3 maxims Cup Song

Amhrán na gCupán

600 rannphairtithe Idir soclairi agus foireann

Curiarracht dhomhanda (go bhfios dúinn)

Cup Song

600 participants

between students & teachers

A world record

(as far as we know)


A “Gaelic L2” teacher grasped his students' felt needs and helped them satisfy them (in Gaelic).

Download video: Cup Song       Download lyrics: http://bit.ly/cupan       Tutorials – quick: http://bit.ly/cupan-1 ;   complete: http://bit.ly/cupan-2

Translation of lyrics: online at http://bit.ly/cupan-3 and here .   Video made at Lurgan College/Coláiste, Inverin/Indreabhán, Galway, Ireland



Autonomous Learning Center
University of Braunschweig

A teacher (far right, red blouse) is always
present, ready to intervene when needed.

Materials are not just “self-correcting”; they permit students to “
self-directtheir learning.

3 maxims 



Sonoma State University
Alternative lesson during boycott

The teacher has brought the learning materials in a trunk (bottom far right).

The teacher had to choose between the University and the protesters; he chose the truth.

3 maxims 

Other forms of boycott protest: University of California at Berkeley here.



A Dutch language school
Dutch as a 2nd language course

Five groups decide on and prepare 5 different tasks
as the teacher observes them. Nothing new?  Well...

There is
no class textbook. When the course ends, the “textbook” will be the sum of the tasks done.
If the students refuse grammar/vocabulary tasks and do only videos on the target culture, that's fine.

3 maxims 

There are no exams, since self-directed students set their own goals and judge when they reach them.
If the Institution wants marks, the groups assign them; the teacher will veto only gross breaches (rare).


Before “freeingher students, the teacher has freed herself, refusing Ministerial or School programs and
asking for “experimental course” status (own pass/fail criteria).  She signed a letter of resignation, too.


Four examples of new ways of seeing
• teacher-student relationships
• the student's role in leaning.   

None of these teachers thinks s/he is following Montessorian methodology, and may have never heard of Maria Montessori.
And yet the ideas that Montessori developed, starting in 1900,
have influenced their teaching, at least partially.

Analogy: Sigmund Freud, starting in 1900 (The Interpretation of Dreams), developed psychoanalysis which influences our thinking.


MMLT International Report did not turn up cases of
conscious and systematic application of
Montessorian methodology to adult language learners.

Two exceptions (in Italy):
• Lingua Più Association,
• myself                  

Lurgan College


Sonoma State

Dutch School



Four examples of new ways of seeing
• teacher-student relationships
• the student's role in leaning. 

We call them today: “Progressive Education.”

All had been theorized in the past: St. Augustine, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Fröbel, Dewey...

But none of these concepts was widely practiced in 1900. (Only experimentally.)


Then, in 1900:

Maria Montessori, age 30, Training School for teachers of mentally retarded children

video Montessori's Discovery  
 ( http://bit.ly/mmlt4    and http://bit.ly/mmlt3 )


Father: “What do you want to do in life?”    Maria (age 10): “ANYTHING... but teaching!”





1st research project:

1. What is “Progressive Education”?   Part A

2. It seems good but is it really valid?   Part B

3. Since it seems good, why isn't it everywhere?   Part C

15 minutes to find possible answers...

5 minutes with initial mono-thematic tables;

then 10 minutes with multi-thematic tables.




Group discussion: volunteer leads discussion, takes notes for summary.

1. What is “Progressive Education”?

2. It seems good but is it really valid?

3. Since it seems good, why isn't it everywhere?

To conclude this introduction to the Montessori Method...

let's see how one can use a facsimile* of the Montessori method
*not the real thing

in a commercial language school, and earn a lot of money.

(One commercial school* in Rome began doing this in 1954,
just two years after the death of Maria Montessori. )



Am I in favor of facsimiles?  No. 
But I realize that commercial schools need to make money to survive and may not have the time or interest to offer real Montessorian teaching.   (It takes a lot of preparation and investment in materials.)
So let's try to understand how the pseudo-Montessorian language courses function.  This will help us appreciate better what we must do to make our Montessorian teaching genuine.
In addition, by seeing the differences, we will understand the authentic Montessori Method better (one of the purposes of this workshop).

