Integrating PE in a Montessori Environment

In this PE podcast, Chris Nichols shares how Physical Education plays an important role in the Montessori environment.

[0:02] Today on the PE Express podcast, I’ll talk about the connections between the Montessori classroom and the physical education classroom.

[0:22] Today I want to tell you about how my physical education classroom supports the Montessori approach to instruction at my campus. Those of you who have listened to my podcast before and have read my blog posts may know that I’m a Physical Education teacher at a Montessori magnet campus in a public school district.

[0:42] Today I’d like to share a little more about the foundations of Montessori and how this has led me to adapt my practice as a physical educator. Unlike the traditional classroom, the Montessori program is intentionally designed to give children exposure to multi sensory materials individualized instruction, mixed age groupings, emotional intelligent training, and uninterrupted work cycles.

The Relationship Between Movement and the Brain

[1:07] Children receive instant feedback during the learning process. This instant feedback allows students to correct their own mistakes and develop critical thinking. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to have much in common with a traditional physical education classroom, but Maria Montessori also had a deep understanding of the relationship between movement and the brain. In her book, The secret of childhood, Montessori wrote, “Movement or physical activity is this essential factor and intellectual growth which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality and it’s through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.

[1:48] This has helped me better understand how my program supports the Montessori approach and adapt my own practice so that my classroom mirrors that of the entire campus. In Montessori, the environment and the activities called works are integral to the learning process. The teacher acts as a guide who walks alongside the child as she or he engages in discovery. Each child grows in confidence and independence as they learn the soft skills that create a lasting foundation for lifelong learning.

Specific Feedback Performance

[2:20] In Montessori, the classroom environment is intentionally prepared in advance to facilitate observation of the children as they actively participate in various activities. In my classroom, while I always plan ahead for the day’s activities, I am now more aware of how I set up my classroom so that I can observe students in action and provide as much specific feedback as possible. One way I do this is to position myself near a specific station as students complete the task. Instead of saying “good job” or “great job”. I give specific feedback about their performance.

Mixed Age Groupings in PE

[2:55] Mixed age groupings are the foundation of classroom design in Montessori. Allowing older students to serve as role models and build self-esteem as they guide younger students through works that have already been successful. This was the biggest adjustment I had to overcome when moving from a traditional campus setting because I had to plan for how to ensure all students receive instruction on the standards for their grade level and I had to figure out what to do with three year olds at the beginning of the year, when all they do is spin around in circles.

[3:24] Now into my fourth year at this campus, I think this is one of my favorite aspects of the Montessori program. Each year the newest and youngest students have more quickly adapted to the routines in my classroom because they have some older role models, helping them from day one. It has allowed me to begin instruction sooner because I’m not spending the first few weeks repeatedly reviewing routines and procedures.

Differentiated Instruction

[3:46] Another change I’ve made is truly embracing and providing differentiated instruction. In the Montessori rooms, the teacher does this by arranging and presenting learning skills at different learning areas throughout the classroom. The research behind this is that the students are motivated by the variety and levels of the learning task. In my gym I often structure the day’s activities around learning stations so that the students are constantly engaged in an activity and quickly moving to the next one. I also believe differentiation is the foundation of building relationships. Knowing what an individual student may need at a particular time or for a specific tasks, helps my classroom run more smoothly and supports the social emotional development of all children.

[4:31] I found that moving to a Montessori campus has not only expanded my own learning, but has pushed me to expand the boundaries of what I provide in my own classroom and allowed me to feel connected as an integral member of the campus learning community as I support the Montessori program.

[4:48] I also realized that so many of the foundational components of the physical education classroom already supported the Montessori way. Thank you for listening and have a great day.

Chris has been a Physical Educator for 22 years in Texas. He has been recognized as a district finalist for Teacher of the Year and formerly served as the Early Childhood Chair Elect for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD). Chris has presented at state and national conferences and spent two years writing curriculum, creating and delivering professional development, and supporting physical education teachers as a Health and Physical Education Specialist in a large urban district. Now an elementary Physical Education teacher in Garland ISD, Chris strives to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle in both his personal and professional life.

Chris has been a Physical Educator for 22 years in Texas. He has been recognized as a district finalist for Teacher of the Year and formerly served as the Early Childhood Chair Elect for the Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD). Chris has presented at state and national conferences and spent two years writing curriculum, creating and delivering professional development, and supporting physical education teachers as a Health and Physical Education Specialist in a large urban district. Now an elementary Physical Education teacher in Garland ISD, Chris strives to promote a healthy and physically active lifestyle in both his personal and professional life.

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