Friday, June 27, 2014

Summary of The Montessori Exercises of Practical Life in the Primary Classroom

The need urging children to complete their irresistible tasks is their horme, as Montessori called it. Without having the freedom to complete their exercises, the child will be deviated in their development. If we know that the child has sensitive periods and needs for the elementary movements, care of self, care of the environment, activities for social behavior, and coordination of movement-- we must observe, protect, stimulate, and nourish them by preparing the environment and gathering the means of development, linking the two as the maintainer and developer of greater challenges in presentations. We observe and identify the child's needs and determine the exact activity which would best suit the child's needs at the right time.

The materials have to be physically and psychologically proportionate, aesthetically pleasing, and functional. The items are critically color-coded, as a complete set in that activity. It was only when we got to the complexity of flower arranging that the child had to gather materials for the activity, for the first time. The tools should be of good quality and local to that culture and environment, made of natural materials, and available within their reach. The display, furthermore, is sequential from easy to complex, and within the materials, they are ordered according to use. All the pouring goes together; all the spooning goes together; all the things for the care of the environment goes together; all the things for the elementary movements go together. There are also multiple sets of each kinds of the initial activities, although they will each have a slightly different challenge. Every object has a fixed place, and the activity must be found in that place.

The tools from the exercises of practical life must be separate from the objects of practical life, put together and ready-- that is, the brass bowl is decorative in the classroom, until the child is ready to polish. It is the child's own application-- what needs polishing? What needs dusting? This is what Maria Montessori calls "the voices of things" beckoning, "Come take care of me." We talked about maintaining those tools according to the order of completion. If the child is capable of more, we are adding more complex challenges to the materials. If they have the spooning skill down, they can practice it more seriously, in the real-life applications, to keep pace with the capacities of the children.

All of the teacher's behavior must be conducted in the classroom very carefully to be part of the environment. We need to practice occupying a smaller space, sitting in child's furniture, and practicing the child's activities until their movements, to model for them in lessons, become our second nature. Only then can we offer the direct presentations. As key principles, we show them our analysis of movement, not speaking while we model the precise, sequential movements for the activities. We are breaking down the movements, with an infinitesimal pause between each of the precise movements. This shows the child that every action is comprised of a series of actions, and those actions go in a certain order, the sequence of movements that results in some outcome.

We show the children the points of interest that show the children that they are performing the activity to success. At the end, we leave the children with a criteria of perfection, showing them what it looks like when it is done well. Then, the child can keep repeating the activity with that criteria in mind, leading to concentration, analysis, and the perfection of the will.

How do we ensure freedom in the classroom? The children can chose any activity in the classroom that has been presented to them. Only then can intelligence guide the choice. After completing it, the child can return it to the place where she found it, ready for the next child. She can work with it as long as she needs to, repeating it as often as she desires, returning to it whenever she feels the need to do so. The child also had the freedom to ask for the presentation or the repeat of the presentation if something catches her interest. While the child is enjoying this freedom, the teacher is observing the development of the child-- do they need a bigger challenge? What aspect is presenting the challenge? Does she need more presentation? More repetition? Is she including more things to give her more challenges? If we see misuse, we can assess that the materials are not meeting the developmental need at that time. We are careful in the preparation of the environment, giving the child the freedom to repeat the activity.

If we are going to support the child's development, we cannot be spending all day long straightening this perfectly orderly environment. We stimulate their development by suggesting that they maintain their own space, reminding them of straightening and dusting, of taking full ownership of the space. We always want to involve children in the care and maintenance of their own environment. It is not a punishment to clean it up, but we can encourage them, You know where to find the mop. Let us work together to help clean it up. Fixing it themselves gives them more agency and eliminates fear. We look at everything in the space with the same criteria of perfection, leaving the room as beautiful as it was before. I would not want to order this environment in front of the children: it comes back to our ability to do what is necessary and sufficient for the child and not one thing more.

To gain an independence with regard to any of the areas of practical life is to further develop the coordination of movement and lead towards the integrated personality. Apart from achieving these aims, these practical life activities have the outcomes of emotional enrichment, because these activities satisfy a fundamental developmental need. Mastery gives a sense of adequacy. Her connection with the environment is deepened. When her needs are fulfilled, there comes a sense of peace in the child. The child becomes more self-confident. Allowing them independence is respect for their work.

As another outcome, the child develops a sense of responsibility toward their environment. As the child becomes more aware of the needs of the environment and her capacity to respond to its needs, that leads to a sense of responsibility. The habit of self-scrutiny is beneficial for the development of perceptual judgment in the child, with finer and finer outcomes. This capacity for judgment is an essential component of independence. Finally, the child gains a sense for a work cycle, a beginning, a middle, and an end which will prepare him for all other later work-- a set-up, the work, and the clean up. It also prepares her to have efficient movements to support the intelligence, through longer and longer cycles of work.

The child operates with the aspects of movement, fine motor and gross motor, visual motor, manual dexterity and the grasp, and the sense of equilibrium. All of these are developed in the work of the exercises of practical life. The exercises of practical life must be the central aspect of the primary classroom, because everything else builds on these skills. The child needs the capacity for orderly, organized work, developed through the exercises of practical life, or they will not be able to have the same measure for success on the academically focused activities.

Remember to put our timelines for what the child will be able to achieve at a certain point to protect their developmental needs, in spite of constant testing. We approach this work with courage. 

No comments:

Post a Comment