Montessori Practical Life

Theoretical Introduction By Dorothy Mari de Graaf In this assignment I will be discussing the importance and different aspects of the Practical Life area in the classroom. “Watching a child, makes it obvious that the development of his mind, comes through his movements. ” (Montessori,1995, chapter 13, page 131. ) The above clearly explains Maria Montessori’s conclusion that it is only through the practice of movement that a child can learn and develop. For this reason she decided to incorporate the area of Practical Life into her classroom, as this is where the practice begins.

Through the exercises of Practical life, the child learns to adapt to his environment, learn self-control, see himself as part of a society and most importantly, grow intellectually through working with his hands and master the skills needed for his future. I will now look into the points of Practical Life: The link between the home and the school: There are many links between the home and the school in the area of Practical life. It is the first section introduced to the new child in the classroom. Maria Montessori stated that “Children feel a special interest for those things already rendered to them (by absorbtion) in the earlier period”. Montessori,1995, page 172. ) This explains that the activities in the class are familiar to the child, as many of them are done at home. The child can therefore settle in easily and master the skills with confidence while learning co-ordination of movement and relate back to past experiences at home. How does the adult and the child learn differently and the reasons for their work. Standing stated “The adult works with an external aim, to accomplish some change in his environment. ”(Standing,1998, page 142. This explains that the adult works to live and restore conditions through the division of labour and trying to reach a maximum result with using little effort. We can see in the words by Standing “The aim of the child’ work is not external but internal. He works in order to grow. ”(Standing, 1998, page 143), that the child works in order to grow their inner being, gain pleasure and spiritual fulfillment. Without work his personality cannot develop. With regards to learning, the adult learns consciously and with mush effort, whereas the child learns effortlessly and through the absorbent mind.

By learning this way, the child is able to take in all experiences learnt and understood from the environment and use them to help form his very being. The importance of movement in the childs development: The child must be given the means and allowance to move in order to develop. If he is allowed to do so, he can then progress to other activities with an increased level of difficulty by learning skills, mastering language, developing their gross and fine motor skills and social development etc. This can be clearly understood in the statement by Standing, “The value of movement goes deeper than just helping in the acquisition of knowledge.

It is in fact the basis for development of personality. ” (Standing, 1998, page 230) Analysis of movement: Defined by Montessori herself “The analysis of movements consists in trying to recognize and carry to carry out exactly these separate and distinct acts. ”(Montessori, class notes. ) We can then state that each movement is made up of small steps or actions that must be shown to the child in order to master the activity. The adult must analyze, practice and be aware of each movement in order to see and understand the skills needed for each activity. It is vital for us as adults to do this so we can show the child what is involved.

The four areas of Practical Life: Introductory / Preliminary Activities: This area of activities is introduced to help the child learn the skills needed to perform everyday activities to prepare for the future. Eg. Carrying a chair. Care of the Self: This area involves activities that able the child to look after himself and maintain a good hygiene. Eg. Washing the hands. Care of the Environment: This area involves activities that teach the child the skills to take care of the environment, making sure it is clean, tidy and ordered. They will help the child to orientate himself, gain self-respect, respect for others and his environment.

Eg. Scrubbing a table. Grace and Courtesy: This area consists of exercises that teach the child good manners, good behavior, respect, self-discipline and so on. If the skills are learnt the child will be welcomed into his community, have self-confidence and independence. Eg. Teaching how to say ‘Please and Thank you. ’ The characteristics and preparation of the material: It is the adult’s responsibility to make sure that all the material and aspects of the environment are prepared in a way that the child can master skills without any obstacles standing in the way of his learning process.

Standing stated “The directress should not only have prepared the means for carrying out these exercises, but should also have arranged them-in her mind-in a graded sequence, commencing with the more simple. ” (Standing,1998, chap XIII, page 216) Besides from this the material should also be child sized, attractive, real and functional, ordered, clean and whole, colour coded, safe and be easily accessible to the child. These characteristics are vital if we are to give the child the best chance to learn through the materials and grow. All of these must be known to the directress and applied In her classroom.

