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Movement and sense refinement

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One of the most defining characteristics of Maria Montessori’s methodology is the training of the senses. The importance of sense refinement, discrimination and awareness is often taken for granted. Montessori believed that by learning to classify and discriminate what you are perceiving, man will make himself connected to the environment and increase his ability to create order; both internally and externally.

“The aim is an inner one, namely, that the child train himself to observe; that he be led to make comparisons between objects, that he be led to make comparisons between objects; to form judgments, to reason and to decide; and it is in the indefinite repetition of this exercise of attention and of intelligence that a real development ensues. ” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, 71) Montessori found that children between the ages of 0 and 6, experience a sensitive period or window of opportunity, for order, language, movement and sense refinement.

Here the absorbent mind will take all of the information received and internalize it into a foundation for development. Children are drawn to objects that they can interact with and manipulate. They learn through hands on experiences; learning to classify, discriminate, and self regulate. The sensorial encourages children to make judgments, learn to classify and categorize information as well as start to organize all of the impressions they are receiving from the environment. The teacher acts as a dynamic link between the child, the environment and the materials to help them define the world.

The child’s job is to name their world. This curriculum area gives them all of the vocabulary needed to help express and define what they are seeing. It helps them look at what they are seeing with a more attuned eye. Rough, smooth and gradations. Smallest to biggest pink cubes have distinct differences that children get to feel concretely. Internalization of these different concepts that we are working with come very naturally to children. Their minds are so absorbent at this age, they are able to take in so much language. Feeding their natural curiosity and capacity for vocabulary.

Sensory education lays down a foundation for later development. It prepares them for the language and math areas of the classroom. Sensorial materials abstractly reflect the mathematical concepts that will be presented when developmentally appropriate. It also establishes a connection to the vocabulary that is to come. Between the ages of 2. 5 and 6, the child will experience sensitivities that will aid in his development. These sensitivities give their inner and outer world direction. The montessori environment is prepared by the teacher with the child in mind, using both teacher made and didactic materials.

Within each material, Montessori isolated the sense that she wanted the child to exercise. An important aspect to these didactic material is the idea of auto education which allows for children to explore the material without intervention from the teacher. Self teaching through the senses allows children to concentrate and problem solve without interruption. :Autoeducation allows the child to preserve the images he is absorbing with maximum clarity. ” (Rationale for Sensorial Area, 24) The control of error plays a distinctly important role in the Montessori sensorial education.

It causes the “child to use his reason, critical faculty, and his ever increasing capacity for drawing distinctions. In this way a child’s mind is condition to correct his errors even when these are not material or apparent to the senses. ” (Discovery of the Child, 103) When the teacher does present the material, she uses minor language. Isolating the challenge or sense is another way in which the materials provide a control of error. Such is true for the pink tower, brown prisms and red rods. Here the control of error is visual disharmony; further emphasizing the importance of sense discrimination.

Children are able to work with materials that will relate to each of their senses in the sensorial area. They are broken down into several categories: visual, tactile, gustatory, auditory, olfactory, thermic, baric, stereognostic and chromatic. They are organized to enhance the five senses and recognize and classify different qualities. The visual exercises include the pink tower, brown prisms, red rods, knobbed and knobless cylinders, color tablets, the geometric cabinet, triangle box and many more. All of which are designed to teach discrimination between differences in size, width, length and dimension.

Tactile experiences encourage sensitizing the fingertips for discriminating and grading the rough and smooth boards and fabric boxes. Olfactory and gustatory senses are enhanced through smelling and tasting exercises that teach children to distinguish between different tastes and scents that they will be able to apply to their future experiences. With the use of blindfolds, baric tablets are used to distinguish differences in weight and pressure. Another great theory that resonates with Montessori is this idea of multiple intelligences. The idea that different children have different ways of doing things that they are more in tune with.

In this curriculum area, children get to experience different ways of learning and absorbing information. The sensorial area is the most foundational. It lends itself to all learning experiences to come. Particularly mathematical and musical but you can also see many parallels to literacy development. When mastery of a particular work occurs you may always make it more challenging. For example, a child who has learned all of the geometric solids and their names may now try to identify them with a blindfold. Now they must learn to feel. Knowing it with vision and without visual stimulation is important.

Gradually bringing children from three dimensional objects to two dimensional representations which is very much a lead into literacy. The sensorial material possess the same quality. Whether it be color, shape, weight, etc. “Objects of every single group represent the same quality but in different degree; it is then a question of gradation in which the difference between object and object varies regularly, and is when possible, fixed mathematically. ” (Discovery of the Child, 131) The materials are manipulatives for the child. The material isolate once concept of difficulty at a time.

It begins from more concrete to abstract concepts. Mathematical concepts are imbedded into the material design. There lies within each material the ability to discern dimension, length, form, width and size. Similarly, children learn to reason and observe through similarities and differences. There is also a subtle insertion of numeration one through ten. Each material and lesson has both direct and indirect aims, or practical and developmental aims. There is the correct use of the material to complete the task at hand, and the developmental goals of an increased sense of concentration, coordination, order and independence.

“The biological objective is to assist the natural development of the individual; the social objective consists in preparing the individual for his environment, and this also embraces professional education, which teaches an individual how to make use of his surroundings. ” (Discovery of the Child, 143) Montessori adapted methods to distinguish between form, quality and impart nomenclature using Seguin’s three period lesson. Giving language to what children are perceiving is one of the most important parts of this curriculum area. Montessori believed that the exactness of description and terminology is crucial.

The three stages are: naming, recognizing and recalling. Using two or three extremes, she would name objects, practice with the children until they can recognize them, then as a “test” she would ask the children to recall the information. Repetition and exactness are essential. Children are experiencing a sensitive period for language, allowing this data to be absorbed with ease. By means of these lessons the child comes to know many words very thoroughly- large, small; thick, thin; long, short; dark, light; rough, smooth; heavy, light; hot,cold; and the names of many colors and geometrical forms.

(Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook p127) The child learns different qualities of objects, gradations, and classification. In this way the child has become a stronger observer, with increased perceptions. “This education is not undertaken so that the senses may function better; it is rather to assist the child in the development of his intelligence, which is dependent upon the organizing and categorizing of his sense perceptions into an inner mental order. ” (Lillard, A Modern Approach, p 71) By refining his senses, he has changed himself.

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