How Montessori Schools Teach Art


The Montessori method has long been revered as a flexible, individualized method of teaching children basic and valuable skills. The question that remains is, are art skills included among those valuable skills taught? Here is all you need to know about Montessori and art!

In the Montessori classroom, art is actually considered to be one of the most important ways that students can learn and express themselves. With a properly prepared environment, students can learn how to develop and express their sense of self and effectively communicate their feelings.

Montessori is definitely a great way to teach your children how to be independent as well as how to communicate their emotions and ideas. If you’d like to know more about the Montessori method and how they teach art, look no further. You can find more information below!

Does Montessori Teach Art? Commonly Asked Questions

As mentioned above, art is a very valued concept in the Montessori classroom. Students must understand and practice art so they can learn how to communicate effectively and express ideas and emotions. It is also meant to encourage a sense of individuality and independence in children, just as the entire Montessori program encourages. It is important that children understand their independence and ability to be unique and do things on their own.

In addition to developing a sense of self, students can also develop basic motor skills through practicing art. By painting, drawing, putting things together, and even by being aware of any spills they make, these kids will be able to learn and grow at a rapid pace. To encourage this individuality, Montessori classrooms come prepared with open-ended activities so the students can choose their own activities and go at their own pace.

Art in a Montessori classroom means taking joy in and paying attention to the process of creating art rather than the product that is created. A part of the Montessori mission is to help parents to change their perspective about process vs. product. This is primarily because helping the student to value the art process helps them to understand that they can create things that are special and unique.

Maria Montessori on Art: The Founder’s Perspective

Maria Montessori said, “If we try to think back to the dim and distant past… what is it that helps us reconstruct those times, and to picture the lives of those who lived in them? It is their art… It is thanks to the hand, the companion of the mind, that civilization has arisen.”

Art is one of the best ways that we can come to understand and communicate with other people. Instilling that knowledge and understanding in children at a young age is one of the very best ways to produce happy, healthy, and wise individuals. Additionally, children will begin to develop a sense of value and self-worth because they are capable of creating beautiful things.

Art Teachers and Parents: Their Roles in a Montessori Classroom

Montessori schools do have art teachers, but they are called guides rather than teachers (as are all teachers at Montessori schools). Teachers are called guides because they are meant to do just that. Guiding a student along instead of instructing him or her in every single activity promotes a student’s sense of independence and individuality. Even if they do not instruct and command in everything, guides still play a major role in a Montessori student’s art education.

So how is a Montessori art classroom different from your average art classroom? First of all, there’s the community. Guides are prominent leaders in a Montessori student’s life, but the support that parents give to the school is immeasurably important. As a matter of fact, many Montessori guides can work with their own children at school, so parents are just as directly involved.

Another unique characteristic of Montessori schools is the age grouping. In public schools, the students are split up by year. In Montessori schools, grades one through three are put together, grades four through six are grouped, and grades seven through eight are put together. This kind of grouping allows older students to collaborate and spend time with younger ones. This will promote a sense of wellbeing and community among the students.

The roles that guides and parents play are huge. Both are meant to hold their child’s hand throughout the learning and creative process. Just as it is important to focus on the process rather than the product, it is also important that parents focus on the feelings the student has about his or her art project rather than their own feelings about it. Obviously, it’s always nice for you to praise your child’s work, but don’t do that absentmindedly.

If all your child hears after they complete a project is absentminded praise, they will start creating art for the mere purpose of winning your approval. If they leave something unfinished, leave it be and let them return to it when they are ready. When they do present it to you and ask what you thought about it, feel free to give feedback, but go further than just saying you like it. Ask them how they feel about it, how they made it, what they particularly like about it, etc. This will help the student to feel that they can continue to be productive and creative.

Parents and guides are there to support and instruct Montessori students in a constructive, supportive way. It might be the first instinct for parents and guides to take over and do things their way, but they must follow the student along the path they want to follow. Obviously, they should guide and instruct carefully and caringly, but let the student determine the direction of their education.

Montessori Art Supplies

To provide students with an effective experience in the classroom, you must have a prepared environment. Montessori students are self-directed and independent, which means they will need plenty of materials to work with. Here are a few essentials that every Montessori art classroom ought to have.

The first and most obvious type of materials you want to get are drawing materials. Drawing is the first step most students usually take on their journey to becoming budding artists. Drawing materials could include crayons, sharpeners, colored pencils, graphite pencils, and erasers. If you want to take it a step further, you could also invest in rulers, watercolor pencils, stencils, pastels, and even a compass and magnifying glass. Giving the students plenty of options will help the students to engage fully in the creative process.

