Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sensorial Activities for the Primary Classroom: Pairing, grading, and sorting

What kind of activities are possible to stimulate the child's sensorial development? Many of the activities have an aspect of pairing-- identical, complimentary, or partial. When a child rests a cylinder in a socket isolate a tablet and find another that is the same, or match an inset with the card that has the same shape on it, it establishes that the child has isolated this aspect of similarity.  This is the child already forming the concept of the square, or red, and as soon as the language term arises for it, the name will be attached to a previously established concept. The name supports the concept. After the child can complete the activity, then we offer the precise vocabulary.

Within pairing, comparing consists of presenting objects which manifest a particular quality in duplicates, and the differences stand out. It also makes possible the intelligent activity of creating the pairs, in regards to abstract qualities. The purpose of all pairing activities is to become conscious of physical properties independently of the matter that holds that quality. The nature of the activity is to establish identities among differences.

Another activity is discerning the differences in the grades of a certain quality, refining the senses along the same concept-- like blue. There is a great degree of refinement required before the child can move from pairing to grading. There will also be a comparison of louder and softer activities. This is another key to the senses that the guide relates to the child. Pairing is simpler than grading, but we introduce sensorial concepts through the pairing activities, because this is the simplest of those two. The guide seems to say, This is red, but red exists in so many variations. Once the child can grade in order from dark to light, at that point the guide can provide language to describe each of those hues. The language will be light blue, lighter blue, and lightest blue. Later, this will have implications on their writing, as they express the refinement of their senses in their writing. The purpose is to become conscious that each of these properties exists in a number of degrees of intensity. The nature of the activity is arranging the objects in series, according to the maximum similarity.

Students may also sort materials by their quality. The children may wear a blindfold and sort a stack of identically sized and shaped pieces of wood by their weight. They will use their baric sense to appraise the qualities of the objects. After they have mastered these, then comes language to discuss these items.

When the child comes to the Casa at 3, they have an immediate need for the Exercises of Practical Life. Now, they are ready to explore their senses on a higher level. The child can receive lessons in the Sensorial Activities at the same time as the Exercises of Practical Life. Which part of their developmental tasks they need will depend on the child. Although she needs to complete these Sensorial Activities early, guides do not present these activities early. First, they must have perfected Practical Life activities for some time, because Sensorial Activities require more orientation and control of movement. Unlike the Sensorial Activities, they will be previously familiar with the Exercises of Practical Life, which give a sense of orientation and a trust in the adult.

All of the Sensorial Activities are individual presentations. These things set a basis for other children to have enough choice before the guide begins giving Sensorial Activities. Beginning with Practical Life orients the child for purposeful activity, before launching into the Sensorial Activities. The get in the habit of looking for the purposeful end of their work, but the results are not as concrete in Sensorial Activities. There is nothing concrete to show that the child has done it, so it requires a higher level of development.

If a child enters the Casa older, like at the age of 4 or 5, we can begin their first lesson with a specific challenge or purpose, such as pouring all the drinks at mealtime without spilling any. Setting the foundation with the Practical Life activities, even with a tweak such as this, gets the child in the habit of the work cycle in choosing a work, setting it up, completing it, and cleaning up. The Exercises of Practical Life have strengthened the will of the child, as well as the control of movement, and orientation to the environment and the people in it, which are prerequisites of Sensorial Activities. If the Sensorial Activities are to give keys to the environment, the Practical Life activities give an orientation toward the environment to begin with. It may only be a few weeks delay from entering the Casa that the child will be ready for the Sensorial Activities.

When the child is ready, the guide will observe coordination of movement and a refinement in the hand, a level of concentration and focus, and an ability to complete a work cycle. The child will be able to follow logical sequence. At this point, the guide will be aware that the child is ready for Sensorial Activities. A child who is still exploring the coordination of movement can only receive that development through Practical Life. However, the child should be done with pairing and into sorting by age 4 1/2, when the child has reached the sensitive period for the refinement of sensory perception.

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