From the age of three on, Montessori students are in multi-age classrooms. They remain in the same classroom for three years, moving from being the youngest to the oldest in their classroom community. This approach is beneficial for students in a variety of ways. Older students act as teachers, showing younger children how to do things, which reinforces their own learning. Younger peers are often motivated to learn by seeing what others can accomplish. They also can learn from observing those who are just ahead of them in skills. Another benefit is that children can progress at their own pace without grade level stigma and can take on challenges they are ready for without having to wait until the next school year.
Over the three-year period, the teacher is able to observe and support each individual child’s growth. This intimate knowledge of the child allows the teacher to individualize instruction by offering the child opportunities to accelerate or deepen learning in areas of special interest. The familiarity of a stable environment supports risk-taking, which is essential for learning to occur.
The basis for the multi-age classroom is Montessori’s observation-based theory of human development.