Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Giving Lessons

Lessons are an essential part of the Montessori classroom.  A vast majority of the lessons given are actually informal, quick connections.  But whether they are brief connections or formal lengthy lessons, they all follow a pattern of presentation.

Step One:  Observation
The first step in presenting any lesson is observation.  First movement is observed - how a child sits, stands or moves across a room gives information on what a child is ready for.  Child can’t sit for any length of time? Find an activity the requires the child to purposefully move around the room.  Child still hasn’t mastered how to hold a pencil?  Choose work that forces the child to practice “pinching”.  Observation is also used to determine what sensitive period(s) the child may be in.  Can’t lure the child away from the sensorial materials?  She could be in the sensitive period for order -get your sensorial extensions ready to fulfill the need!

Step Two:  Presentation
You’ve watched the child and know what lesson you want to give -it’s time for the presentation!  In a classical presentation (or lesson) the teacher presents the materials, demonstrates the activity, puts away the material, rolls up the rug, then invites the child to use the material.  A less formal method of presenting a lesson is to observe which materials the child is drawn to then give a lesson using knowledge of what the child is capable of doing.  

The presentation itself is all about making a connection with the child and not about the content of the material.  The goal is to make a positive experience between the child and the material.  We share the fun and the pleasure of the work.  After the material is presented, we watch to see what happens.  If a child becomes engaged we leave.  We also assume that the child won’t come back to us if they need help, so we make a point of checking in on the child.  We lend a hand if they need moral support.

Step Three:  Analysis
After the presentation comes the analysis.  We ask:
  • Is there a better way to present to this child?
  • Did I show too much?
  • Did I show too little?
  • Will they repeat the activity?

Step Four: Observation
Then there is more observation.  Does the child apply the experience?  Will they do this activity with others?  Is the child mishandling the materials to the point that useful exploration is finished?  It is time to step in and invite the child to another lesson in order to redirect the child or even perhaps encourage the child to move on to different work.  You can always represent another day!

When a lesson doesn’t work it could be that the timing was off and the child wasn’t ready for the material.  It may be necessary to be inventive so that the lesson can be represented as often as necessary.  It will be OK if not all your lessons are solid gold.  Relax, because you never know when the child will surprise you several days later by perfectly performing the lesson.  Or when other children will repeat the task by indirectly observing your presentation.

Pattern of Lessons
  1. Observation
  2. Presentation
  3. Analysis
  4. Observation
  5. Repeat

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Scrubbing

I like having a small scrubbing work available.  I start the year off with a baby to be washed, but I find that I need to change the scrubbing object every few days in order to maintain the children's interest in the work.  One extension of baby washing is scrubbing a pumpkin. 

If you offer drawing faces on a pumpkin with a dry erase marker, or using play dough to make faces on a pumpkin then you have an authentic reason to scrub the pumpkin.  Otherwise, I am content to let the work be a sensory exploration of water.

 Pumpkin Scrubbing

The child gets the work from the shelf

The work is placed on the chair to make it easier for the child to place the materials on the table.

The child first lays out the rug, then places the tub, towel, pumpkin and sponge on top of the rug.

Using a special pitcher kept next to the sink, the child carefully pours in one pitcher of water into the tub.  Soon we will add the step of adding dish soap with an eyedropper. For now if the child wants soap, we add it in for them.  The child then washes the pumpkin with the sponge.

When finished, the child dries the pumpkin with the towel.  The tub is carefully carried to the sink in order to pour out the water. The tub is returned to the table to be dried with the towel. (If the order of the last two steps is mixed up, the wet towel is placed in the laundry hamper and a new towel is retrieved.)  The items are put back into the tub so that the next child can take things out in the correct order.