Peer Inspiration: A Glimpse into a Montessori Classroom

I was sitting next to Natalie (age 4) at a rug. We had just finished a lesson on the Montessori Continent Map. She was deciding whether or not she wanted to make a book of the continents, a pin-pushed map, or a painting. After much contemplation, Natalie decided on a book. She gathered the supplies she would need: a floor table, an art mat, paper, and her pencil box.
Knowing that Natalie was capable of transcribing words, I wrote "My Continent Book" on a piece of paper and asked her to write these words on her paper. She got a pencil out of her box and began transcribing the words.

Everett (age 5), who was circling our workspace for quite some time now, got his pencil box, a piece of paper, and sat at a table nearby. The next thing I knew, he was by my side exclaiming, "Look! I can write too!" On his paper, he wrote "My Continent Book."

Everett then wanted to write the names of the continents. I got out the continent labels and took them to his table. He transcribed the word Africa and drew some other things (pictured below). He walked around the room showing friends his work. They congratulated him and Everett was beaming from ear to ear.

Everett's Continent Book Cover

Soon after, Christian (age 4) got his pencil box, a piece of paper, and the continent labels and began writing, too! He filled an entire half-page (6x9") of "letters," while flipping through the continent labels, one after another, repeatedly, until there was no more room on the page. He did not take a break; he sat at his table and wrote for 25 minutes (pictured below)!

Christian's Continent Work

When complete, he bought me his work with a huge smile on his face and said, "I wrote all of the continents, too!" I looked at him, smiled, and said, "That must have taken you a long time—you filled the whole page!" He replied, "Yeah..." and then went to show Natalie, Everett, and two other friends in the classroom. They each greeted him with amazement and congratulated him on his hard work. 

Forty-five minutes later, Christian got out a 9x12" piece of paper, and wrote the continent names, filling the entire page. Later in the day, he did it again! 

Christian's second work Christian's third work

One child wrote three words on a piece of paper which ignited endless possibilities for two
others. There is such beauty that emerges from these moments. I am so grateful to be a Montessori teacher and experience moments like this every day: the confidence and self-esteem that emerged from three words on a piece of paper; the joy that Christian found in doing the same work over and over again; children ages 4-6 showing compassion and encouragement toward one another's accomplishments; children who are free to choose work in an environment catered to their needs.

All of this happened in an environment with children working on different things at different times, allowing inspiration among one another to be born.