The goal of both a Montessori and a traditional classroom is the same:  to provide learning experiences for the child.  The bigger difference lies in the kind of experiences each school provides and the method each uses to accomplish this goal.

Montessori educators believe both differences are important because they help shape what children learn, their work habits and their future attitude about themselves and the world around them.

Montessori

Traditional

Mixed age groups (students ages 3 to 6 are grouped together in one primary classroom)

Same age groups (all kindergarten in one classroom, 1st graders in another)

Students choose where in the classroom they want to work and may move around freely at any time

Students are expected to sit at assigned desks or tables

Uninterrupted work cycles, students choose when and for how long to work on each activity, many subjects are integrated

A certain block of time allotted for each subject, all students work on the same subject at the same time

Child-centered: a carefully prepared environment encourages students to practice self-discipline

Adult-centered: teacher controls the classroom and enforces discipline

Use manipulatives, materials that appeal to the senses, purposeful, real-life experiences

Use worksheets, rote learning, and textbooks

Focus on the process, do not use tests or grades

Focus on the product, use tests and grades

Emphasis on collaboration

Emphasis on competition

Students independently use self-teaching materials, learn from each other, teacher provides individualized lessons for each child

Teacher gives direct instruction to the whole class and to groups of students, based on a pre-determined curriculum

Inquiry-based learning

Standards based learning

Students have the opportunity to advance academically at their own pace, without limits

Students are expected to be within the norms of what is average for their grade level

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