Traditional Method vs. The Montessori Approach
Montessori education is based on the belief that children are individuals with their own strengths, needs, likes and learning styles. To use the latest educational catch phrases, Montessori education is 'multi-modality, differentiated instruction.'
In more everyday terms, Montessorians disagree with the idea that all children learn in the exact same way at the exact same time of their life. They believe that to be an effective teacher you can't say, "It is the 4th day, of the 3rd month, of second grade, so open your math book to page 49 and..." Instead we observe each child and ask ourselves, "What does this child understand? What is the next concept this child needs to learn? In which way does this child learn? (Are they observers? Talkers? Someone who needs to physically experience things? Do colors make things more clear? How about singing a song about the concept, will that help this particular child learn?...) What things interest this child so that I can use his/her natural interests and abilities to teach this concept that they need to know?"
To achieve this a Montessori classroom is not filled solely with text books, writing paper and pencils. Instead it is filled with many materials that teach a wide range of levels and concepts. Shelves line the wall and are set up so that at a moment's notice a teacher can reach for a material and teach a student or students the concept they need to know. Or students can reach for the same material and use it in the way that they were taught so that they can practice a concept that they are working on.
Obviously, a Montessori classroom will not look like a normal classroom. Rarely, if ever, will you find the whole class sitting with their books out looking at the teacher show them how to fill in a worksheet. Instead you will see children, some in groups, some by themselves, working on different concepts, and the teacher sitting with a small group of children, usually on the floor around a mat.
The following video by parent Trevor Eissler helps describe the difference between Montessori and traditional education and the value he found in placing his three children in a Montessori setting.