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Importance of the Three-Year Age Grouping

posted 20 Mar 2015, 23:51 by Web Admin   [ updated 20 Mar 2015, 23:51 ]

The Montessori philosophy emphasises the need for mixed age groups spanning three years; thus classrooms typically have children aged between three and six years, six and nine years, nine and twelve years and so on.

Through the presence of a mixed age group, the older children can validate their learning by becoming the ‘experts’ in the room. Peer teaching can occur with the older children sharing their knowledge and skills and taking on the role of the care takers of the classroom. It is these older children that provide the role model for the other children. The younger child at three has a group of willing people ready to help him or her when help is required. The three year old child is also further inspired and motivated to learn as he or she sees the next step in the progression.

“The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.” (Montessori: The Child, Society and the World)

The mixed age group also fosters and provides many opportunities for social development. Learning how to be social is done naturally and spontaneously by living together as a community. The older child is given the opportunity to validate skills and to be sensitive to the needs of others. There is delight in being able to help others and the younger child is not made to feel inadequate when seeking help.

“They are aware of those around them, and one often sees the small ones intently watching the work of others, particularly the older ones. In doing this they absorb much more than it seems, and are already preparing themselves for more active social participation in the community of the class.” (Montessori: Education for Human Development)

Over the three year period, the child builds on prior learning and skills; refining these as well as applying them to different situations. As this is a gradual process, learning occurs naturally and is a joyful process. The child is self motivated to continue to explore and make new discoveries.

Cooperation, not competition, is modelled from within the group and takes place naturally and occurs because of respect for each individual. Children of different ages unselfconsciously, generously, teach each other. Younger members of the community of children look up to their older peers. They admire, imitate and emulate those whom they respect, without feelings of envy or competition. In turn as the three year cycle follows its path, the younger children become the leaders of the group and can experience the joyful satisfaction of sharing knowledge, skills and compassionate caring of younger class members. This kind of cooperation and collaboration experienced as young children acts as a template for behaviour for the years ahead and so contributes to the creation of a generation of peaceful adults in the future.

Amy Kirkham and Pam Nunn

AMI 3-6 Directors of Training

Courtesy of Montessori Australia Foundation