Learning and Motivation, by Geetha Nagarajan

Montessori encourages a natural love of learning within the child, often times brought forth by the materials themselves, rather than the lessons being given. Children find motivation in the work they do because it is purposeful. One of our Primary Lead … Continue reading

Playtime with Purpose

As Montessorians, we call it “work”, however, the child refers to it as “play”. We encourage play with a purpose, meaning that we want each work and lesson that the child receives to have some sort of developmental purpose. While it’s healthy … Continue reading

Parent & Teacher Resource: “The Right Way to Train Attention”, Laura Flores Shaw

Probably one of the best “Montessori” responses to the ever so growing, controversial ADHD diagnosis. This article explains the differences between conventional schools vs. Montessori schools, and what they both have to offer children diagnosed with ADHD. As parents, we struggle with what to do to help our children; we all want the best treatment. The answer just might lie in the type of education they are receiving, which can set a foundation for the way they learn for the rest of their lives. Children with diagnoses such as these need the opportunity to “train their attention” using works that capitalize on their spontaneous sensitive periods of concentration. Painting the world map can draw forth an immense amount of concentration, for example. Probably more so than any attention-training video game.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-flores-shaw/after-ritalin-whats-next_b_1271750.html

“Montessori environments are specifically designed to train attention by providing children opportunities to practice deep concentration for long periods without disruption. According to Dr. Montessori, concentration development is “the most important single result of our whole work.” This is why our preschool and elementary programs have 3-hour work cycles rather than a schedule that changes subject area every 30 to 40 minutes.

The periods of deep concentration Montessori students experience are what Dr. Mihály Csikszentmikály, refers to as flow…he defines flow as ‘the mental state in which a person engaged in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity…It’s a state that Dr. Csikszentmikály generally attributes to adults, but when he and his colleague Dr. Kevin Rathunde conducted a multi-year study comparing traditional school environments to Montessori environments, they found that students achieved flow experiences more frequently in Montessori settings.

Flow in a Montessori classroom fosters a love of learning, something computerized attention training games can’t do. A flow state is so pleasing, it literally makes you feel joyful, thus, the learning experience becomes associated with joy, not some video game. As Dr. Csikszentmikály writes, “Every teacher, whether they teach German or music or mathematics, is aware of how important it is for the kid to experience flow while learning because that would make them want to learn more.”

The reason flow is so pleasing to the brain is that it doesn’t require effort and self-control as it’s a state of effortless concentration that emerges from innate curiosity or interest. Yet, a byproduct of attention trained via flow is that a person becomes more self-regulated and, thus, can put more effort into things in which they’re not innately interested.”

Inspiring a Love of Learning in our Children

learning alongside children“The most important thing you can do for your children is to love life—and to let your children witness and share in that love.” – Melissa LaSalle, Author of “Learning Alongside our Children”

How can we expect our children to be inspired about learning, if we ourselves show no interest in the very topic we’re trying to enforce upon them? It’s easy to simply place a child in front of a television to occupy their time, or give them an abundance of books to browse through, rather than sit down with them and read the text aloud. As parents, we stress over what our children should have already accomplished at a certain age, when we ourselves might not show enough interest in the same subject at home. Take writing for example. Many families expect their children to read/write before 4-5 years (often times sooner), when they might have never taken the opportunity to sit down with their children at home and work on phonetic sounds, or draw letters in a tray of sand with their fingers, or even write a letter together to a loved one. Learning is to be incorporated in both the classroom and the home, corresponding with one another in a similar fashion. If we show interest in what our children are learning (even if we don’t completely understand the subject), imagine the difference it will make in our children’s academic career! We don’t want to push them to learn something, but rather help inspire their internal love of learning by showing interest ourselves.

In order to inspire children’s love of learning, we must show enthusiasm on the subject. Our teachers share similar Montessori training, which guides them to over-dramatize almost everything, while maintaining a realistic approach (a genuine love for learning set apart from unnecessary praise when the child does something desirable). Each lesson, such as “exercises in practical life” like sweeping, or plant polishing, or even reading books, is done so in a beautifully animated manner to show the children that they are truly interested in the subject. Rather than just acting interested, we model how to appreciate the lesson through gently handling the materials, speaking quietly with the appropriate language, and showing excited facial expressions, while not seeming “fake” or patronizing the child in anyway. Our guides strive to dramatize their lessons and interactions in order to draw upon that inspiration from the child. Continue reading