Saturday, February 22, 2014

CONCENTRATION: The commonly overlooked educational skill

I've been reading so much lately about the idea of 'flow' and concentration within the daily lives of both children and adults.  The whole idea wrapped into the concept of Montessori Teaching is seamless, and it's something I just can't stop pondering.  Below I'm sharing two articles/blog posts regarding this exact issue.  Happy weekend, everyone!

My little one, age TWO (now 5!)

5 Ways To Aid Concentration


Foster Concentration, from Let's Lasso The Moon

Monday, February 17, 2014

Etsy Shop OPEN! Practical Life Trays Created by ME!

Very excited to announce that you can now purchase Practical Life Sets made by me :)  It's been very fun already!

Please visit the link below:







The work found in Montessori Schools in the Practical Life Area aids inner construction, discipline, independence, self-esteem, and sense of order.  These traits and virtues are gained from concentration on a precise material.  It has been said that this type of adaptation to our work, the do-it-yourself capabilities we instill, is the very foundation for education.
Everything in the Montessori environment is painstakingly prepared for the success of the child. 

In particular, the teachers prepare activities for each type of practical life work.
1) Physical Skills:  Pouring, Scooping/Spooning, Squeezing, Twisting, and Bead Stringing/Lacing
2) Care of Self
3) Care of Environment
4) Grace and Courtesy
5) Food Preparation

Although each area may seem to not have relationships with the others, they all have the same goals for the child- the direct aims of Coordination, Cooperation, Concentration, Independence, and a sense of internal and external order.  The Montessori Teacher needs to recognize and develop work to satisfy our children's sensitive periods.  Children in our classrooms have a need to repeat these works over and over to internalize the learning.  They need to move while learning, especially in the hands during Practical Life work.  We must create work for Practical Life that is attractive and will draw the child's attention.  It must invite curiosity, exploration, and mastery.  Our classroom is their house; therefore work must be centered on the child, not around the teacher.
To go into more detail involving the areas of Practical Life, we will begin with Physical Skills.  Activities that involve pouring, spooning/scooping, squeezing, twisting, and lacing help train the child for writing, and ready them for fine motor activity.  These physical skill works are done in an order sequence to prepare the student for reading by working from left to right, top to bottom.  Even the way the entire Montessori classroom is set up in order of difficulty left to right, top to bottom- relative to the way most languages read.  The order of materials is set up from no transfer-to-transfer, large to small, and hands to tool.  Our Practical Life work helps strengthen and advance the hands of our children by the way their fingers work in the process of these activities.  Most commonly children use what is called the pincer grip on Practical Life work, which will soon become the child's way of correctly holding a writing utensil.  The work is on the shelves from left to right, starting on the left with gross motor skills, and fading into fine motor skills towards the right and closer to the bottom. 
In conversation with a student, she told me that she can pour her own drinks.  She learned to pour at school by starting with solid material and working up to water pouring, ending with pouring with a tool.

 Another equally important area of Practical Life is the Care of Self/Person.  In Care of Self the child learns just that- to care for themselves and others.  This child is provided with work that simulates and prepares for doing everyday activities such as getting dressed and washing hands.  For instance, most Montessori classrooms have dressing frames and/or actual clothing to practice with.  Dressing frames guide children in opening and closing their clothing in an order that is consistent with ability
1) Large Buttons 2) Small Buttons 3) Snaps 4) Zips 5) Hook and Eye 6) Buckling 7) Lacing 8) Bow ties
Each of these frames is done in an order as well- from top to bottom and finishing with bottom to top.  Providing children with these activities enables them to gain self-esteems through doing it themselves.

Care of Environment is the area of Practical Life where the child learns to care for their surroundings with exercises such as:  furniture scrubbing, botany, sweeping, polishing, and flower arranging.  This area simulates adulthood while providing child size materials for use.  Most classrooms have a small broom, and plants to care for.  These activities render children showing and feeling a sense of ownership in the classroom. 

Grace and Courtesy is so important in our classroom, and for children ages 3-6.   They are able to absorb the modeling of adults' kind and considerate behaviors and internalize it.  Some classroom exercises include shaking hands, saying thank you, covering a sneeze, holding a door and table manners.

Food preparation, a very significant area of Practical Life is where a child participates in some way with presentation or cooking foods.  Children are proud to help make snack.  Food Preparation can be an extension of many Physical Skills in Practical Life because there are so many needs to stir, twist off caps, spooning ingredients, and squeezing fruit for juice.  Many teachers agree that food preparation helps the child appreciate food more than if it was made for them.

 Maria Montessori worked as a medical physician at a mental institution when she started observing the children who were sadly considered 'defective' or 'ineducable'.  As the director of the Orthophrenic School in Rome, she worked with the subnormal children.  She noticed that the children needed to manipulate materials to learn and grow.  Her many successes at the school led her to believe that similar improvements could be made for the normal child in a preschool setting.  This discovery led to the opening of the first Children’s House (Case Dei Bambini).  There she set up a program to teach the young children how to care for themselves and their environment, which we know as practical life.