Tim Cornwall

An introduction to Montessori 101

An analysis of Montessori philosophy and benefits

Thailand Educators Network met again on Tuesday, 30 March to hear Shalini Dey and Patricia Barber from Modern Montessori provided an extremely informative and lively introduction to the Montessori philosophy and an insight into their school's operations and success here in Thailand.

During their talk, Patricia and Shalini discussed Montessori benefits and touched on the Montessori Philosophy including internal aides for child development, an absorbent mind definition, sensitive periods, laws of natural development and what is meant by a prepared environment, vertical grouping closing with the role of the teacher.

Brief History

• Developed by Italian lady named Dr. Maria Montessori
• First woman doctor in Italy her educational methods developed over 100 years ago
• Began in 1907 in San Lorenzo, Rome at Casa Dei Bambini
• Focuses on the development of the whole child
• Teaches children to become problem solvers and critical thinkers
• Has been the educational beginning of many successful people (New education)

Montessori Philosophy

A child's work is to create the person they will become. Children are born with special mental powers that aid in the work of their own construction, but cannot accomplish the self-construction task without purposeful movement, exploration and discovery of their environment in terms of both the things and the people that come with it.

A truly educated person continues to learn long after the years spent in the classroom as they are motivated from within by a natural curiosity and love for knowledge. Dr Montessori felt the goal of education should not be to fill the child with facts but rather to cultivate their own natural desire to learn.

Following decades of observing and studying children, she concluded that they pass through sensitive periods when they possess a unique and amazing aptitude for learning. To take advantage of these sensitive periods it is necessary to create a properly prepared environment to stimulate particular interests and allow them to exercise their innate ability to learn. If the sensitive period is missed or if the environment is not properly prepared, learning becomes difficult and tiresome.

The Montessori Method consists of a carefully developed set of materials to create the proper environment for children at each stage of their development and with the guidance of trained teachers children can develop their intellects and acquire all skills and content of human civilization.

Over sixty years of experience with children around the world proved Dr Montessori's theory that children can learn to read, write and calculate as easily and naturally as they learn to walk and talk.

Parents should understand that a Montessori school is neither a baby-sitting service nor a play school; it is a unique cycle of learning designed to meet the child's natural development. Those children who learn the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic in this natural way have the advantage of beginning their education without drudgery, boredom or discouragement and gain an early enthusiasm for learning, the key to becoming truly educated.

At this stage of development, children have an absorbent mind, soaking in facts like a sponge. They learn through concrete experience and they tend to work best by themselves.

Absorbent Mind Period

The first phase of the absorbent mind period is from birth to three years and is the most formative time in a child's development.

During the first phase, from birth to three years old, the young child unknowingly or unconsciously acquires his basic abilities. She called it the period of unconscious creation or the unconscious absorbent mind.

The child's work during this period is to become independent from the adult for his basic human functions. The child learns to speak, to walk, to gain control of hands and to master their bodily functions. Once these basic skills are incorporated into a schema the child moves into the next phase of the absorbent mind.

Sensitive Period

The second phase, period of conscious work or the conscious absorbent mind. During this period, the child's mathematical mind compels them to perfect what is now there. A fundamental task during this phase is freedom to move purposefully, freedom to choose and freedom to concentrate. The child's mantra is "Let Me Do It Myself!"

The sensitive periods are critical to self-development, as each child unconsciously knows that the time to learn a specific skill is now. The child's intensity reflects a need for that particular acquisition in order to live. However, once the period passes and the skill has not been acquired, a child will have to learn the skill with much more difficulty at a subsequent time.

Adults often do not realize that a child has sensitive periods' perhaps because they do not remember their own, however, an unsatisfied sensitive period will manifest itself in a cranky child.

Natural Development

There are eight natural laws of development

1. Law of work
2. Law of independence
3. Power of attention
4. Establishment of will
5. Development of intelligence
6. Development of the child's imagination and creativity
7. Development of the emotional and spiritual life
8. Stages of growth

A prepared environment consists of four aspects: freedom, structure and order, beauty and aesthetic and the development of community life.

Vertical Grouping

The Montessori philosophy values vertical grouping as children of different ages working together presents various educational opportunities such as role modeling and teaching. Having students for more than one year allows teachers to really know each child and have a clearer understanding of academic needs.

Self-esteem and confidence come naturally to children in an environment where leadership opportunities are available. Classes are grouped vertically (two to six years of age), with various opportunities for spontaneous and exciting learning.

Aside from a directress as the sole source of learning, children gain valued insights from watching each other work. Vertical grouping is characteristic of the Montessori approach in recognition of the fact that children have different paces in physical, emotional, social and cognitive development and are more sensibly treated as individuals rather than lumped as a chronological age group.

