Fun & Creativity
Using the child’s natural inclinations as a point of departure, Dr. Montessori structured several exercises for the classroom to help the child satisfy this need for meaningful activity. For these exercises she used familiar objects-buttons, brushes, dishes, pitchers, water and many other things which the child recognizes from his home experience.
Although the Practical Life Exercises may seem simple and commonplace, they are actually a very important part of the Montessori program. Each of the tasks help the child to prefect his coordination so that he will be able to work later with more intricate academic materials. No learning takes place without concentration and attention. The child prepares to learn by performing exercises which help him to gradually lengthen the time in which he can focus his attention on a specific activity.
From Writing to Reading, writing-or the construction of words with movable letters-nearly always precedes reading in a Montessori environment. After the child has learned the Sandpaper Letters, she is ready to make words with the large Movable Alphabet. Reading naturally follows the word-building exercises. Reading implies the understanding of words which someone else has constructed. The opportunity to take this step comes when he matches a set of objects with a set of cards on which the names of the objects are already printed. To place the correct card beside each object he must read the words on the card. Gradually the child learns the irregular words, and words with two and three syllables, by doing many reading exercises which offer variety rather than monotonous repetition.
Geography --The large wooden puzzle maps are among the most popular activities in the classroom. The child can put each puzzle piece into place by means of a little knob on its flat, shiny surface. The introductory map of the world has a separate puzzle piece for each continent. After working with the world map, the child can do one of six puzzle maps of continents in which each country is represented by a separate puzzle piece. Finally, there is a map of the United States wit a separate piece for each state. At first the children use the maps simply as puzzles. Gradually they learn the names of many of the countries as well as information about climate and products. The maps illustrate many geographical facts concretely.
Botany---Many Montessori classrooms have beautiful sets of nature cards which illustrate in color such information as the parts of a tree, the parts of a leaf or the parts of a flower. The children match these illustrations with the corresponding names. Working with these cards helps the youngsters to become more observant of the characteristics of things which grow in their own environments.
Learning to Write---The child meets the alphabetical symbols by using the Sandpaper Letters. Each letter of the alphabet is outlined in sandpaper on an individual card, the vowels on blue and the consonants on red. The teacher shows the child how to trace the letter with two fingers following the same direction in which the symbol is normally written. Use of this material gives the child a three-fold impression-he sees the shape, he feels the shape, and he hears the sound of the letter which the teacher repeats when introducing it. In a Montessori classroom the child learns the phonetic sounds of the letters before he learns the alphabetical names in sequence. The phonetic sounds are given first because these are the sounds he hears in words.
Perfecting the Motor Skills with the Metal Insets---The child in a Montessori classroom learns to control a pencil by filling in outlines-an activity which does not weary her because she enjoys it. To make the outline, she uses equipment known as the Mental Insets. Each inset represents a different geometric shape. After selecting a figure and tracing it on paper, the child fills in the outline with a colored pencil of her own choosing.
A child can learn basic concepts of mathematics in either of two ways. He can learn by using concrete materials during the years when he enjoys manipulating equipment; or he can learn by abstract methods when he is in the elementary grades. Dr. Montessori demonstrated that if a child has access to mathematical equipment in his early years, he can easily and joyfully assimilate many facts and skills of arithmetic. Dr. Montessori designed concrete materials to represent all types of quantities. In a Montessori environment, a chill not only sees the symbol for 1, 1000, or ½, he can also hold each of the corresponding quantities in his hand. Later, by combining this equipment, separating it, sharing it, counting it, and comparing it, he can demonstrate to himself the basic operations of arithmetic. This activity gives him the satisfaction of learning by discovery rather than by being told. Eventually he develops an early enthusiasm for the world of numbers.