OMS Montessori is a not-for-profit private school offering an authentic Montessori education in the nation’s capital. An OMS education is grounded in creating the conditions for students to be in a state of flow or focused engagement while they are learning academic and life skills. The classrooms are set up for students to learn primarily through activities rather than through a lecture or demonstration. Our controlled environment helps children reach their goals at their own pace while preserving children’s natural joy in learning, whether they are working, playing, studying or exploring.
In Montessori, the adults’ role is to guide the student’s education by demonstrating the use of the materials and activities, and by being available to the individual student as a resource and mentor. The student receives lessons from the adult but chooses which activities to do. The adult is free to interact with students individually – by offering help, working side by side, or giving a presentation on a new activity; or the adult can step back and observe how each student is progressing, and plan what to introduce next. The adults guide the student’s learning through presentations and provide individual support, guidance and direction according to each student’s needs.
Since the Montessori curriculum follows the innate development of the child, it is the same throughout the world – the same materials everywhere with a few cultural differences. The curriculum and class set up for each age is responsive to that particular age range, with the tendencies that are particular to that age. While each program is responsive to the age it serves, all programs have the following characteristics in order to maximize the Montessori experience.
Focused engagement – A student in a state of focused engagement is very concentrated, content, and energized rather than tired by the activity. He or she also experiences a strong sense of wellbeing. Because the activities available in a Montessori classroom match the characteristics of each appropriate age, the students work for themselves rather than for the adults. They feel good about themselves and their accomplishments, get along well with one another, and are easily guided by their teachers.
Students learn through what they do – A Montessori classroom is set up with a series of sequenced materials and activities that cover all the curricular areas appropriate for the ages it serves. The adult introduces each activity to an individual student or to a small group by demonstrating its use. Then the students take over. The adult assesses the students’ understanding and progress by observing the activity, and then plans which presentation to give next to the specific students.
Mixed Age Community – A Montessori classroom is set up for a mixed age group of students who share similar characteristics. Students in a Montessori class naturally learn to get along with those older and younger than themselves, with those who know more or are better at certain things and with those who know less. Having a three-year age span in a class means that students spend three years with the same teacher in the same class culture. Their teacher gets to know them very well. For the adult, only one third of the class is new each year and the older, more experienced students act as mentors and teachers to the newer students. In a Montessori class, students learn to both give and receive help from their peers.
Three-hour work periods – If students are always being interrupted for various group activities, they will not learn to engage for long periods in the more advanced activities. Dr. Montessori graphed the levels of concentration she observed in her classrooms and found that the most intense concentration came towards the end of a three-hour work period. During the three-hour work period students choose or are directed towards activities; they pause to chat with friends, read a book or have a snack, and they are given lessons. Students can take a break, interrupting themselves, but the adults try not to interrupt their focused concentration.
Toddler Program Casa Program Elementary Program High School
Assessment at OMS
Montessori educators view assessment as an ongoing, natural part of everyday classroom activity. Montessori called the process “scientific pedagogy”: observing the student and preparing the best environmental conditions for that student’s full development. It is the process of gathering information about a student for the purpose of assisting the student in his or her development. We do not focus exclusively on academic skills or intellectual development because we believe:
- Each student is a whole being and each aspect of who they are and their daily experiences impacts on their development. To do the best job academically, we must do the best job in all other aspects.
- Implementing any type of assessment will have an impact on the student’s experiences in the classroom. We do not want that to be a negative impact. We want to create optimum conditions for development and learning.
Therefore we choose the academic assessment tools we use carefully and thoughtfully considering both Montessori pedagogy and current research.
Academic Assessment Tools used at OMS
- Observer’s anecdotal notes
- Observation of Montessori materials as these are very visual
- Curriculum checklists
- The ‘Three Period’ Lesson
- A concept or activity is demonstrated to the student and the language is given. E.g. “This is the isosceles triangle.”
- The student works with the concept, repeating or extending it. This period engages the student for an extensive period of time. The adult says, “Show me the isosceles triangle.”
- The concept is mastered. E.g. When the student can answer the question: “What shape is this?” At this stage, the student is ready for the next level of work.
- Self and peer reflection or assessment
- Rubrics – itemized descriptions of what is expected in a piece of work (e1 and e2 level)
- Work samples, portfolios (collections of work)
- Student journals and regular, individual student/teacher meetings
- Student/Parent/Teacher Conferences (Upper Elementary), Parent/Teacher Conferences (Casa, Lower Elementary), and other parent communications
- Classroom tests: small quizzes in Elementary- spelling, French as a Second Language; at The Element – knowledge and skill based tests
- Norm Referenced, Standardized Test of Achievement, CAT 4 (Canadian Achievement Tests, 4thEdition) for Grades 2 and older, given in October
Norm Referenced, Standardized Tests (The CAT Test)
- Norm referenced – A student’s results are compared to those obtained by the large representative sample of students across Canada that took the test when it was created.
- Standardized- All children are given the same opportunity. The test is given in the same way and with the same time limit and graded against the same ‘norms’
- The CAT4 tests mathematics, reading, language skills, and spelling.
- We use the CAT4 as a tool to confirm our observations of each child.
We use the Canadian Achievement Test (CAT4) because it:
- Is short, requiring only 4 hours of time split over 3 days
- Requires no lengthy preparation of students
- Gives results in basic math and language skills
- Is used by majority of independent schools in Ottawa
We administer the CAT4 annually at the end of October beginning in second year of Lower Elementary (Grade2). The CAT4 takes the students about 4 hours which we spread over 3 days. We send the students’ answers off to be scored and we receive results about students’ basic math and language skills.
We share the results of the CAT4 test with our families at the November Conferences as a small part of our review of a student’s progress. We use the results as a tool to help inform our work with the student for the remainder of the year.
The majority of assessment of a student’s academic progress is done on a daily basis through a wide variety of observations and through discussion with the student. Testing is a very small part of the academic assessment. Using a wide range of assessment techniques allows for an overview of the student as a whole person, rather than simply focusing on the academics in isolation.