Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How does a Montessori teacher offer presentations? (As opposed to giving lessons!)

We address the issue of movements for day to day activities small piece at a time. These movements are not activities in themselves, but these are the elementary movements. We pour with a purpose as adults, but children do these without any purpose other than to practice the motion. For the child, (1) it serves the developmental need for movement-- gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor coordination, the manual dexterity. For the child, these are developmental activities toward the task of functional independence for the care self. Each of these elementary movements prepare the child for the daily activities of life which are to come. Some activities, like rolling and unrolling a mat, will be present in all places, but other activities of practical life will be different from one place to another.

We present these exercises early, to help orient them within their environment. We repeat them often, to bring precision of movement back to the environment again. The secret to the fascination of these exercises is the precision with which the guide does everything. It stimulates the natural desire for self-perfection and exactitude. The secret for success, according to Dr. Montessori, is the spirit of exactness with which the act must be done.

So, we prepare the tools, and then we present them. Offering the presentation, the lesson, is the means of connecting the child to their own personal development. Offering the presentation is the gift of responding to the unmet need.

What makes a presentation different from a lesson?


A lesson originates from the curriculum, not the needs of the child. It is according to the timetable, not according to readiness and mastery. In the traditional classroom, lessons are given to the whole group in sequence. A lesson is given. A presentation, on the other hand, is providing the children with the materials for their own self-creation. The skill is followed by repetition in the classroom, not immediately by another lesson. A presentation is offered.

In the traditional classroom, the lesson is not repeated, unless the child needs intervention. But in the Montessori classroom, repetition of the lesson clarifies the refinement of the idea. If the presentation leads to repetition, then we know that the activity is developmentally appropriate. The Montessori presentation is showing the child what to do, not telling the child what to do. Our movements speak, and our expression speaks, but rarely is it a verbal expression of what to do. Do not talk and present the materials at the same time, or their focus will be on our words rather than what we are modelling. The presentation always follows the invitation to come; the child will accept or not accept the invitation. The Montessori teacher, the guide, will graciously accept the child's "No", until the relationship of trust is established that they desire to watch and study the presentation.

How many children sit in on a presentation?
Most often, the lessons are given on an individual basis. Some activities are given to small groups. Very few lessons will be given to the entire group, and these will be rare because of the variety of developmental levels in the class. The majority of our activities are on an individual basis, and that is why the majority of presentations will be performed on an individual basis. Language and conversation are more often small group presentations, on the other hand. It may depend on the time of the year. If I see that four children need a reminder on how to roll a mat, they will be in a small group. A quiet voice fascinates the children.

How do you invite children to the space and engage them there?

The guide sets up the space to present the lesson before the children are invited to the lesson with a whisper. Beginning children do not know how to find a presentation space. You can invite the child, "Nicole, you can sit here," because they do not know how to find a space in the group, yet. Care and focus must be given to establishing the personal connection with each child, with eye contact and individual attention. The guide must move slowly and precisely, without speaking and moving at the same time. The guide isolates all other materials off of the table. She removes the tray from the space and only puts certain items on the table, as we are immediately discussing them. This shows the child that any action is comprised of a series of movements. As a guide, we must manifest the characteristic of the analysis of movement, to break it into smaller pieces and awareness for explanation for children. The child will be inspired by the having taken in the image of doing the activity well. The teacher will not correct, but the teacher will show and repeat the presentation again. There is no correction, ever.

Every presentation apart from showing this will make evident the points that will make success possible. The guide draws the attention to the various points of interest, so that the child can assess their own success. I show the child that they will have done it correctly if the cup is silent when it sits on the table, so that they can assess out of their own capacity. Every presentation should include a measure, a control of error or criteria of perfection, which the child will work towards.

The presentation centers on the developmental needs of the child.

In the traditional school, we have teachers. In the Montessori environment, children have guides. We must show a special attitude to the classroom, which we call the children's house. The purpose of the Casa is the child's workshop for the creation of the human being. We must be aware, reverent, and slow to the child's place and move with intention. The guide's voice and movements are raw material for the child's creative constructive development. The child will move the materials with care, from the shelf and back, not handing it to friends.

There are two aspects to the practice of guiding:
Learn to do it the way the child will do it. This perfects my understanding of the activity.

Practice the technique of presenting the materials to children. Analyze the movements necessary.

The work of the educator is not learning to do for the child; it is learning to be for the child


Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas.  


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