Thursday, February 12, 2009

Montessori Sandpaper Lettters

These are the Montessori sandpapper letters. In Montessori, all 5 senses are used to learn all academic subjects. Sandpaper letters are used to engage the child's tactile senses to help the child associate the sounds of speech with there written symbols. This process forms the first preperation, not only for writting but for reading. As the child traces the letter, the child says the sound of the letter. Sandpapper letters are used in teaching print, and cursive.

Children at this age are very sensorial, or sense oriented. They love to move, touch, feel, and manipulate. This is a natural sensitive period for this age. The Montessori materials have this sensorial aspect integrated into each material.

What an amazing day, when the child himself realizes he can write. Without even knowing, he was being prepared for all the necessary movements for writting. As Maria Montessori states, "But the day will come when he will write, and that will be a day of great surprise for him, the wonderful harvest of an unknown sowing". How beautiful that the learning of a child is not forced, or placed upon him but naturally unviels itself as the child perfects himself in each activity.

The age for the sandpaper letters is 3-6 years of age. Christian is 6 years old. He is already writing and reading. He still loves to do the sandpaper letters. This work is out for his younger brother, Joshua to do. Christian had 1 year of formal Montessori education by a certified Montessori instructor.

Although, I have read alot of Maria Montessori's books and I have the Montessori curriculum and all the materials. I am not certified in the Montessori philosophy or use of the materials. I have defiantly made mistakes. As soon, or maybe before I give birth I would like to get my Montessori certification.

I learned something very interesting today about the importance of preperation in the Montessori approach as I was observing Joshua. I put the sandpaper letters out for Joshua, but I noticed he was having a very hard time following the lines of the letters. It was a great struggle. Christian at this age had no problems with this. So, why was Joshua having such a hard time . . . .

Answer - lack of preparation. Christian was prepared for this work, Joshua was not. Joshua is not adequately trained in the tactile, 2 finger approach with the other materials and does not have enough practice of following the curves of objects. There is a whole suite of other materials that use this 2 finger touch approach to work. The knobbed cylinders, the metal insets, the touch boards to name a few. These materials are very easy for the child to follow with the 2 finger approach and completely prepares them for following the complexity of the letter symbols.
(Side note - the 2 finger approach is using the first 2 fingers to touch. The use of 2 fingers increases the tactlie sensation.)

Remember, Montessori materials are designed to work off of eachother in a orderly manner. They all lead to success in the next material, when each material has been successfully mastered. If you rush to the next work or the child has not mastered the previous material, this sets them up for failure in the next work. Maria Montessori's philosophy is rooted in proper preparation which puts the child in position to experience success.

My mistakes - First, I taught the knobbed cylinders work without having Joshua use the 2 finger touch around each cylinder. I made this mistake in a few other works as well. On a good note, he is still in the sensorial stage. He still has natural motivation towards these materials. I will go back and re-model the materials the proper way, with the 2 finger touch. He will self-correct himself. This will give Joshua's fingers the practice of following curves of different shapes. Now, when we go back to the sandpaper letters, his fingers will have the proper strengthening and the control to follow the complexities of the letter symbols.

You see, When I introduced Joshua to the sandpaper letters work, it was way to difficult for him to do. It was confusing for his mind, he had to concentrate on too many new things. He had to work to get control of his fingers and work to follow the lines of the letters.

When Joshua has strengthened his 2 finger touch and has had many experiences of following the curves and lines of different objects, the sandpaper letters will be much easier to do. His fingers will be adequately prepared for the complexities of following the letter symbols and will be able to imitate with ease and pleasure.

Something to think about . . . . the importance of remote motor preparation for writing and to realize the immense strain which we impose upon children, when we set them to write directly without a previous motor education of the hand!

I talk to many kindergarten and early elementary teachers in the traditional model of education. I find that most of the teachers find there kindergartners not prepared for writing. They come from home, or preschool into kindergarten and there little hands are not prepared for the rigors of handwriting. Traditional schools have no motor preparation designed to strengthen there fingers. There fingers are tired. Handwriting becomes a tedious chore. Handwriting suffers in quality because there little hands are not prepared for this work. To make matters worse, generally speaking, by the time children at age 6 are going into kindergarten, they have already passed there sensitive period for writing. So, learning how to write is not something they are internally motivated to practice. It is the diffrence between work being enjoyable and work being cumbersome.

If at all possible, the goal is to present learning concepts to children when they have a natural inclination and motivation to learn. Maria Montessori refers to this natural inclination as the "sensitive periods of learning". When work is iniated by the child, great learning is possible. Learning is not experienced as a tedious chore but a grand adventure!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A beautiful day of art work!

