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Traditional vs Montessori Classroom

Please see table below for a comparison between a Traditional vs Montessori classroom.
(source: American Montessori Society)



Children grouped chronologically by a single grade (ex: 1st grade class) Students grouped in 2 – 3 year developmental age span. (Ex: 1st-3rd grade class)
Children seated at desks most of the time. Children work at tables, on the floor with freedom of movement.  
Class, as a group, studies one subject at a time. Children pursue their own self – paced curriculum individually or in small groups; in various parts of the classroom.
Class schedules and frequent interruptions limit child’s involvement.  Large blocks of “work” time without teacher – dictated interruptions. 
Time periods allotted. No time restrictions; subjects not studied according to the clock
Teacher centered Child centered
Basal readers or “whole language.” Phonetic – based, multi sensorial; more flexible reading and writing program.
Teacher has central role in classroom activity; child receives direction from adult via predetermined activities.  Teacher acts as a guide and follows the child; child determines direction of learning by own interests.
Rewards and punishment Self motivation
Discipline is external to child via the authority of the teacher (ex. reward systems, point systems). Purposeful and self – selected work provides internal self-discipline.
Most lessons presented to large or small groups. Most lessons given to individuals or pairs.
Textbooks and worksheets reinforce lessons given by the teacher. Child discovers concepts through repetitive work with manipulative materials.
Learning is reinforced by external rewards such as grades, rewards, and verbal acknowledgements. Control of error lies in the material itself.  Child’s own intelligence fosters correction.
Textbooks and worksheets provide source of information.  Self-perfection is a natural tendency of every child and excitement and a desire for self-mastery motivates learning.
Child assigned own chair and expected to spend most of day stationary. Children can work where he/she desires and move and talk at will – without disturbing others.
Children are dependent upon the teacher.  Most curricula are teacher - directed with very little choice. Children are self – directed and make their own choices.
Subjects are compartmentalized. Subjects are intertwined.  
Teacher “corrects” pupils’ errors. Children learn from peers, self – correcting materials.
Answers are provided by teacher. Children correct themselves through control of error.
Instruction pace is usually set by group norm or teacher. The child takes responsibility for his/her own ideas, judgments, actions and decisions.
Orientation of work and classroom milieu determined and directed by teacher. Work time is designed to honor individual child’s focus and interests.