Today's agenda covered the Montessori philosophy, the adult's role in the classroom, and a demonstration of practical life, sensorial, and language materials. It was interesting to see all the different materials and learn how to present them, the Montessori version of a lesson.
One of the primary parts of the Montessori philosophy is the idea of allowing children uninterrupted work time. Children are allowed to chose their activity and then work on it until they are done, without an adult interrupting with additional instruction or conversation. This uninterrupted work time helps children develop their focus and extended attention span, something I think many of us are lacking! (I say as I type this blog, watch TV, and browse for a new audio book all at the same time!) I think people these days have so much going on in their worlds that it's no surprise the rate of ADHD is on the rise, among kids and adults alike. Montessori says to be respectful of a child's work time, a meditative time for the child.
Another thing we discussed is the idea of modeling a complete lesson, from initial naming of the materials on the shelf ("this is the binomial cube") to proper transport, usage, cleanup, and replacement. One participant said she can recognize Montessori graduates by their automatic completion of tasks, including returning materials to the appropriate places, something I've noticed most kids need frequent reminders about. It is also important for the adult in any classroom environment to make it easy for a child to complete their task by having an organized and well prepared environment.
As part of the sensorial demonstration she showed us several triangle boxes consisting of flag triangular pieces that you use to create squares, rectangles, and more. As I watched her modeling the presentation I started thinking about my time in 5th grade last fall and how so many of the students had trouble seeing the shapes within other shapes. When calculating area and perimeter the teacher was asking them to break apart irregulars shapes and form them back into an easier shape to calculate. For example, you can "cut" a triangle off the end of a parallelagram and "move" it to the other side to create a rectangle. So many of the 5th grades struggled with seeing that, but children working with the Montessori materials in the primary years will have early exposure and will be able to understand the math concepts better when the time comes.
As I persue this Montessori path I'm going to have to work on my own attention span. The instructor today emphasized the need for slow, distinct, and deliberate presentations. She said to minimize discussion during presentations because if you are talking and do-ing at the same time, children, especially the very young ones, will tend to look at your face and not pay attention to your actions. I had never thought of that, but it's so true. Children do tend to look at your face while you talk, a habit that people seem to outgrow unfortunately. I have the habit of narrating everything I do, which I believe is why my kids have very string vocabularies, however I'm going to have to work on quieting myself, focusing my efforts on clear, non-verbal modeling, and allowing the silence.
Tomorrow we learn about math, science, and cultural studies.
Random fact: did you know that Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, are Montessori grads?