Classroom management should ideally happen seamlessly in the Montessori classroom. Why? Because in a perfect Montessori world, each child has materials available that fascinate them are at exactly the right challenge level, in an environment prepared for deep engagement, misbehaviors don’t exist.
The truth is, the applying Montessori philosophy will definitely cut out a large portion of behavior challenges. But it all begins with strong classroom management. The most effective classroom management centers around procedures. And while no classroom will ever be devoid of all behavior issues, using a clear strategy called Interactive Modeling will set your group up for success.
A Note on Positive Discipline
If the words “classroom management” evoke images of strict rules, warning systems, and time out, know that these practices do not fit into the Montessori philosophy, which is founded on respect for the child and which promotes independence and autonomy.
Montessori classrooms use Positive Discipline strategies to promote learning and true harmony in the classroom. Discipline, however, is not quite the same thing as Classroom Management. Classroom Management refers to the systems you have in place to promote a smooth-running environment that is peaceful and conducive to learning.
What Is Interactive Modeling?
Interactive Modeling is a teaching strategy that helps kids know exactly what to do. Here are the steps for Interactive Modeling:
- Ask the children what they noticed
- Ask a few children to demonstrate, asking the class to share what they noticed each time
- Have the whole class practice
- Stop and reteach if necessary
- Follow up and reteach if necessary, throughout the school year
How to Use Interactive Modeling: An Example
Let’s look at the example of moving a work tray to a work table.
First, the guide asks the children to watch carefully as she walks to the shelf and grips the tray with two hands. Then she slowly walks to a work table and gently places the tray down.
Next, she rejoins the class and asks the students to share what they noticed. Perhaps one child noticed how she walked carefully and another noticed that she gripped the tray with both hands. If no one points out how gently she placed it down, she may prompt, “What did you notice about how I put the tray down on the work table?”
It’s helpful to prompt rephrasing of any negative language that the kids use. For example, if a child says, “you didn’t stomp around,” the response is, “So how did I move my feet?”
One or two children who volunteer will then demonstrate getting a tray, and after each demonstration, the class should again share what they noticed.
Finally, the whole class practices together while the teacher observes carefully.
Troubleshooting and Following Up with Interactive Modeling
Interactive modeling helps kids know what to do, but it also requires follow ups. A day will come when someone rushes in an unsafe way or someone else plops their tray down with a loud bang. It’s essential to stop and go through the steps of interactive modeling again if this happens. You may not need to do the whole series of steps, however.
In addition, some procedures will prove inefficient after you see them in action. When this happens, it’s your job as the guide to rethink and reteach. Consistency matters, so you don’t want to change things up too often, but you also don’t want to keep pushing something that just isn’t working.
Why Does Interactive Modeling Work?
Interactive Modeling is a respectful approach that assumes the best in our students. Instead of punishing or warning, we remind and reteach when necessary, because our task is to teach, rather than to police. This strategy is explicit enough for kids to feel empowered and assume a sense of ownership over the class routines. As these routines become second nature, the focus is on learning and exploring with the materials.