Montessori Compared with a Traditional Curriculum



Mixed age group

Same age group

Child-centered learning environment


Motivated by self-development

Motivated by teacher and / or rewards

Children learn from their peers and self-correcting materials

Teacher lectures and corrects student’s errors

Individual learning: children pursue their own self-paced curriculum, individually or in small groups, in various parts of the learning environment

Group learning: the class, as a group, studies one subject at a time with class schedules that limit the child's involvement

Teacher acts as a guide, observes and directs

Teacher is the focal point and dominant influence

Child completes “cycles of activity”

Activity cycles determined by set time

Relatively few interruptions. Long blocks of time permit invaluable concentration

Relatively frequent interruptions: bells, adult interventions

Freedom to move and work within classroom

Assigned seats and specific class periods

Materials used for specific purpose with sequence of steps

Materials used in many ways without previous instruction

Work for joy of working and sense of discovery

Work because they’re told to

Environment provides discipline

Teacher provides discipline

Encouraged to help one another

Seek help from teacher

Child free to discover on their own

Teacher guides child

Emphasis on concrete

Emphasis on abstract


Much role-playing and fantasy

Specific places for materials, sense of order

Random placement, not necessary to return to specific place

Self-education through self-correcting materials

Use of reward and punishment in motivation

Recognition of sensitive periods

All children treated alike

Multi-sensory material to develop specific skills

Play materials for nonspecific skills