The role of the adult with regard to the practical life area: “The teacher,” says Montessori, “should be the guardian of the prepared environment. ” (Standing, 1998, chap XVIII, page 304) As the guardian in my understanding the teacher therefore plays many roles in the classroom. She should be able to recognize when the child is bored and needs a new presentation. She must be able to understand the developmental reasons of the materials, present the materials and help the child engage in them. She needs to show the exact movements while using some language in a presentation.

She must try involve the child in the to work with the material whereby he can then become a partner with the material. Here he learns to live with it and work with it. It is also vital that she knows that the child and the adults motive is different. The child is more interested in the process and movements of an activity than the perfection of that activity. Therefore to summarize, we can say that the teacher is solely responsible for the preparation and presentation of the material and there characteristics, as well as giving the child the freedom of choice of activities and for repetition of those activities.

The presentation/technique of a lesson, manner of presentation, isolation of difficulty, points of interest and points of consciousness. When presenting an activity to a child there are many aspects to take into consideration. The first aspect is the actual physical way in which the directress presents the activity. Firstly she must introduce the child to what she would like to show them through correct language. She must then invite the child if they wish to join her and show them the material. She then places the material in front of the child and sits on their dominant side.

With the use of language, she proceeds to show the action. The manner of the presentation involves the way in which the directress presents herself while doing the activity and this will determine whether the child will proceed with the same activity or not. She needs to be calm and inviting, use correct language and speak politely with graceful and slow movements. If she approaches the child in a frantic way, the child will most likely not want to join her and learn. Isolation of difficulty involves the adding of an extra step to an activity to make it harder.

The directress does this so the child can progress in his learning and stay interested. The points of interest involve those factors or aspects of an activity that draw the child to it. Some of these include the movements, the material, the sounds that are made and heard, the results and many more. If there is no interest created, the child will have no need to even look at the activity. The points of consciousness are possible things that may act as obstacles during the activity. It involves anything that could go wrong while the child is busy such as using incorrect movements, loosing balance and more.

The directress must therefore bring these to the attention of the child to avoid error. Link the presentation to the process of learning: The activity is presented to the child by working through the steps of the process of learning. The first step in the process of learning is making sure there is some form of interest in the activity. Here the directress will do the activity herself, making sure that the material is beautiful and that precise actions are involved. If this is done, it is easy for the child to bring his attention to the activity as it…interesting. The next step is instruction and personal experience.

This involves the presentation of the activity by doing it yourself and then allowing the child a chance to use it in any way at any time. The last step is the application. Here you will do another activity using the same skill learnt. For example if the child has perfected opening a jar, he can then try polishing a jar. Satisfying the child’s inner needs – absorbent mind, sensitive periods – orientation / adaptation, co-ordination, language, social skills. The child’s main need is to grow. This occurs through all of the below. The absorbent mind is a form of mind that a child has in the first stage of development.

Here he is able to learn and take in unconsciously and without effort and will. His mind acts like a sponge and sucks in all information learnt and understanding of his environment. He is then able to apply this understanding and master his skills. By working with his hands in practical life, the child learns and absorbs through the movements of and in the activity. The first sensitive period that practical life exercises apply to is that of Movement. This is the most important and here the child learns meaningful movement, co-ordination of movement and the movements needed for each activity. The next sensitive period is that of order.

In practical life the child learns to keep things neat and tidy, in a specific place and order so he can see his weaknesses and strengths, and lastly how to orientate himself. With regards to the sensitive period of social behavior in the practical life area, the child learns to work together, respect others and his environment. Here he also learns about consequences where if he breaks something, it will affect those around him. Through the refinement of the senses, the child learns to use his senses as tools to take in information and prepare for the future, as well as to understand the environment. The next sensitive period is language.

In practical life the child learns the names of objects and is then able to associate certain actions with them. His vocabulary expands and he gains independence as he knows what to ask for. The last sensitive period is attention to detail. Here the child will notice small and fine details of the materials and movements which will then keep him interested in the activity. Adaptation is where the child is able to absorb the culture of the society in which he lives, its spirit, customs and attitudes simply by living in that society. Adaptation is seen throughout the classroom as the child is constantly absorbing.