     George Shenker

end_3 maxims 

1954 (officially, 1957)  



George Shenker was a Polish polyglot, fluent in Polish, English, Russian, German and Italian, who worked as an interpreter for the Allied Forces during World War II.

After the war, Shenker married an Italian woman and, in 1954 privately (and in 1957 as a company), started a language service in Rome to teach English to Italian Armed Forces personnel working with the NATO. These learners could not attend regular lessons, so Shenker resorted to guided self-learning, using the technology of the day for self study (wire recorders, then tape recorders, then cassette recorders, then cd's, today, I Pads). Class time with teachers was only for verification and practice. There are four levels, each composed of twenty five recorded lessons (several hours of audio-oral drills) and written grammar exercises), with one hour of class with a teacher after completing each recorded lesson. The average student does one level in one year; the fast student, all four levels in one year.

There are several advantages to this autonomous learning method, mostly for the school:

1) Expenses are cut drastically.

  • One small classroom and a small office were enough to process hundreds of NATO personnel (today, multiple offices).

  • Very few teachers. Their role is mostly encouragement and clarification (not presentation of material).

  • Recycled cassettes so little investment in materials. The Shenker Institute functioned like a library, where students returned one cassette and took the next.

2) Military discipline substituted for motivation (the taped exercises are boring) so many soldiers finished the course and NATO was happy.

3) After NATO, Shenker obtained contracts with companies, even a university (LUMSA, Rome). The course is only marginally effective, i,.e. students get mediocre results. But Shenker continues to be successful:

  • among the companies that are not really interested in improving their staff's English – they offer a Shenker service like they install Physical Fitness Rooms, little used, little effect, but good public relations for the company and a union bargaining chip.

  • among students who do not really want to learn a language but enroll to feel they are doing something – like people who enroll in a gymnasium for physical exercise, who go rarely, but who feel they are doing something:

These kinds of companies and students choose Shenker because it is low cost.

So-called autonomous learning programs are expanding because our Ruling Classes want:
1. low-cost solutions,
2. disciplined students (job-security blackmail)
3. no or few teachers, since they risk getting students to think.

– Bill Gates Foundation: distributed learning.
– Online Universities (Phoenix, etc.)
– Technology companies that install multimedia labs in companies (the hardware)
    in conjunction with providers of brand-name teaching materials (the software)
    (Teachers work as outside consultants for the providers.)

Now, is all this Montessorian?

The Shenker Institute, for example, does not claim to be Montessorian but says it is proud to adhere to the following principles and, in the 1950's, was the first language school to adhere to them:

  • Suitable environment (home study with recorder/iPad)

  • The teacher is not a lecturer but a counselor

  • Better learning through repetition

  • Self-control of mistakes in using didactic materials

  • Choose own learning time

  • Good manners

2nd research project:

1. When commercial schools invent ways to eliminate teachers, are they Montessorian?
2. Is teacher reduction through technology valid (didactically, business-wise)?
3. Will the trend toward teacher-reduction triumph? And, if so, should we join in?

5 minutes to find a group consensus.
(Nominate a spokesperson to explain that consensus.)

Now that we have seen what Montessorian teaching should NOT be, let us see what it is.

The MMLT manual says it is teaching by applying 12 Montessorian principles:

  • Suitable environment

  • Self-directed learning

  • The teacher is an "observer" not a lecturer

  • Sensitive learning periods

  • Better learning through repetition (absorbent mind)

  • Self-control of mistakes in using didactic materials

  • Choose own learning time

  • Learning by doing

  • Movement analysis

  • Silence exercise

  • Good manners

  • Tidy rooms

Many teachers say: “I already apply most of those principles. So what's new?

But do most of us really apply them?

Let's start with the ENVIRONMENT.

Beginning with the seats. How should seats be arranged?
Do we make this a priority problem when we start teaching somewhere?

I wanted to see in what kind of circumstances you participants must work in.

