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 has a variety of benefits. Older students act as leaders, teaching and showing younger children how to do things, which ultimately reinforces their own learning. Younger students are often motivated by seeing what others choose and can accomplish. As students move up the rungs they learn from observing children doing a wide variety of work around them. Another clear benefit is that children can progress at their own pace without the stigma of grade levels. They can take on challenges they are ready for without having the arbitrary limits of a class lesson or school year.
Teachers are able to form deep connections with students and their families. Over the three-year period, teachers observe and support each individual child’s growth with understanding and context. With intimate knowledge of the child, the teacher can individualize instruction and offer the child opportunities to accelerate or deepen learning in areas of special interest or need. Trust and a stable work environment support risk-taking, which is essential for meaningful learning to occur. The basis for the multi-age classroom is Montessori’s observation-based theory of human development: The Four Planes of Development.