Teacher Roles

1. must be a growing person
2. able to develop self knowledge
3. understand relations with children
4. understand what it is that stands in the way between adults and children
5. must diminish egocentric and authoritarian behavior when working with children
6. must have the desire and ability to observe the children
7. must study to purify her heart and put on humility and above all learn how to serve
8. must see children as individuals
9. have faith in the child
10. be an exemplar /role model
11. be link between the environment and the child, as the teacher prepares the environment in which the child will self construct,
12. peace maker consistently working to teach courteous behaviors and conflict resolution
13. supportive offering warmth, security stability and non judgmental acceptance to each child

Difference between a Montessori School and a Traditional school

Montessori places emphasis on cognitive and social development
Traditional school emphasis on social development
Montessori teacher has unobtrusive role in classroom
Traditional teacher is center of classroom as "controller
Montessori environment and method encourage self-discipline
Traditional teacher is primary enforcer of discipline
Montessori is mainly individual instruction
Traditional school is group and individual instruction
Montessori has mixed age grouping
Traditional school has same age grouping
Montessori grouping encourages children to teach and help each other
Traditional school teaching is done by the teacher
Montessori child chooses own work
Traditional school curriculum is structured for the child
Montessori child discovers own concepts from self teaching materials
Traditional school child is guided to concepts by the teacher
Montessori children works as long as they wishes on chosen project
Traditional school children are generally allotted specific time for work
Montessori child sets own learning pace
Traditional school instruction pace is usually set by group norm
Montessori child spots own errors from feedback of material
Traditional school work if corrected, errors usually are pointed out by the teacher
Montessori child reinforces own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success
Traditional school learning is reinforced externally by repetition and rewards
Montessori offers multi-sensory materials for physical exploration
Traditional school offers fewer materials for sensory development
Montessori provides organized program for learning care of self and environment
Traditional school places less emphasis on self-care instruction
Montessori child can work where they choose, move around and talk at will (without disturbing others); group work is voluntary
Traditional school child usually assigned own chair: encouraged to participate, sit still and listen during group sessions
Montessori provides an organized program for parents to understand the Montessori philosophy and participate in the learning process
Traditional school parent involvement is voluntary


When working with children, there are qualities we must posses within ourselves: - communication, understanding, compassion, patience, love and trust. This will ensure that your child has a unified personality and ensures happiness and well-being for your child.

For further information about Montessori in Thailand contact Patricia or visit their website:

Our upcoming schedule for the next three months

► Thai Culture course unraveled
Monday, 10 May

Dr Nikolaus Mische
United Educational Consultants

The 20-hour, Thai Culture & Ethics Course is required by all foreign teachers in Thailand. Why was it created and what can we really learn? How can we connect the dots and use cultural differences to student advantage in the classroom beyond what we already know.

Beginning with a closer look at us first, we will analyze and identify trigger points for frustration and self-improvement.

Nik's talk will appeal to anyone interested in understanding important elements of Thai culture and what makes a good, 20-hour course.

Dr Mische, MD, UEC Thailand, an adjunct faculty person represents the State University of New York graduate program for international educators in Bangkok and international conferences. He is also a trainer at the TEFL Institute with an interest in culture and its impact on decision making.

► Education in the UK - past, present and future
Thursday, 10 June

Chris Thatcher

The UK education system is one of the oldest in the world and has been recognized as one of the best by standards of the time. Is this still the case?

What are some of the key factors influencing educational developments in the UK? Are they sustainable and realistic and account for the needs of the various societal elements with an interest in a successful education process (indeed what IS a successful process)?

What factors influence school success and what is the relationship with teaching and learning?

Is a good teacher in a bad school as effective as a capable teacher in a good school? How do we measure such things efficiently yet still maintain the right balance between assessment and teaching? Indeed what is assessment for?

Chris Thatcher was Head teacher of a large primary school in the UK for 20 years and became National Association of Headteachers President in 1999 working closely with the UK Government.

In 2002, he left teaching to work in the development of the then innovative on-line assessment field and in 2004 became SE Asia Education Development Director of Cambridge Education. In 2008, he set up a small education company in Thailand offering consultancy and support to international schools.

► Challenges facing schools and agencies in the current EFL market
Monday, 12 July

Jason Alavi
Managing Director
The American English
Language School

Recent changes in the EFL community have made it increasingly difficult for private language schools to make the same profit they enjoyed for the last 15 to 20 years. Why is this? How can language schools combat this trend?

The Teachers Council of Thailand, the government body that controls teacher licensing recently issued strict licensing requirements for those who wish to teach. Why is this and what can schools and agencies do to survive and prosper?

What are school and agencies legally required to do; and what responsibilities do teachers have?

Jason Alavi is MD and owner of The American English Language School, which provides English language instruction from a single student to large organizations. Its focus is recruiting, training and managing Non-Thai teachers in a variety of organizations, especially government schools.

►Meeting Details

TEN events start at 6.00 pm; mini-lectures at 6.45 pm

Non-member - THB 380, Members - THB 280, Includes one drink and snacks

TEN Meets at the Roadhouse Barbecue, Surawong at Rama IV

For more information:
081 834 8982


No comments yet

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

Shadow Teacher

฿20,000+ / month

Pathum Thani

Early Years Teacher

฿70,000+ / month


NES English, Science and Math Teachers

฿42,300+ / month


English Teachers for December Start

฿35,000+ / month


Full-time Native English Teacher

฿45,000+ / month


South African Online English Teacher (Adults)

฿213+ / hour


Featured Teachers

  • Deborah

    Kenyan, 25 years old. Currently living in Kenya

  • Hafiz

    Pakistani, 26 years old. Currently living in Pakistan

  • Gelly

    Filipino, 23 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Gerlie

    Filipino, 24 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Ravi

    Indian, 34 years old. Currently living in India

  • Carmela

    American, 48 years old. Currently living in USA

The Hot Spot

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting ajarn.com and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?