriate behavior and provide guidance and support when needed to help children develop self-regulation and conflict resolution skills.

Overall, the Montessori approach to freedom, discipline, and behavior management is based on the belief that children are naturally curious and motivated to learn, and that it is the role of the teacher to create an environment that fosters and supports their growth and development. By providing children with the freedom to explore and learn, while also establishing clear expectations and consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior, Montessori teachers are able to create a learning environment that is both nurturing and challenging.

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“When the child is given the freedom to move about in a world of objects, he is naturally inclined to perform the tasks necessary for his development entirely on his own.”

~ M.Montessori “Education and Peace”

child whispering to another child

Elements of Freedom and Discipline in the Montessori Classroom

No one can be completely free while they are dependent. Manifestations of the desire for independence can be observed early in a child’s life. Freedom and independence are intertwined – independence is essential for freedom. The teacher’s task is to remove obstacles on the way to independence.

The identity of the child can only be formed in the process of his “work“. In the Montessori classroom, at first, the child gains freedom as an individual, and then it grows into the ability to be a part of the community.

This freedom comes from within and manifests as self-control. It is important to emphasize that the child commits positive behavior and positive actions not due to external reinforcement and rewards. The child gains inner satisfaction from performing positive actions due to his nature. The child does not need external validation of his actions from others as he is able to form a personal judgment of his actions. It means external rewards or punishment are not necessary.

Elements of Freedom in the Montessori Classroom

“Without freedom, it is impossible for personality to develop fully. Freedom is the key to the entire process, and the first step comes when the individual is capable of acting without help from others and becomes aware of himself as an autonomous being.”

~ M. Montessori Education and Peace

  • Freedom of choice. Allowing children to have freedom of choice is a demonstration of respect for the child’s development. The desire to have the freedom to choose is driven by:

– will to gain experience

– the teacher who connects the child to the environment and material

– gaining more knowledge

The child is eager to try to experiment with everything in the classroom. The fact that the child makes his own choice of work is very significant since it is his DECISION. It is not easy to make a decision, it requires inner motivation and inner work.

In the Montessori classroom, freedom of choice is an important aspect of the learning environment. This means that children are encouraged to select their own work and learning activities based on their interests and skills. This approach allows children to take ownership of their learning and helps to foster a sense of independence and self-confidence.

Freedom of choice also means that children can work at their own pace, without feeling rushed or pressured. This allows them to fully explore and understand concepts, and to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

In the Montessori classroom, teachers act as guides, rather than dictators. They provide guidance and support, but ultimately, it is up to the child to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. This approach helps to foster critical thinking skills, as children are encouraged to ask questions and explore their interests.

By allowing children the freedom of choice in the classroom, Montessori education helps to create lifelong learners who are curious, self-motivated, and confident in their abilities.

  • Freedom to work. As was mentioned before, personality forms through the process of work. A prepared environment offers a wide range of specific activities that promote freedom of work. Work is a foundation of freedom because work requires the child to follow certain rules and directions. Freedom does not mean the child can do what they please. Freedom is understanding rules and limits for actions. (For example, putting work back on the shelf after completing it gives freedom to choose the next activity). Allowing a child to do whatever he likes before he gains self-control destroys the idea of freedom.

The Montessori method of education promotes freedom for children to work in the classroom. This freedom is based on the idea that children learn better when they are allowed to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. In a Montessori classroom, children are given the freedom to work at their own pace and to choose the materials that interest them.

The classroom provides an environment that is designed to meet the needs of each child. Materials are organized and presented in a way that allows children to explore and discover for themselves. The classroom is also structured in a way that allows children to work independently or in small groups.

The freedom to work in a Montessori classroom is not unlimited. Children are expected to follow certain rules and guidelines. They are expected to handle the materials with care and respect, to work quietly and without disturbing others, and to return the materials to their proper place. Teachers also provide guidance and support to children as they work, helping them to stay on-task and to explore new ideas.

Overall, the freedom to work in a Montessori classroom is an important aspect of the Montessori method. It allows children to explore their interests and to develop a love of learning. It also promotes independence and self-discipline, while providing a structured and supportive learning environment.

  • Freedom of time. There is no timetable for lessons in the Montessori classroom. The child is allowed to work with material as long as he wants to and at his own pace. Often child likes to do the same activity over and over again. It allows him to build deeper concentration in the process of continuous repetition. In addition, it encourages him to develop a stronger character, since he has more time to keep trying until he works it out. It also helps the ability to overcome challenges.

