“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
Practical: means basic, useful,
Purposeful Life: means the way of living.
Practical life Exercises are so the child can learn how to do living activities in a purposeful way. The purpose and aim of Practical Life is to help the child gain control in the coordination of his movement, and help the child to gain independence and adapt to society. It is therefore important to “guiding & not correcting” (Montessori) in order to allow the child to be a fully functionional member in his own society. Practical Life Exercises also aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will in turn also help the child develop an orderly way of thinking.
In Montessori classroom, the Practical Life Activities are the first activities the child is introduced to the Montessori environment because they can immediately satisfy the children's inner needs and desires. In this area, it allows children to do the things what adults do everyday, for example cleaning, dressing or greeting people. As we know that children construct their knowledge by themselves through their life experience. For teachers, we need to organize a purposeful activity that content their experience from their daily life. From Dr. Montessori observation, children's needs are not the fantasy experience, but real-life experience that help children work well and adjust their real environment. Through the training of Practical Life, children learn to take care of themselves, environment, social grace, control his fine and gross muscles with eye-hand coordination. The practical life exercises are included two important links for a child. The first is between home and the outside work because the exercise uses many materials and tools that are found at home. The second link is between the child and nature. Also these environments are part of the curriculum patterns. It includes threefold developmental purpose on the physical, psychic and intellectual development. It encourage self-respect and the growth of confidence, important for later learning for example, learning from the know to the unknown and the simple to complex.
The attractiveness is also of utmost importance as Montessori believed that the child must be offered what is most beautiful and pleasing to the eye so as to help the child enter into a more refined and subtle world.
As in all our life activities we have goals or aims. The more far reaching the aim the more likely we are to achieve our goals. Because Practical Life Exercises are meant to resemble everyday activities, it is important that all materials be familiar, real, breakable, and functional.
Maria Montessori observed that children need order at a specific sensitive period in their development. If not provided during this period the opportunity is foregone. The child is systematically categorizing their world. Thus, a routine is very important as well as a place for everything and everything in its place. A sense of calm provides the child an opportunity for orderly self-construction.
Both large and small muscle development is assisted through the precise presentation of movement. Attention to movement is not instinctive but planned voluntary actions. Repetition provides the child with opportunities for perfecting these movements.
The child who laboriously scrubs a table and attend to the details of their work is laying the foundation for calm effortless concentration levels for creative thought patterns.
We all want to be masters of our own fate. Only through accomplishments, which are, self-motivated do we gain the joy of learning The independent activities we adults take for granted are major hurdles in the child's drive for independence.
*Intelligence is in making the right choice; seeing the distinctions in things to make choices.
The education of the senses helps the child classify sensorial impressions. The child learns to distinguish very fine distinctions. The material helps strengthen the child’s ability to appreciate smaller and smaller distinctions.
The sensorial material help the child recall sensory impressions and to have perceptions that are extraordinary. The child continues to catalog and classify information in a way that he can recall them. The best recollection comes from constructing some kind of touch-stone in the mind. A touch-stone is an image in the mind that is so strong one can recall it at will. By working with sensorial material the child can develop amazingly accurate touch-stones for color/ pitch/ form, etc. In addition to working with sensorial material the prepared adult must give precise language. The child can then communicate him impressions and make it easier for him to recall them. This impression gets hard-wired into the brain and stays there for the rest of his life.
Sensorial materials are also used to help the intellect. Well trained perceptions furnish the child with a solid and rich base for the development of intelligence. The child categorizes sensory information and then organizes the categories more and more broadly. The sensitive period for order works together with the sensitive period for the refinement of the senses. When the child makes order from the environment through classification he no longer has to re learn basic images every time he sees them. This helps him go beyond immediate impressions and relate to the world as a whole. Through exploration and manipulation the intellect builds up its core of ideas. These ideas are the basis for abstract function later on when the ideas are precise, exact and inspired by the intellect, which has a strong base.
The will develops as the child acts upon choices. Sensorial material gives the child countless opportunities to exercise his will through choices. The child also gains knowledge in a systematic and orderly way. All these activities also help to develop a sense of harmony, beauty, and aesthetics. As the mind becomes more and clearer the child becomes able to express himself through the choices that he makes bringing order out of choices becomes a habit and he is able to make new relationships based on past experiences.
The education of the senses is also an indirect preparation for academic and cultural development. The foundations for reading, writing, mathematics, geometry, music, art, and geography all have a sensorial basis in this area. The exact observations and improved sensorial perceptions which are required in working with this material set a basis for scientific inquiry and imagination constructs (ex: geometry exists in nature. The child's perception becomes clearer when he sees things in nature that relate to geometry). The education of the senses gives us a window to the child’s mind.
“The true basis for imagination is reality and its perception is related to the exactness of observation. It is necessary to prepare children to perceive the things in the environment exactly in order to secure for them the material required for the imagination”
– Maria Montessori, Spontaneous Act in Education.
Mathematics in the development of the child:
Making sense of the world around us
Progression in the child’s development
Mathematics work is beautiful, precise, exact!
Math is an Indirect preparation for formation of the unconscious knowledge: gathering of experience and impressions, awakening the consciousness with the accompanying powers of application.
