Wheaton Montessori News
In December, Christine Carrillo hosted a CommuniTEA discussion with parents that focused on the Practical Life and Sensorial Lessons in Montessori education. Over a series of posts, we’ll be sharing excerpts of her discussion points from the morning’s CommuniTEA.
One of Dr. Montessori’s more famous statements is that “intelligence is built by experience and the hand is the tool of the mind.” This is so true in sensorial work, which truly may be my favorite area of the classroom.
I was lucky to get my training in the area done by a world-renowned Montessorian (Dr. Annette Haines), who explained the extreme importance of the sensorial work to aid a child’s development. Each of the materials in the sensorial area is designed to give very clear, concrete concepts to the child through hands on exploration. We know that hands-on exploration and coordinated use of our hands is what helps children’s brains grow.
A child building the pink tower is learning about gradations of sizes from large to small. A child working with the red rods is doing the same for long and short, a child working with the touch tablets is feeling the difference between rough and smooth.
A child playing the bells is hearing the difference between notes on a scale from “low c” to “high c.” A child using the color tablets can see seven different gradation of a single color from light to dark. The vocabulary is presented to the child after he or she has had that concrete experience.
Imagine the depth of understanding of the word “rough”, when you have a sensorial experience of touching “rough” to go along with it. We also present comparative and superlative vocabulary in this manner: “Which one is smoother? Which shade is lighter? Which cube is larger? Which is the roughest? Which is the darkest red? Which is the smallest cube?
In addition, the sensorial materials in the classroom can be explored again and again. There are many variations or extensions with each and every material. As an example, think about the pink tower. A young three- year-old working with the pink tower needs to carry it one block at a time to a rug, and then she has to build it. (That’s ten trips across the room just to get all of the pieces to the rug!) She most likely won’t build it correctly the first time she tries after receiving a lesson. She will have to use her reasoning skills and visual skills to see how it is built. It may fall down if larger cubes are placed on smaller cubes. She has to observe and focus her eyes and hands. It takes a lot of concentration.
Once I observe that she can build it correctly, its time for another presentation, perhaps building it a new way, and receiving the language (small, large, smaller, smallest, larger, largest) associated with the material. She may decide to build it along with the brown stair. She may decide to build it sideways or upside down. Every time I observe that a child has mastered a new skill, and has basked in the glory of the newly reached skill, I am on hand to offer another extension orpresentation. In our classrooms, the end point is also the beginning!