sensorial

Control the urge to intervene

 
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Observe how carefully this 22-month old child is trying to string beads together.

Of all our many responsibilities towards children in school, perhaps the greatest one is to develop and protect their sense of concentration. Very often, this is achieved by controlling our adult urge to interfere in their work, and allowing them to correct their own mistakes.

While this is easy to say, it is very hard to do even for trained and experienced Montessori teachers. We have to keep reminding ourselves that struggle is good, that the young child learns best when struggle leads to discovery.

To help foster the child's concentration and independence, Dr Maria Montessori had her own advice for teachers (and parents!):

"I suggested to some teachers that they should wear a belt with beads attached. Then every time they have an impulse to interfere, they would draw a bead along. This is very useful, because when we have an impulse, we must act, and the reaction with the bead is a help. From day to day, one would make observations upon oneself in this way until one came to the point of not having to draw any more beads. We should then find that we had acquired a great calm and sense of repose. Perhaps we should have become transformed within. At any rate, we should have learnt the following: that almost all these impulses to action are unnecessary."

Algebra In Early Years ?!

 
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One of the amazing things about Montessori education is the subtle, indirect introduction of complex mathematical ideas (algebra!) right in the preschool years.

For instance, this 3 year old is working intently on the "Trinomial Cube” material. On the face of it, this is a fascinating puzzle that requires the child to place 27 different cubes in a manner that allows the box to close. However, there’s something much deeper going on: this cube is actually the geometrical representation of the algebraic equation (a+b+c)^3. As the child grows older, this serves as a foundation for understanding the concept of “cubing” a number or set of numbers.

By converting a dense equation into a wonderful, self-correcting puzzle, Montessori shows us that even young children can understand and subsequently master concepts far beyond what we may normally expect!

Muscle Memory In Writing

 
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Maria Montessori famously said, “What the hand does, the mind remembers”. The hand reports to the brain; the brain guides the hand; the cycle continues, resulting in the development of the intellect.

Thus, while learning to write, it is important to not jump too quickly into pen-paper work before building and refining the child’s muscle memory using their hands. The “sandpaper” letters give the child a concrete, tactile experience that helps imprint alphabet patterns in the brain.

In this case, this child is working towards mastering his understanding the letter “v” by tracing the corresponding sandpaper letter. This is critically important preparation before the child physically engages in writing the letter on paper or slates (and the coarse sandpaper is very enjoyable to run their fingers through!).

Sensorial Development in Nature

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.” - William Blake

 
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Isn't it sad that children today often have the majority of their interactions with nature through a tablet, phone or TV? This is a feeble replacement for the real experiences our children deserve: feeling the softness of a petal in the fingers, listening to the songs of the birds in the forest, smelling the earth after the first rain.

It is critically important to maintain the link between child and nature. A direct relationship with nature is fundamental to the sensorial development of the young child. Further, as the child grows, it allows her to experience the wonder of belonging in this beautiful world of ours. On some occasions, nature can be brought into the prepared Montessori environment; on others, as in the case pictured, the children go out to see and experience the world as it is.