The Montessori method was developed in the early 1900's by a physician called Maria Montessori. Maria was the first woman in Italy to obtain the degree of Doctor of Medicine. In 1907 Maria Montessori opened her own 'children's house' to provide education for the low-income children in Rome, it is here that she tested her methods. Maria's method included designing materials and techniques that would promote a natural growth of learning in students. Maria found that children who learnt this way formed a pattern that thye carried over naturally to reading, writing and mathematics.
In a Montessori classroom children are given the opportunity make their own creative choices in their learning. Each child can choose to work individually or as a group to explore knowledge of the world to enable them to develop at their maximum potential. Each activity in the Montessori classroom supports an aspect of the child's development, for example, the sand paper numbers and the spindle box support the child in Mathematics. The Montessori method is used worldwide as it enables the children to learn through experiences at their own pace which is the most beneficial way for a child to learn.
The Montessori method gives children freedom within limit to explore and use to their advantage their surroundings. Self-correction and self assessment are an integral part of the Montessori approach as you are giving the children opportunities to learn from previous mistakes and problem solve. As children mature they learn to look critically at their work, where they begin to recognise their mistakes and adapt their way of working.
Some of the Montessori Activities include:
Spooning activities help children understand and work on hand balancing, and eye to hand coordination. Children have to spoon objects from one bowl to another, usually from left to right, as this is to support writing in further stages. Children gain practice from this activity, which then helps them feed themselves competently and independently. This activity can be made harder/easier depending on child development stage, and can be done by changing the size/style of spoon, and types of materials such as bigger pieces or smaller pieces. For example, rice, peas, lentils, kidney beans.
Tonging and tweezing activity act as a purpose to teach children to move small objects to support them in developing their fine motor skills. Tweezing is one of the last exercises within the Montessori practical life sequence and it also supports the three finger grip, also known as the tripod grip. These activities also prepare the brain for reading and writing, as the objects are to be transferred from left to right. Tonging and tweezing can be adjusted to the children’s development stage, by creating more/less advanced activities. This can be done by changing the type of tong/tweezer, and the transferrable materials. Colour sorting and matching can also be implemented in this activity, as children can have coloured pom poms, and need to transfer them to their matching containers.
Metal insets are used simultaneously alongside the sand paper letters. This support the child’s mechanical writing skills and guides them on their way to writing. Fine motor skills are being developed when children use the metal insets to trace shapes.
Children learn letters by using sandpaper letters, which incorporate the sense of touch to further reinforce learning. While the child learns the letter sound, they trace the letter with their fingers on a textured sandpaper inscription of the letter, learning the strokes used eventually to write that letter on paper.
In the sensorial area of the classroom, your child will learn to notice details like colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, weight and temperature. In other words, they’ll use their five senses to learn important details about their world.
It’s in the sensorial area that you might find items like knobless cylinders and smelling bottles. There may be colour tablets that your child can look at to learn to distinguish between different colours and shades. Your child will be encouraged to manipulate the items in the sensorial area to learn to heighten their senses.
Thermic tablets are a good example of a sensorial area activity. This is a collection of tablets that have naturally have different temperatures, like felt, marble, wood, iron and cork. Your child will learn how to touch each tablet with the inside of their wrist to feel the difference in temperature. They may wear a blindfold to see if they can distinguish between the different materials by touch alone.
The Knobbed Cylinders
The Knobbed Cylinders are a Montessori Sensorial material, designed to assist children in making distinctions in their immediate environment. This material primarily engages the senses of touch and sight.
The material is composed of 10 different cylinders with ‘knobs’ used to hold each object using the pincer grip. Each cylinder fits into a specific hole on a solid block of wood.There are four different variations of the Knobbed Cylinders, allowing children to challenge different perceptions of mathematical concepts, such as weight and size. They are primarily used to teach children to visually discriminate between dimensions; however, as competency grows, child can begin to differentiate with touch. This Montessori material also indirectly prepares children for writing, as they begin coordinating their fingers in a pincer grip, which is used later for holding pencils.
It also lays the foundation for future work in mathematics and language, as children learn words such as ‘height’ and ‘diameter’.
These are just some examples of Montessori Practical life activities which we use in our nursery to support children development. Practical life activities are activities which help to provide children with skills that are required in a day to day life. However, each skill also links to another, and supports every aspect of the children’s development. For example, tweezing, spooning and tonging activities, all support children hand to eye coordination, as well as hand strength and balance, preparing them to use a pencil and mark making skills, which then leads to writing skills. The same applies to other activities such as pouring and spooning, which support the children to understand and learn to feed themselves, which also requires good hand balance and coordination. We ensure that each activity we provide the children with, is interest and looks appealing at the same time, in order for them to show interest in and enjoy doing them. We also ensure that each activity suits the children needs and development as well as age, therefore we ensure we change the activities frequently to make them more challenging, In order for the children to not get bored or lose interest, and in order for the learning and development to continue. There are endless possibilities and ways to make these activities interesting and challenging and we thrive to make them exactly that, and it is our responsibility to ensure we change them regularly and monitor when it is time to make new ones, or make them slightly harder/easier depending on each individual child.
"Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them, they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves."