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Question:  I have a question related to the classroom management aspect of the toddler classroom (ages 18 months to 3 yrs). This particular class has 21 students and 5 adults. The students are all new to Montessori and are taking time to slowly absorb the activities and become more normalized.

Is the number of adults reasonable? How might you suggest dividing the roles of the adults? Should each of them be in charge of an area of the classroom? Should two teacher assistants always be circulating and supervising from different sides of the classroom to ensure the bird-eye-view of the room and intercept when needed? Any suggestions are appreciated.

Thank you!  —An N.

Dear An N, thanks for the great question! Of course, classroom management begins with an optimally prepared environment, which includes group size, ratio, room layout and design as well as a sufficient number of materials responsive to the developmental needs of toddlers. Additionally, well-prepared adults, certified for the infant-toddler level bring a deep understanding and appreciation for this unique stage.  The more prepared the environment is to serve the toddler, the less “classroom management” is required.

One factor to consider is that toddlers find safety and trust in an environment that has consistent routines, rituals, and expectations. When toddlers are in an environment that is responsive to their needs they are engaged, happy, gracious and curious, some might even say “normalized”! Since toddlers are in the period of unconscious absorbent mind, all of this is decidedly different than our primary friends. So often we make the assumption that toddlers are just mini primary students! In a toddler community we recommend a group size and ratio of either 12:2 or 15:3. These recommendations depend on classroom size as well as indoor/outdoor access. The ratios are designed to allow for supporting independence as well as responding to the individual needs of young children. 

When we have toddler communities that are considerably larger, such as your example of 21:5, it can be overwhelming for both children and adults, not knowing exactly where to go or what to pay attention to. Since all of your students are new to Montessori, there is and additional challenge, ie.,there are not any role models yet who know the routines, rituals, and expectations. This provides some unique challenges that can be addressed with proper planning and communication between all of the adults in the environment. It is essential that they are aligned in all aspects of leading and supporting a community of toddlers. 

Some thoughts for your consideration: 

  • if possible, split the group into two smaller groups with two adults in each;
  • reduce adults from five to four;
  • utilize a primary caregiving model (5:1 or 6:1) that allows children to create a trusting relationship with one adult who is responsible for modeling, observation & record keeping, positive redirection, and aids to independence such as eating, sleeping, dressing, and toilet learning.
Whatever you decide, make changes slowly and respectfully for the children and adults. Involving the adults in making decisions based on best Montessori practice and actual observations of your current students will ensure a successful outcome!

Kind Regards,

Kathy Leitch

CGMS Director, Infant Toddler Program

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