Writing in the Montessori Environment
The Montessori environment is carefully prepared to guide children in all their efforts, including writing. Writing is a complex action that requires abilities of the hand and abilities of the mind. If the hand and mind are not adequately prepared then the child will not be successful.
Abilities of the Hand
The child must have control and co-ordination of movement in order to be able to write. The child must also have the:
• capacity to control the lightness of touch so that the child can write lightly (heavy writing causes hand fatigue and destroys paper)
• ability to adapt movement to the space available
• ability to trace the shape of a letter
Abilities of the Mind
Along with the abilities of the hand the child must also:
• have the capacity to listen (act of the will and intellect)
• have the capacity to listen and isolate the sounds that comprise words
• have the capacity to visualize in his mind the symbols corresponding to those sounds
• develop the ability to put together words in such a way that they can form a sentence so that the sentence expresses an idea
Indirect Preparation for Writing
Each of the areas in the Montessori environment help to indirectly prepare the child for the action of writing.
• All of the exercises of Practical Life prepare the child for writing (wringing, squeezing, control and co-ordination).
• In the Sensorial materials they are prepared by the cylinder blocks (using the pincer grip). The tactile senses prepare the children for the lightness of touch (fabrics, and the touch boards).
• The geometric cabinet trains the muscles of the hand and wrist for writing. (The fingers follow the inset and the form which prepare the child to follow the metal inset with a pencil.)
• The biology/botany cabinet brings the child closer to actual writing by having him trace the insets with an orange stick.
Direct Preparation for Writing
Then there are the lessons that specifically target for the preparation for writing:
• The enrichment of vocabulary, listening games, and sound games prepare the child’s mind.
• Sand paper letters offer the opportunity for the child to simultaneously see the letters, hear the sound it makes and physically internalize it’s shape.
• The Moveable alphabet allows the child the opportunity to compose words from his mind; bringing together the mental thought and physical symbol.
• The Metal insets offer control of movement and precision to the hand. (Drawing the double outline around the frame and its inset limit and control the action of the pencil. When drawing the lines, the pencil is used by the hand in the same up and down movement as in writing, and it follows the same direction from left to right).
When you give a child paper, pencil and the expectation to achieve beautiful printing (or writing), please consider if you’ve given both their hand and their mind adequate opportunity to prepare for it.
Baking With Children – Toaster Oven Muffins
Baking is a wonderful activity for children, even at school. There are so many opportunities for learning practical life skills, math, and social graces when baking! When you first start baking with children it is best to find recipes that aren’t too complicated so that the children can participate in all of the steps.
Like all activities in a Montessori environment, you should always run through the process step by step to make sure you have it worked out – before you introduce it to the children.
If you’re baking in a school setting always check for food allergies for all the students. As well, make sure the parents have given their consent for their children to eat the food they will be preparing.
Baking in a toaster oven means you don’t need a regular oven in your classroom! Most toaster ovens will accommodate 6 regular size muffins, or 12 mini ones. Regardless of the size of oven (regular or toaster) adult supervision is required. Be
sure to talk to the children about what you are doing with the oven and how to be safe
Here are a few things that will help to make the process more enjoyable for the children when they’re baking (using a regular oven, or toaster oven):
2. Cut the recipe in half. If using a standard recipe divide it in half so the children can manage
to mix it themselves. Try this fantastic Zuchinni, Banana and Flaxseed Muffins. Or use a basic small batch recipe: Easy Toaster Oven Muffins
3. Set the directions out using words and pictures for children who are not yet reading fluently.
4. Have everything on hand and accessible to the children.
5. Make sure you have an adequate space for clean-up: water, sink or wash basin, soap, drying rack, tea towels etc.
Visuospatial Skills Can Be Developed
Visuospatial skills are the abilities to recognize and organize information when you see something and then interpret what you see. Examples of this skill include reading, recognizing shapes, finding objects in a picture, and following a map.
Visuospatial skills begin developing from birth. Mobiles are commonly used for babies and supported by Montessori for the development of these skills. Studies have shown that infants not only prefer to look at high contrast graphics, but that such images like black and white graphics can:
- enhance curiosity
- increase attention span
- stimulate the creation of synapses (brain cell connections)
- calm a baby (when he’s bored)
For those interested in mobiles here is a good post (with pictures) on Montessori Infant Mobiles from How We Montessori.
