Montessori Instruction: A Model for Inclusion in Early Childhood Classrooms and Beyond

By McKenzie, Ginger Kelley; Zascavage, Victoria S. | Montessori Life, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Montessori Instruction: A Model for Inclusion in Early Childhood Classrooms and Beyond


McKenzie, Ginger Kelley, Zascavage, Victoria S., Montessori Life


Maria Montessori was one of the first special educators. In 1898, as an assistant instructor at the University of Rome's Psychiatric Clinic, Montessori visited an asylum for the "insane" and became interested in the children with special needs who were housed there (Montessori, 1967, p. 21). She noticed that the children were not being stimulated; learning was at a standstill. It is from this juncture that she developed materials and space to educate those once considered "uneducable." From 1898 to 1900, Montessori worked 11 hours a day with the children at Rome's First State Orthophrenic School (Packard, 1972). During this period, she developed a program specifically designed to teach academic skills, life skills, and social skills to children with special needs (Montessori, 1967, p. 22). In 1907, inspired by the success at the State Orthophrenic School, Montessori opened her first Casa dei Bambini (Children's House) for the children of Rome (Montessori, 1967).

Montessori's methodology has developed over the years, but its original three principles remain the same (Montessori, 1967, p. 22):

* Teaching academic skills,

* Teaching life skills, and

* Modeling social skills.

This article will investigate whether Montessori teaching, materials, and methods can support an inclusive 21stcentury classroom. Cossentino (2010, p. 39) has described how Montessori and special education have already been intentionally combined:

Historically, Montessori's theory and practice have influenced the development of special education pedagogy. In some cases, as in Ireland, Montessori training and special education training have been explicitly combined. . . . For example, Montessori practices such as the use of manipulative materials, individual instruction, and academic self-regulation are considered effective educational methodology for both the typical student and the student with developmental/learning disabilities.

Specific Recommendations for Effective Instruction

According to experts in special education (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2004, 2010), there are specific recommendations for effective instruction of students with special needs. These recommendations incorporate the planning necessary for content coverage that must be "appropriate to pre-skills and abilities" of the student. The criteria for effective instruction in content coverage - which apply to all students, and specifically to students with special needs - must include the following areas of attention: Scope and Sequence, Curriculum, Pacing, and Types of Learning (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2004). Each of these areas of attention can be found and experienced in a Montessori inclusive environment.

Scope and Sequence

Scope and sequence refer to the breadth and depth of content that will be presented in school (scope) and the order in which the content will be presented (sequence)" (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2004, p. 157). Scope and sequence in the Montessori curriculum starts in early childhood classrooms with children ages 3 to 6 and continues through the twelfth grade.

Many of the materials in Montessori early childhood classrooms provide sensorial experiences for young children, and these same materials are used again with older children to support new learning experiences. Lillard (2005) expressed this by saying:

In traditional school curricula, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for teachers to do a really good job integrating new information with children's prior lessons. Different textbooks are used for each topic, and these are likely published by different publishing companies with no cross-consultation. Montessori education is distinguished by involving lessons and materials that were developed with the entire educational program from ages 3 to 12 in mind. (p. 235)

This has resulted in inclusive integration and coherence across the Montessori curriculum, reflecting Montessori' s belief in indirect preparation. …

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