Montessori How To

The example below of how a child would abstract the knowledge of the continents is exactly that, an example.

It is intended to explain the concept in a practical way, and to help one understand the process of abstraction.

It should also indicate why starting a child with a concept at too abstract a level can reduce the ability of the child to “learn through the senses” and fully internalise that knowledge in the fullness of time.

In Maths for example, concrete concepts are most often the building blocks of abstract mathematical principles and quite often a child is taught the abstract principles only, without having the opportunity to comprehend the concepts at a more concrete level initially. This is becoming an ever more common modern issue caused by too much unguided computer interaction at too early an age. The child needs to work through the “discovery” process spontaneously before fully internalising and grasping the knowledge, and the directress needs to guide that process without being prescriptive. See the five step example below..

 Activity Equipment/Materials Description 1. Sandpaper Globe Lesson Montessori Continent Sandpaper Globe Lesson, Age 3 to 6 The child begins the journey of discovery at this point. The Sandpaper globe is a round physical globe with sandpaper continents that feel rough to the touch and thus predominantly stimulate the child’s tactile senses. This activity is primarily concrete in nature. 2. Colour Globe Lesson Montessori Continent (Colour) Globe Lesson, Age 3 to 6 The child begins the next step of the journey of discovery at this point. The Colour globe is a round physical globe with protruding continents that do not feel as rough as the sandpaper globe but are still discernable to the child’s tactile senses but more predominent to the child’s visual senses (of colour). This activity is less concrete. This is abstraction of Activity 1 3. Planosphere Lesson Montessori Puzzle Map (Planisphere) of the World Lesson, Age 3 to 6 The child begins the next step of discovery at this point. The Planosphere is no longer a round physical globe, but a two dimensional puzzle with continents represented by coloured puzzle pieces. This activity is less concrete and more abstract. Note the globe has now changed from a 3 dimensional object to a 2 dimensional object. This is abstraction of Activity 2. 4. Continent Nomenclature Cards Physical Presentation Montessori Continent Nomenclature Cards Age 3 to 6 The child begins the next step of discovery at this point. The Continent Nomenclature Cards two dimensional cards which show the continents as coloured objects without the context of the other countries and roundness of the globe. The child is now abstracting continents simply by their shape and colour regardless of other physical characteristics such as dimension and context. The child has moved from objects in context (i.e. the globes and the planosphere) to recognising the continents without context (the nomenclature cards). This is abstraction of Activity 3 5. Continent Nomenclature Cards Interactive Presentation Montessori Interactive Continent Cards Age 3 to 9 The child begins the next step of discovery at this point. As computers were not commonplace at the time that Montessori wrote her methods, it is suggested that this step is not “purist” Montessori. It is however, an optional additional step which can be considered in the context of our modern technological environment. The same principles as mentioned below would still apply. The child is now abstracting continents simply by their shape and colour regardless of other physical characteristics such as dimension and context, and within a virtual (non physical) way. The child has moved from objects in context (i.e. the globes and the planosphere) to recognising the continents without context (the nomenclature cards), to recognising the objects without context and direct physical interaction. This is abstraction of Activity 4.

Abstraction is just one aspect of the Montessori Method, which is detailed and multi-faceted, and it is suggested that when applying the Montessori Method, the practitioner familiarise him/herself with the Method either through training or reading about it, in order to improve the outcomes and learning of the child.

With all Montessori interactions it is important to consider and understand the purpose of them, and to observe and guide the child in accordance with the purpose. The child will spontaneously abstract ideas if he or she is allowed to, by virtue of the environment and elements within it…and by careful and purposeful planning which is the key role of the Montessori directress or Montessori Parent.

To summarise in Montessori’s own words……

The child turns away spontaneously from the material, not with any signs of fatigue, but rather as if impelled by fresh energies, and his mind is capable of abstractions. At this stage of development, the child turns his attention to the external world, and observes it with an order which is the order formed in his mind during the period of the preceding development; he begins spontaneously to make a series of careful and logical comparisons which represent a veritable spontaneous acquisition of “knowledge.” This is the period henceforth to be known as the period of “discoveries,” discoveries which evoke enthusiasm and joy in the child.

The Large Moveable Alphabet is used as an introduction to writing, and to show the child that the symbols for the sounds in speech can be used to express thoughts and make words.

The Montessori reading series is mostly focused on the phonetic aspect of language. The child will spend time learning the initial sounds. Next the focus is on identifying middle sounds of words (emphasizing short vowel sounds), and the ending sounds of words. He does a lot of matching and sorting activities. Objects and pictures are matched by their sounds.

We are unable to “imagine” things which…do not actually present themselves to our senses; even language would be lacking to us to explain things lying beyond those customary limits by which our consciousness is bounded.

The atmosphere of harmony that exists in a Montessori classroom is a reflection of the spontaneous behaviour of the children who have a heightened awareness of each other and a natural tendency towards loving and caring, both as individuals and as a social group.

View these videos below for a simple explanation of how the card materials are used in the Montessori Method and what there purpose is.   Get the Flash Player to see this content.

A series of Video lectures recorded by Margaret Homfray who is a well known and knowledgeable proponent of the Montessori Method.

Montessori Practical Life is the cornerstone of a child’s interaction with his world.

Between the ages of birth to four-and-a-half, children are in a sensitive period for refining their senses. Children at this age are capable of learning to discern hundreds of qualities of the things around them as well as absorb information about things, such as learning their names.

One can take advantage of this particular interest that is unique to this age group. Introducing interesting things with their names through the “Three Period Lesson” harnesses the power of association within the subconscious which is one of the key building blocks for abstraction in later life.

“Art belongs to the whole world and the barriers of nationality vanish before it”

Learning the Alphabet the Montessori Way is the most fundamental building block to language.

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