Observing the Child: Tips for Developing a Montessori Teaching Strategy

October 20, 2015
NAMC montessori observing the child laughing woman and boy

One of the most important roles the Montessori teacher has is to observe. We observe how students spend their time and note what they are drawn to. We ensure that each child is learning at their own pace, in their own way. We carefully observe their particular interests and level of comprehension, and we assess their level of readiness for new presentations. It is through careful observation that the Montessori teacher is able to prepare the classroom environment with materials that relate to the children’s interests and determine which presentations they are ready to receive.

The Importance of Observing the Child and Learning as a Montessori Teacher

Each teacher has his or her own style and time for observing in the classroom. When I was a new teacher in a Montessori Casa class, I had high hopes for observation times. I copied extensive checklists for each child and had a large binder in the classroom to note which presentations I had given the child, her level of understanding, whether I needed to repeat a presentation, or suggestions for extensions I felt she may be ready for. Like most new teachers, I was planning for the ideal situation where I had the time to make notes and fill in checklists after each presentation as well as time to sit and observe each day. It was not too long after I had begun my year that I realized, as much as it would be wonderful, it was not a realistic possibility in my busy classroom.

NAMC montessori observing the child teacher recording notes

Over the last 10 years, I have changed my style of observing and record-keeping many times, each time striving to improve upon the previous year. I quickly learned that my observations (formal and informal) needed to be recorded quickly. Flipping through many pages of presentation checklists for each student took too much time and was not realistic during class. Now, I keep a small notebook close by me at all times. When I have a spare minute, I write important notes regarding presentations and any informal observations I may have. After the children leave for the day, I compare my notes with the record-keeping checklists. I mark off the presentations and extensions we covered that day as well as notes I have regarding interests, comprehension, mastery, and peer dynamics.

On days when the classroom seems more settled — perhaps a few children are absent or there are not as many presentations to give — I use this precious time to take out my ‘observation stool’ and observe. When they see me on the stool, the children know to let me observe uninterrupted. If they do need me, the children write their names on my presentation board and I go to them when I am finished.

The insight gained from observation is so valuable to teachers.

As my style of observation changes each year to correspond with the new group of students, my appreciation and understanding of the importance and value of observation continues to grow as well.

Julie — NAMC Graduate, Montessori Teacher
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