Painting is next, and just as with drawing, you will definitely want to start with the basics. Acrylic and tempera paints are ideal for classrooms with younger kids as long as they are non-toxic. Watercolors and finger paints are also recommended for little ones because they are hands-on and engaging. It might not be a bad idea to invest in canvas, watercolor crayons, watercolor pencils, and watercolor paper as well. You could even gather sticks and rocks to help give the kids a little imagination.

Montessori classrooms often employ the teaching of color theory which is basically the study of how colors behave. To teach students this, it is a good idea to stock your classroom with acrylic and finger paints in all colors, starting with the primary colors. You can teach your students to create different colors using primary colors. This will help them to truly learn and understand color theory. To take it a step further, you may also want to consider putting color palettes and droppers in the classroom.

Don’t limit your students to drawing and painting only. Sculpture can be a great way for students to bypass limitations and expand their skillsets and ideas. Keep a good supply of magic model clay, plastic clay, plain tiles, beeswax modeling clay, and earth clay in your classroom. You can also keep a supply of tools such as rolling pins, stamps, wooden shapes, carving tools, and cookie cutters on hand so they can work with the clay any way they want to.

In addition to drawing, painting, and sculpting, there are several other crafting activities that students can participate in. You could keep sewing supplies in your classroom as well. Things such as needles, thread, fabric, and yarn are all good choices (but they should only be used by responsible older children). If you want to go the extra mile, you could even bring in cross-stitching material and origami paper. These art activities also work as practical life activities.

You can also stock up on paper crafting and nature crafting supplies. These could include scissors, glue, colored paper, hot glue guns, and things like rocks, leaves, and sticks for the kids to work with. You could also provide your students with woodworking items such as nails, woodblocks, nails, popsicle sticks, corks, and toothpicks.

There must be no limits in your art classroom. Obviously, this could feel a little overwhelming, but if you are willing to have a large selection of items and materials, you will find that your students are capable of turning out incredibly innovative projects. This is a lot of stuff to put in the classroom, but you might find it to be well worth the effort.

Pros and Cons of the Montessori Way

Now that we’ve covered the basics of Montessori and art, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons. The Montessori curriculum and method are effective and very well set up to be sure, but don’t think it’s a perfect method for everybody. Here are some perks and downsides every parent should know before enrolling their child in a Montessori school.

Related: Is Montessori right for every child?

Pros

One of Montessori’s greatest strengths is its focus on social and emotional development. Students are taught directly how to behave in public and how to speak and greet people with etiquette and courtesy rather than being left to figure it out on their own. They are taught how to deal with social situations, especially difficult or uncomfortable ones. Social grace and conflict settlement are both things that are directly embedded into the Montessori curriculum. This leads to students also developing good communication skills and the ability to resolve conflicts in a peaceful and non-contentious way.

Montessori is also a very much individualized method. Each child has a special focus based on their individual needs and learning styles. Rather than making a fuss about standardized tests and the class as a whole, Montessori guides can evaluate each student as a single entity. This means that every student is treated the way they need to be treated and helped in the way they need to be helped. It ensures that every student has a fulfilling educational experience.

As opposed to many other schools, Montessori schools teach a much broader range of subjects. The Montessori method employs the use of the entire world as a learning tool. Subjects such as history, geography, and science are all taught from a holistic point of view. This enables students to develop critical thinking and observation skills early on. It will instill in them a value and appreciation of the world around them.

Cons

Obviously, the Montessori method is not perfect and it most definitely has its fair share of flaws. First of all, friendships may or may not be very difficult for some students. You’re probably thinking, “that’s ironic since Montessori is a community-based schooling system,” and you’d be right. But because the students are grouped with several ages, this sometimes means that certain age groups only have one or two other classmates their age. Though this is not always the case, this could make it somewhat difficult for certain children to develop close, lasting friendships with others.

Then there’s the issue of finding a Montessori school in your area. Montessori is fairly widespread, but it still has not yet managed to reach all the corners of the globe. It can be very difficult to find a school, and then when you have found one, it can often be terribly expensive.

Finally, there is also life outside of and after Montessori school to think about. Montessori is a completely self-directed form of learning, and most other schools out there are not that way. It may be surprisingly difficult for former Montessori students to adjust and adapt to other styles of learning, especially when those styles of learning don’t necessarily agree with how that student learns as an individual.

Check out our article on the pros and cons of the Montessori Method for more information.


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Stacy Jones

When I became a foster mother, I started researching different parenting and education ideas. Learning about the Montessori Method has been intriguing and fascinating, and I have enjoyed watching the little ones in my life learn and grow from incorporating Montessori elements into our family's lifestyle. Montessori For Today was started to provide answers to my own questions, which will hopefully become a great resource for others to learn about the Montessori Method, Montessori Schools, and how you can incorporate elements of Montessori into your own home and lifestyle.

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