One of the fundamental principles of Montessori education is freedom. However, this freedom is not just about unrestricted behavior. It is mainly about giving freedom of time to children in the classroom. In the Montessori classroom, children are allowed to move around and work at their own pace. They are responsible for deciding what work to do and how long to spend on it.

Freedom of time means that there is no fixed timetable for children in a Montessori classroom. This approach allows children to be more independent and self-directed in their learning. They can explore and learn at their own pace, without any pressure to conform to a set schedule.

In a Montessori classroom, children are free to choose the activities they want to work on. They can choose to work alone or with others. They may also choose to repeat an activity or move on to something new. This freedom encourages children to take responsibility for their learning, becoming more confident and self-reliant.

Freedom of time also allows children to develop their concentration and focus. When they are free to work on activities for as long as they need, they are more likely to become absorbed in the work they are doing. This deep concentration can lead to a more profound understanding of concepts and an increased ability to solve complex problems.

In conclusion, freedom of time is a crucial aspect of Montessori education. It gives children the freedom to explore, learn, and grow at their own pace, making them more independent and self-directed learners. This freedom also develops concentration and focus, helping children to become more confident and capable individuals.

  • Freedom of movement. Every work with the material in the classroom involves movement. The child is not forced to sit and listen. He is free to observe, and then to work independently. In addition, a child can move freely without disturbing others’ work.

Freedom of movement is one of the key principles of Montessori education and is essential for facilitating learning and development. In the Montessori classroom, freedom of movement refers to the idea that children should have the ability to move around and explore their environment freely and without constraint.

This principle is based on the belief that movement is essential for children’s cognitive and physical development. When children are given the freedom to move around, they can develop coordination, balance, and perceptual-motor skills. In addition, movement also enhances brain development, memory retention, and learning ability.

In the Montessori classroom, freedom of movement is facilitated through the use of carefully designed learning environments. The classroom is carefully arranged to provide ample space for children to move around and explore. Materials and activities are placed within easy reach of the child, and the environment is set up to encourage exploration and discovery.

Teachers in the Montessori classroom are trained to observe and facilitate children’s movement rather than dictating it. They allow children to explore at their own pace and provide guidance and support when needed. This approach helps children develop self-confidence, independence, and a sense of responsibility for their learning.

In conclusion, freedom of movement is an integral part of Montessori education and is essential for promoting children’s overall development. By providing children with the opportunity to move around and explore their environment freely, the Montessori classroom fosters a love of learning and helps children develop the skills they need to become successful, independent learners.

  • Freedom to eat and drink. The Montessori classroom always has a place where the child can have a snack or a drink at any time he wishes.

In a Montessori classroom, children are given the freedom to choose when and what they would like to eat and drink. The classroom environment is equipped with a designated area for a healthy snack and water. Children are encouraged to serve themselves and to clean up after themselves when they are finished.

The freedom to eat and drink in the Montessori classroom helps to promote self-care and independence in children. It also allows children to listen to their own bodies and to eat and drink when they feel hungry or thirsty.

However, it is important to note that to maintain a respectful learning environment, children are expected to not disturb others while they eat or drink. The Montessori teacher also ensures that children understand the importance of eating healthy foods and drinking water for their overall health and well-being.

  • Freedom of communication and interaction. The children are free to work together upon mutual agreement if it does not destruct others’ work.

Freedom of communication and interaction is an essential aspect of the Montessori classroom. The Montessori approach recognizes that children learn best when they are free to communicate and interact with the environment around them.

In a Montessori classroom, children are encouraged to communicate with one another and with their teachers. Students are given the freedom to share their ideas, thoughts, and feelings openly without fear of judgment or criticism. This approach helps to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment where all children feel valued and appreciated.

Montessori classrooms also emphasize the importance of mutual respect and cooperation. Children are encouraged to work together on projects, engage in group activities, and help one another learn and grow. By promoting a culture of cooperation and teamwork, Montessori classrooms help to foster positive social skills and emotional development in children.

In addition to promoting communication and interaction among students, Montessori classrooms also encourage children to explore and interact with their environment. Children are given the freedom to move around the classroom, explore different materials, and engage in hands-on activities. This approach helps to promote creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving skills, which are essential for success both inside and outside of the classroom.

Overall, the Montessori approach recognizes the importance of freedom of communication and interaction in creating a supportive, stimulating, and nurturing learning environment for children. By promoting these values, Montessori classrooms help to foster emotional and social development, encourage creativity and curiosity, and prepare children for success in all aspects of their lives.

  • Freedom to help each other.

The Montessori philosophy emphasizes the importance of freedom and independence in children’s learning and development. However, this freedom does not mean that children are left to their own devices without any guidance or assistance.