Visuospatial skills can be further developed by allowing children to explore their environment. Children need to touch everything and know the space they live in, work in, play in, in order to have a solid understanding of how it relates to them and everything within the environment.
There are many ways to help develop these skills:
- using Practical Life and Sensorial materials
- walking on the line
- action songs
- using wooden blocks to build structures
- movement games and climbing activities (physical education)
- crafts (the reproduction of an original)
- drawing free hand
- reproducing patterns (either by drawing or by objects)
- learn basic mapping skills and drawing a map of the neighborhood
- matching pictures of objects to silhouettes (animals & silhouettes)
So take a look through your home and/or school and see if you’re supporting the development of visuospatial skills. It’s never too late!
Halloween At School?
At this time of year the topic of Halloween is discussed among many teachers and school administrators.
There are many points of view when it comes to Halloween:
- It’s a fun time for children to dress up and trick-or-treat.
- It’s a “Fall Festival” for children and adults.
- It’s a religious event that you agree with.
- It’s a religious event that you don’t agree with.
With so many different views on Halloween, how is it dealt with in schools? Here are some of the ways we’ve seen it done:
1. Children are permitted to dress up (no scary costumes, masks, or objects that may be used as weapons) and enjoy some Halloween games, stories, and treats.
2. Orange and Black Day. No costumes permitted – but orange and/or black clothing is encouraged.
3. No costumes or theme colors, but a special treat for snack with some stories and songs.
4. No costumes, no color themes, no treats, just some songs and a story before dismissal.
5. Fall festival: A time to be thankful and celebrate the Fall harvest. Food drive, outdoor games, and a nature walk.
How does your school (or family) celebrate at this time of year?
The Science of Motivation – Sounds Like Montessori To Me!
We came across this very interesting video: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation
He’s speaking about motivation from a business standpoint, however the points he covers in his talk are all ideas (or theory) that are upheld in the Montessori method.
He mentions 3 main points regarding intrinsic motivation and how to keep it alive and thriving:
1. Autonomy – People have the urge to direct their own minds. The Montessori environment allows the children to work in response to their inner needs and not the needs of the adult/teacher. The size of the materials and the environment allow for the children to gain independence as they discover and learn new skills.
2. Mastery – The desire to get better at something that matters. A child’s work does matter, for they are creating the person they will become through their choice of work. In Montessori, the desire for mastery is seen through the repetition of work (activities) that the child feels compelled to do.
3. Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. A wonderful aspect of Montessori is the awareness the children acquire not only about themselves, but about the world around them. They learn on a daily basis how their actions and contributions impact their classmates and the world at large.
The video is just over 18 minutes. Do yourself a favor and watch it to the very end – it’s well worth it!
Taking Babies on Errands – Smelling the Roses
An older article by Janet Lansbury – but it still applies today as it did a few years back, as it will in another 50 years.
“I can relate to babies. I get over-stimulated in the supermarket the way babies do. I have a strange aversion to making lists and always believe I’ll be able to take a few minutes to march down each aisle, recognizing all I need to buy. Twenty minutes later, I’m in a zombie trance and have covered less than half the store.” … Read full article
Will Montessori Make My Child A Genius?
When a parent asks, “Will Montessori make my child a genius?” I have to wonder if they’ve done any research on the Montessori method of education.
It’s most important to remember that any form of education can only bring out the potential that already exists within a child. Montessori education does not create anything within a child – it is simply a vehicle that allows that which is already within a child to explore, grow, and develop.
Just as we wouldn’t expect a child to be able to control the color of their eyes or the size of their feet, we must not expect them to become someone or something that does not already exist deeply within themselves.
We’ll leave you with some words from Mario Montessori Jr.
“Education must help the child develop its personality in accordance with its nature and possibilities, and at its own rate, so that later it can fulfill its tasks as an independent, balanced human being in the adult community. The aim, therefore, is always the formation of the total personality, not of independent functions or processes.”
(Education For Human Development: Understanding Montessori, pg39)
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