Montessori education was founded in 1907 by Italian physician Maria Montessori who based her educational methods on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. Dr. Montessori believed that, “we should not fill children with facts but rather cultivate their own natural desire to learn.” Guided by this discovery that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which children freely choose from a number of developmentally-appropriate activities. Montessori education is:
An advantage of the Montessori approach — including multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests — is that it allows each child to work at their own pace. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support: each can progress through the curriculum at his own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to "catch up." We might note that from a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in their own way. With unique strengths, skills, and talents, the Montessori child develops as their best self.
The distinctive arrangement of a Montessori classroom mirrors the Montessori method’s differences from traditional education. Rather than putting the teacher, or “guide,” at the focal point of the class, the classroom employs a child-centered approach. Children work at tables or on floor mats — individually or in small groups — and the guide circulates about the room, observing, giving lessons, and assisting students as needed.
On its website, the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector has several short videos that beautifully depict learning in the Montessori classroom. You can view them at http://www.public-montessori.org/what-public-montessori.