Normalization: This is a transitory period from one stage to another when work is done with the hands with real things and mental concentration. The child is then able to have complete control over his mind, physical body and will. This leads to characteristics of normal development where the child will have a love for work, order and silence and begin to have an attachment to reality. How practical life is applied into other areas of learning: Practical life exercises lay the foundation for the child by building skills, abilities and concentration through working with the hands and learning activities.

In order for a child to move onto different areas in the classroom, he must have mastered the basic skills learnt in the practical life area. For the child to proceed to the language area, he must have had lots of practice using his pincer grip perhaps through the pegging and unpegging exercise. He will then be able to move onto writing and drawing. For the child to proceed to the numeracy area, he must understand and have practiced the logical sequence of actions in practical life exercises. Another ‘skill’ needed to succeed in the other areas is independence.

The first form of independence is gained in the practical life area as it is the first area introduced to the child. Once independence is gained, the child is able to do the activities on his own and master his skills. This will lead to self-confidence in knowing they can do it alone which will help them concentrate and have self-discipline. By seeing his success, the child will want to automatically move onto the other areas in the classroom and work on all the activities. Developmental gains – independence, freedom of choice, concentration, self-control and motivation.

The child will gain independence in the practical life area by doing the activities alone and having a sense of confidence from succeeding. He will then move onto more difficult activities because he knows he has succeeded in easier ones. In the Montessori classroom, the children are allowed to choose their own activities and may do them for as long as they wish. The learning is natural and not forced. Because the child is allowed to choose, he will be able to make harder choices and move on into the other areas without feeling pressured, They will then want to move on as the learning is fun and not a chore.

The child learns to concentrate on activities and movements automatically because everything in the practical life area is appealing and he will then want to learn as he is interested in the materials and activities. Extended concentration is also learnt where the activities differ in length, complexity and logical thought. This extended concentration is needed to move to the other areas. The child gains self-control over his body and movements in the practical life area by learning and practicing specific movement and actions.

Through this self-control the child can perfect the activities as his balance and co-ordination keep improving. The child becomes motivated when he see that he is able to the activities. With this independence he has gained, he wants to do more to see the process and result. Without this motivation, the child will quickly become bored and loose self-esteem. Explain how the practical life exercises free the child from unnecessary adult supervision and assistance, chaos, disciplining and feelings of shyness, awkwardness and fear. Refer to specific presentations – their aims and objectives.

The practical life area frees the child from unneeded supervision as the child gains confidence and independence through working with the activities. A good example of this is with the dressing frames. Once the child has mastered these he can then dress himself, help others dress, tie his shoelaces and do much more for himself alone than before. There should be no enforced discipline as in the Montessori classroom, it is believed that the child has an inner discipline which comes through while working the activities as nothing is forced, unlike in normal schools.

This self-discipline can clearly be seen through carrying a chair where the child’s will must guide him. Through the grace and courtesy exercises such as, learning how to interrupt someone, the children learn that they may not scream from across the room and create chaos. Therefore each child works on his activity without being distracted by the other children needing help. Issues of shyness are also addressed in this area through the practice of greeting exercises, saying please and thank you, answering a phone etc.

This is because of the interaction in the class that takes place during these activities and after some time the child then starts to feel more comfortable as they are used every day. Any feelings of awkwardness or fear are eliminated in the Montessori classroom as the child knows he can learn freely and without pressure. He is also reassured by older children who help him with activities and act as a role model. This can be seen in all four areas of practical life as the child is free to do what he wants and for however long he wishes.

In conclusion, we see how the practical life area lays the foundation for the child’s learning and the importance of it. With this area in the classroom, the child is able to grow intellectually and eventually reach normalization and maturity. Through my studies, I have learnt that it is through practical life that the child’s development begins and his sensitive periods are met and will therefore continue to be met in the other areas as he progresses. This can be clearly seen in Montessori’s statement “Only practical work and experience lead the young to maturity. ”(Montessori, 1984, page 32)