So I looked up some photos of your schools on the Internet.

A classroom at the University of Pitesti (Arges, Romania)

A classroom at the Supra Vita Language School  (Eger, Hungary)


A Montessorian space is neither of these two, but rather a third.

And so... ???



A classroom at the Chingford secondary school (David Beckham's), Waltham Forest

A history lesson on social conditions during the Industrial Revolution. A model?

end_3 maxims  

This picture would seem to indicate a perfect Montessorian teacher: she is observing (not lecturing) her students who are constructing and using self-learning material.  The students are sitting, not in
rows or in a circle, but around tables in workgroups. The walls are full of reminders. And yet...  Group task: watch the video and identify what is right... and yet what is wrong in this teacher's style:

3rd research project:

1. What Montessorian principles is this teacher applying?
2. What Montessorian principles is she not applying?
3. How do you rate this teacher: is she really Montessorian or not?

10 minutes to establish group consensus. (Nominate a spokesperson to explain it.)

To view the video again: http://bit.ly/mmlt7

or: http://youtu.be/6gXdWEgronM
was: http://bit.ly/mmlt2 or http://youtu.be/cGMipLJMnKI

What is missing from the classroom at Chingford School? The 3 maxims!

In The Child in the Family (1950), Montessori lists three maxims:

1. Observe all the reasonable activities of the child and try to understand them (p.102).

2. Satisfy as much as possible the child’s desire to act: do not serve him, but educate him to become independent (p.106).

3. Since children are more susceptible than we think, we must be very cautious [i.e., honest ethically] when dealing with them (p.109).



Final summary


If you do, then your role will change, as the Manual states. Your role will be:

not to teach,
• not to judge,
• not to correct homework
• not to correct exams,
• not to attend boring meetings to “program” course syllabi,
• not to look up answers to student questions (they should learn to do it themselves),
• not to motivate students,
• not to discipline students,
• not to do anything during a lesson except present the materials
   and then observe how they are used,
   in order to know what to eliminate, change or introduce for the next time.



Let's take a survey among all of us to see how many people do.

Most of us think we already apply the Montessorian principles in part.
But when we say this, we're thinking of the external manifestations (the 12 principles).
What about the internal maxims that should guide our behavior:
these are the principles missing at the Shenker Institute and at Chingford School.
Let's see if we really apply these three, the basics.

4th research project:

A. Do we really establish a relationship of honesty (questioning things with our students)?
B. Do we really help our students become autonomous (meaning self-directed)?
C. Do we really understand our students, from the inside? (doing things with them?)


5 minutes with initial multi-thematic tables;

then 10 minutes with mono-thematic tables.
(each table nominates a spokesperson for their theme)




Panel discussion among the 3 spokespersons; volunteer leads discussion, takes notes for summary.


So... do we already apply the Montessorian principles, wholly or, if not, in part?

Not just the 12 principles (external manifestations)

but also the 3 maxims (internal source of inspiration).

What about this workshop? Am I applying Montessorian principles here?

The 12 external manifestations, yes.

But the 3 maxims?


And so... ???


THEME: Describe an imaginary, ideal language classroom, but one that could conceivably exist in the school or institution where YOU work, in spite of the obstacles.

Describe the appearance of the room. Then describe some of the learning materials on the teacher's desk or on the bookshelves.

For example, if you teach Italian to Erasmus students in Italy at a University Language Center, suggest a few ideas for self-correcting materials that it might be possible to make available to students frequenting the Centre. Describe your proposals for learning materials in detail.





Cup Song





Materials on tables:

1. Montessori's Discovery – video
also:  http://bit.ly/mmlt4    and http://bit.ly/mmlt3


2. Speaking Beckham's Language –
http://bit.ly/mmlt8    and: http://youtu.be/F7YvPfj4d2Q



In conclusion (from Chapter 3 of the Manual):

The less teachers teach,
the more they enjoy teaching
and the more their students learn.

Final test

    If you are a Montessorian teacher of, say, English as a second language, what do you say to a student who asks you: “Which is correct, 'have you some?' or 'do you have some?' in ordinary use?