Updated: Feb 12, 2022
The Montessori method is known for working with didactic materials. There are loads of them, most of them created by Maria Montessori herself. It is a ready made system to teach maths, to teach your native language, nature, even beginner history ... There are no Montessori materials for foreign language teaching. There, I said it. Yes, there are materials for learning the English language ... but for kids who already speak it! The Montessori reading material is not meant to be used by children learning a foreign language. It simply does not teach a language. It teaches reading.
So what are you supposed to do when you start working at a Montessori school? Well, my friends, you've got two options. Option 1: make me rich by buying my materials 😅 Option 2: make your own didactic materials. If you chose option 2, as I did 7 years ago, you'll have another two options: create your own materials from scratch OR adapt what is available on the market. This post is about option 2.2.
A huge part of my everyday work at a Montessori classroom for older students is adapting materials available on the ELT market. There are so many great course books and materials available in shops and on the Internet. They don't, however, follow the Montessori rules for didactic materials. Basically speaking, I need materials which will make me superfluous in my own classroom 😅 I don't want my students to need me. I want to make them as autonomous and independent as they can be. Is it possible? Yes! Is it quick and easy? No! 7 years later, I'm still in the process, but I'm gonna get there! 💪🏻
So what do I mean by adapting materials to follow the Montessori rules? Montessori didactic materials, the ones created by Maria Montessori, follow a specific set of rules:
Control of error
It's vital for my students to be able to work independently, at their own pace, without me. This is why nearly ever material that I make for them has the right answers provided in the material itself.
Isolation of difficulty
I try to create materials which practise just one ability at a time. So for example, like with the task cards, I provide my students with all the vocabulary they need to create a sentence, when I want them to practise sentence structure.
I try to arrange my materials in a sequence. Take Scrambled Sentences, for instance. Students first work with positive statements, then with negative statements, then questions. Later come mixed sets. Once they're done arranging sentences they change them into other forms. Then they write their own sentences. When learning the vocabulary, they start with three part cards, then move on spell checks, then to creating sentences with the words and so on. They know what steps to complete to actually learn something.
Aesthetically pleasing looks
That was a journey for me 🙂 Starting from adding colourful tape onto everything (my classroom was once called a "chameleons nightmare" 😂) to understanding that my materials need to look alike, use the same font, not use every colour of the rainbow and still look aesthetically pleasing. The materials need to be attractive for the students, catch their eye. That does not mean they have to be infantile. My favourite example here would be those beauties.