Mathematics in a Montessori prepared environment is made accessible to the child but never imposed. To be able to distinguish one from more than one, the child needs a certain ability to abstract. This ability to abstract is on individual process which cannot occur until the child has a certain level of understanding. This can be a difficulty for the young child but it is not impossible. To understand the idea of quantity, a child must have achieved a certain level of mental maturity the ADULT CANNOT FORCE IT UPON THE CHILD. Montessori made mathematics “concrete” for the children. Once this was done, the children started to work in a prolonged and concentrated way towards mathematical understandings
Mathematics is given to correspond to the Absorbent Mind, the Human Tendencies and the Sensitive Periods. If it is provided during the right time, when the child can discover the relationships by himself, it can lead to a mathematician in progress. Abstraction is an individual process which cannot be forced. It needs a neurological maturation. Going from the concrete to the abstract will lead the child towards imagination and creativity.
Dr. Montessori urges us to give the child a vision of the whole, a vision of the order and harmony throughout the cosmos. It is our responsibility to provide the child with experiences that will inflame his/her mind into the pleasure of finding things out. It starts from birth to six years with sensorial experiences and continues in elementary when the child wants to know the reasons of things.When giving mathematics or science, as other areas, we do not provide a group of subject matters but a key to understand the world and the task we have to play on it.
We are developing a true mind…a true nature, for example, one is the one that we think…the mind that he shows in a prepared environment to be able to understand the abstract mind. Whatever affects the child humanity, for it is in the delicate and secret recess of his soul that a mans education is acomplished …..Maria Montessori.
Practical Life as an Indirect Preparation for Mathematics
• Provides logical sequences of actions and logical analysis of movement.
• Provides precise and orderly presentations
• Provides sequential material in presentations.
• Provides for orderly work and finishing a cycle of activity.
• Provides control of error for verification of exactness which leads to self-perfection
• Provides a capacity for repetition and concentration
• Provides for refinement of movement necessary for handling materials.
Sensorial as an Indirect Preparation for Mathematics
• Develops precise and definite perceptions through exercises with shapes and forms between others.
• Develops exactness through precise presentations and use of materials.
• Develops clarity in expression with appropriate language
• Provides clear impressions
• Develops orderliness and an ability to carefully categorize which is essential to the mathematics area.
The Materials Themselves are an Indirect Preparation For:
– Some are a set of which is a base for decimal system
– Red Rods are related to Number Rods
– Binomial Cube, Trinomial Cube and Decanomial Square
– Constructive Triangles, Geometry Cabinet, Geometric Solids and Graded Figures
The Mathematics Area
• Numbers 1 to 10
• The Decimal System
• Counting numbers from 1 to 1000
• Exploration and Memorization of numbers.
• Passage to Abstraction
• Introduction to Fractions - Sensorial, Nomenclature, Operations
Characteristics of the Mathematics Material
• Responds to the Mathematical Mind
• The exercises presented are the abstract concept made concrete; materialized abstractions
• Beautiful, precise, exact
• Control of Error
• Lead to the child’s reasoning power through repetition and self-perfection process followed with the Mathematics Material
Language in the Casa de Ninos
The prepared environment provides different forms of language to enrich the child's vocabulary: conversation, poetry, stories, rhymes, songs, tongue twisters, riddles, language cards, names of qualities of materials, language related to geography, art, music, botany, zoology, biology, etc.
When the child comes to the environment, he still has an absorbent mind, which is now a more conscious mind, and his language continues to develop.
It is possible that there are no more explosions when he speaks, but there will be an explosion to writing and an explosion to reading. The child will learn many, many words, and he will perfect his sentence formation.
It is through the environment and his experiences that the child will enhance the language he already assimilated. He will explore language in the same manner that he has explored the other materials: with movement, with activities and with games.
Language will be given in ALL areas, because the child is interested in all kinds of words, no matter how difficult they may seem to the adult.
The child has a hunger for words, for knowledge, for factual information.
Purpose of language area:
To help the whole personality of the child
The child is a human being in the process of constructing his personality.
We must concentrate on the child’s personality and not on the language material
In the Montessori classroom we are helping develop the child’s character.
The way the child is exposed to language in his environment will reflect in the construction of his personality, how he is able to communicate to others, express his ideas and feelings.
To help the child to gain self-confidence, he should have the opportunity to express himself very early.It will be important to converse with the child, and to have a dialogue in which the child feels that someone is listening to him.
He (the child) will learn that…
· Every object in the environment has a name
· There are many words that can be used to express feelings and places
· There are words he can use to describe things
· Words that will help him to classify things
· There is a proper sequence of words in a sentence, and that this order helps to express clear ideas
The purpose of language in the Montessori environment is not writing and reading but the process of organizing and building his personality which includes:
1. - Self-expression
Spoken language- This is done through conversations, and story telling
Conversations- Use any opportunity to have a conversation with the child, on any and every event.
Story Telling- Read a book, invent a story, tongue twisters, songs, use poems and riddles.
2. - Enrichment of Vocabulary
Names of everything that exists in the environment
Names of the Materials: These names are given when you introduce the presentation.
Names of the Qualities of the Sensorial materials
Home, transportation, tools, buildings, parks, etc.
Botany, Zoology, Geography, Art, Music, History
Role of the Adult/Guide
· The adult needs to convey to the child the feeling of being accepted.
· That someone is listening to him/her, and that what the child says is important.
· The main task will be to help the child to communicate with the adult/guide, and to express himself.
· Help him organize his thoughts to express himself clearly.
· Enrich his vocabulary: precise and clear
“Language should be a part of the everyday life for the child.”