Dr. Montessori recognized each child as a unique individual with individual preferences. Although there is a general pattern and a time table of a child's growth (learning to talk, walk, etc.), there are unique individual differences as well. Therefore, a child can be best helped to realize all of his or her potential by providing a specially prepared environment and presenting new experiences as the child becomes ready for them.
At the primary level, the Montessori classroom provides a carefully prepared environment in which the children have ready access to a collection of specially prepared materials which provide the basis of the primary curriculum. There are materials used for the development of the senses as well as materials which make it possible for the child to experience abstract concepts in language, math, geometry, geography and biology. After the initial presentation, the prepared environment is designed to allow children to independently choose activities without the help of an adult. The child has complete freedom to work without interruption, and to repeat an activity as often as he or she desires. The child learns to stay focused on activities. The nature of the materials ensures that a child can recognize and correct his or her own mistakes and that an activity can be repeated until the child is satisfied.
At the elementary school level, the Montessori classroom is designed to arouse the child's interest in many areas of knowledge while letting the child pursue chosen activities without interruption. Materials are arranged under the areas of mathematics, geometry, language, biology, geography, history and music. Manipulative materials are supplemented by charts, timelines, encyclopedias, books, and periodicals. Children work individually or in small groups. They learn to choose activities, complete the work of the elementary curriculum, and pursue interests with no restraints imposed upon them. The elementary child's environment extends well beyond the classroom and ultimately connects to the outside world.
At the same time the child is learning individually, the child is also encouraged to develop cooperative social skills. The classroom community, which consists of children of different ages and skill levels working in the same room together, promotes this aspect of development. The classroom is furnished with materials and activities that enable the child to practice and master day to day activities, while simultaneously learning from and respecting one another.
The Montessori teacher acts as a director, facilitator, and guide of the classroom. She observes each child carefully and provides individual help as needed. She carefully observes and presents new materials and activities to guide the child through the curriculum according to the child's needs. She is also trained to recognize when to intervene, so that the child's concentration and involvement with the work are encouraged and not interrupted. She also encourages the child to repeat the activities to reinforce the knowledge gained.
The Guide maintains detailed records of each child's progress, noting what work has been presented to them, what they are working on and what activities they have mastered. With this information she has a very personalized report of each child's learning. Students may continue work as long as they wish. There is always time to further learning and there are no deadlines or final grades to inhibit children.