In fact, in a Montessori classroom environment, there is a strong focus on cooperation and collaboration among the children. The teacher acts as a guide and facilitator, encouraging and supporting the children to help each other.

The Montessori classroom is designed in a way that allows for interaction and socialization among the children. The materials and activities are arranged in a way that promotes cooperation, and children are encouraged to work in pairs or small groups.

Through this collaboration, children learn important social skills such as communication, problem-solving, and empathy. They also develop a sense of responsibility and learn to respect each other’s abilities and contributions.

The Montessori philosophy also believes in the importance of providing opportunities for children to help each other. This can include assisting with tasks such as cleaning up, helping a peer who is struggling with an activity, or simply supporting each other emotionally.

In this way, children learn to become active members of a community, understanding that their actions can have an impact on others. They also learn the value of helping others and gain satisfaction from being able to contribute to the success of their peers.

Overall, the freedom to help each other in a Montessori classroom encourages children to develop important social and emotional skills while fostering a sense of community and cooperation.

Elements of Discipline in the Montessori Classroom

There is only one type of each material in the classroom (there is only one Pink Tower or Red Rod activity).

It has great benefits:
– the work becomes special
– it develops patience since a child has to wait for his turn
– it develops respect for others

The child has to return to work back where he found it after completing working with it as an expression of respect for the other children.

Work is not considered finished until the material is put back in its original place.

Every material has a purpose and meaning.

The child is welcome to experiment with the material as long as it fits its purpose. For example, the child can create various shapes using the Red Rods, but should not use those as a pretend gun. Sometimes teacher allows certain children’s experiments unless those experiments can hurt other children or the environment. Then it has to be immediately stopped.

Behavior management

Maria Montessori believed that misbehavior originates from a child’s environment, circumstances, and surroundings:
defects in character, disappear of themselves…One does not need to threaten or cajole, but only to ‘normalizing the conditions under which the child lives.” Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

In the Montessori environment, behavior management is done in the form of redirecting and gluing.

You can read more about it here: Gluing and Redirecting Behavior in the Montessori Classroom

In the Montessori classroom, gluing and redirecting behavior are essential practices that help promote positive behavior and ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all students.

Gluing behavior is when a teacher “glues” a student’s attention back to the task at hand. This technique is used to redirect a student who may be off task or disruptive. The teacher may use a physical touch, such as a tap on the shoulder or hand, or a verbal cue, such as calling the student’s name, to bring their attention back to the lesson or activity. This technique helps students stay focused and engaged in their learning, and it also helps prevent disruptions that can interfere with the learning process.

Redirecting behavior is when a teacher responds to a student’s inappropriate or disruptive behavior by providing them with an alternative behavior or activity that is more appropriate. This technique is used to teach students how to self-regulate their behavior and make positive choices. For example, if a student is throwing things or yelling, the teacher may redirect them to a calming activity, such as deep breathing or an art project that allows them to express their emotions in a constructive way.

By using these techniques, Montessori teachers help students develop the self-awareness, self-regulation, and responsibility they need to succeed in school and in life. They create a positive learning environment where students feel respected, valued, and supported, and where they can take risks, make mistakes, and learn from their experiences.

below are behavior management strategies that Montessori teachers typically use in their classrooms:

Positive Reinforcement: Montessori teachers use positive reinforcement to encourage and motivate children. When children perform well, they are praised and rewarded, which reinforces positive behavior.

Clear Expectations: Montessori classrooms have clear expectations, rules, and routines that are consistently enforced. Children are aware of what is expected of them and understand the consequences of not following the rules.

Natural Consequences: Montessori teachers often use natural consequences to help children understand the results of their actions. For example, if a child breaks a toy, they can’t play with it anymore.

Redirection: If a child is engaging in inappropriate behavior, Montessori teachers often redirect them to a different activity. This helps the child focus on something more positive and reduces the likelihood of further negative behavior.

Conflict Resolution: Montessori classrooms typically focus on teaching children how to resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully. Teachers model appropriate behavior and facilitate discussions to help children learn how to resolve conflicts independently.

Calm Tone: Montessori teachers typically speak in a calm, gentle tone and avoid yelling or showing anger. This helps to create a peaceful and supportive classroom environment.

Collaborative Problem-Solving: Montessori classrooms foster a sense of community and encourage collaborative problem-solving. Children work together to solve problems, which helps to build a sense of responsibility and accountability for one another.

Reference: Russian Montessori Society

‘This post is featured by Twinkl in their ‘Behaviour Management in the Classroom‘ blog’.

About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.