Movement in the Montessori Classroom

14 Jun 2018

“To have a vision of the cosmic plan, in which every form of life depends on
directed movements which have effects beyond their conscious aim, is to
understand the child’s work and be able to guide it better.” (Maria
Montessori,The Absorbent Mind, p. 147.)
Children are active by nature, but did you know that movement is integral to
learning, in addition to social and physical development? Often, traditional schools
consider movement as something for outside of the classroom. However, in the Montessori
environment, freedom of movement is a vital part of the process of acquiring
knowledge and skills.
Montessori promotes purposeful movement in the classroom. Here, children are
free to choose their work and activities throughout the course of the day. Upon
entering a highly functioning Montessori classroom, what should be most striking is
the wide variety of work and activities in progress. This may include, but is not
limited by, work with materials, science experiments, cooking, baking, gardening,
exploring nature, yoga, drama, dance, errands, going out, field trips, sharing and
collaborating with a friend, cleaning, organizing, handicrafts, artwork, and playing
music. Each activity is woven into the fabric of the day in developmentally
appropriate ways.
“As a part of school life, which gives priority to the intellect, the role of
movement has always been sadly neglected. When accepted there at all, it has
only been under the heading of “exercise”, “physical education” or “games”. But
this is to overlook its close connection with the developing mind.” (Montessori,
1967, p. 136)

When observing in the classroom, it is not uncommon to see a child deeply engaged
in a task and exerting full concentration followed by getting up to move around to
another activity. Sometimes they wander a little and engage with other children
before choosing their next work. The activities chosen after times of deep
concentration, often serve as a period of reflection and consolidation of concepts
and ideas.
“One of the most important practical aspects of our method has been to make
the training of the muscles enter into the very life of the children so that it is
intimately connected with their daily activities” (Discovery of the Child, Maria
Montessori)

Through movement, students develop themselves physically, mentally, socially and
spiritually as they connect with their environment, nature and others. They are
building their personality through action and limiting this is not recognizing their
developmental needs, which contribute to the emergence of fully formed individuals. Montessori views movement as the thread that connects body and mind and in this dynamism, the human intellect and personality is formed. Montessori was very clear in this regard.
“If a still growing child fails to use his organs of movement, his development is
[slowed] and he will fall short of his goal, more than if he had been deprived of
either sight or hearing … Physical activity on the other hand is intimately
connected with one’s personality and there is no substitute for it. One who fails
in this regard, hurts himself.” (Montessori, 1966, p. 100)

To the untrained eye, movement in a classroom could be misinterpreted as being
off-task, losing focus, disorder or being overly social, when, in actuality, there is a
much greater purpose. Seemingly menial tasks allow a child to consolidate concepts,
returning to work refreshed and full of new questions and ideas. It also allows them
to get rid of the jitters so that they can turn their whole focus to the task at hand. It
is important that we use our power of observation to step back and look objectively
at what is happening. As adults, it is important that we resist the impulse to
intervene and redirect and impose our need to control, as this takes away the child’s
developing ability to monitor themselves – a skill we definitely want them to learn!
We encourage parents to make time to observe their child in the classroom. You
will be able to see how the child’s work unfolds and notice how free movement
facilitates their learning. We strongly encourage you to see for yourself and book an
observation with your child’s teacher.

 

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