Montessori educators organize their lesson plans according to the child’s interests. Children are interested in different things at different times and have different capacities so it seems quite practical to try to work with the child’s interests, rather than imposing one’s learning agenda on them. The children are learning on so many fronts at once that the teacher, as facilitator, can adjust to a child’s interest much of the time.
One student recently displayed Montessori at work so beautifully, I really had to stop and marvel. He expressed interest in a lacing lesson. I demonstrated the lesson to him. He attempted it and it was challenging for him. I showed him the lesson a second time. He attempted it the second time, correcting what he had done wrong before. He stuck with it to the end and completed the lesson successfully. He put the lesson away and went on to something else. The next day, he came in and picked up the lacing lesson again. He did it perfectly with such satisfaction that he had to take it apart and do it again. Later when his friend was available, he said, “Hey do want to do this lesson with me?” And he proceeded to show the other child how to lace which eventually resulted in the second child learning to lace successfully! It was beautiful. It was driven by the child, his curiosity and interest and his determination to succeed. The result was great joy! His reward was in his journey toward mastery.
Montessori educators usually do not reward children’s work with stickers or awards because we believe the reward is in the work. The reward is the satisfaction that comes from trying hard, improving at a task/skill and then taking pride in what you have learned. The reward is the work itself. I believe this fuels the child’s interest and tenacity to take ownership of his/her own learning and to take great joy in what he/she does. This little guy was so proud of his lacing work – and anyone who has ever tried to teach a child to sew or lace something complex will know that it was quite an accomplishment for a four year old! Now he can build on that skill to begin sewing, patterning and all sorts of other detail oriented, more difficult works.
Showing a lesson can be like throwing down the gauntlet: let’s see if you can do it now! And of course they can, if they try hard, practice and stick with what they are learning. Children take such pride in learning new things take such pride in learning new things and doing for themselves. It does not always work perfectly but it is well worth the effort!