Dinosaur Fractions

This is what we call "Dinosaur Fractions". Christian,(6 years of age) loves playing with his dinosaurs. Somehow as we were playing restaurant with the dinosaurs, there was a need to explain fractions. From this point on he always asks to play dinosaur fractions and now he really knows his fractions!!!

This was a natural approach to learning. It evolved out of our play. :)

Here is how it works - We start with one dinosaur in the restaurant. Another dinosaur approaches. We only have 1 sandwich in the restaurant. First we must count how many dinosaurs we have and then figure out how may parts we need to divide the sandwhich to feed the dinosaurs. We pass out the labeled fraction parts to the dinosaurs. We show how the individual fraction parts equal a whole and then clean up. In comes, the next dinosaur. Now instead of two dinosaurs we have 3 and it keeps going all the way up to 10 dinosaurs.

In the picture above, we had 4 dinosaurs in the restaurant. So, we had to divide the sandwich into 4 equal parts.
Here, you can see how we show that 4/4 equal one whole.

Here are all the other fraction parts we use. These are magnetic fractions. I'll have to remember where I bought them and I'll post it.

Montessori Metal Insets

There are 10 geometrical shapes. The frame is one color and the inset is a diffrent color. The ten shapes are: rectangle, triangle, curvilinear triangle, circle and ellipse on the top rack. On the bottom rack is the quatrefoil, pentagon, square, trapezium and the oval. Some, might find it strange that young children are being introduced to some advanced geometric shapes.

Although the direct aim is preparation for handwriting, the children are being introduced to shapes that they eventually will have to learn anyway. Instead of using silly shapes or designs, Maria Montessori is always thinking ahead! Children love to draw. They are preparing there little hands for the complexities of handwriting and learning geometric shapes!

The general age for this work is between 3-6. (Joshua will be 3 in May)

The aim of this work is to help the child acquire proficiency in using a writting instrument, including lightness of touch, evenness of pressure, continuity of line, control of line, and familiarity with the curves and angles found in letters.

To pick up the inset out of its holder requires the "pincer grip". A lot of the Montessori materials used in the 3-6 classroom, utilize this pincer grip. The child, without even knowing it, is strengthening and preparing there little hands for future handwriting. In traditional schools, children complain that there hands hurt while practicing printing or children's handwriting is poor because their little hands are not adequately prepared for this type of work. You will find with Montessori, that each work prepares the child for the next work.

Joshua is holding the pencil a little too high.
I gave him the first presentation of this work today. In Montessori, you never correct, you observe the child. I noted the observation and I will model the work again or he will see his brother doing this work and he will self-correct himself. If I correct him, I will disturb his train of thought, I will also crush his confidence in doing things himself. I will also teach him to look to me to see if he is doing it right. I can actually cultivate a need for approval. I want him to experience the joy of his work and to give him the opportunity to develop the self confidence of knowing himself if he is doing it right.

Keep in mind, the child does an activity for the joy and satisfaction of it, not to please the adult or for the adults approval . . .We must be lovingly careful not to interfere with praise and or criticism. Just observe the work, ask questions about the work.

I know it is hard and it sounds strange. It was a difficult change for my husband and myself.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Montessori homeschooling resources

Lisa Nolan Montessori - I have used her Montessori activities. Great for a beginning Montessori mom!

Former Montessori teacher.
Designed for parents, homeschoolers & teachers who want to incorporate Montessori into their home, classroom, or daycare setting. These activities are easy to download & save to your computer. The programs and activities are homeschool friendly.
Lisa is happy to give email consulting to parents and guardians who want to teach Montessori at home or as an addition to their other curricula.


Montessori teacher with Montessori lessons on video and many pdf files for your use for home!

Montessori teacher who offers all of her pdf files for a minimum price. I use her pdf files!

What is Montessori Education

“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.”

Dr. Maria Montessori: The Absorbent Mind

A Montessori education is designed to take advantage of sensitive periods between the ages of 3 to 6, when the child is most able to absorb information from his environment. Although Montessori education focus on the sensitive periods in childhood, especially early childhood, very early learning is neither the norm nor the objective in the Montessori philosophy. Montessori philosophy also continues in the upper elementary, being 6 to 9, 9-12, and 12-18. Education always flows from the concrete to the abstract in each area. This is a very organized way of learning.(much easier to).There are distinct areas in the Montessori room. The room is divided into a Practical life area, Sensorial, Geography, Mathematics, Language, Music and Art areas. I'll go into these areas in more detail in a later post.

Dr. Montessori spoke of 4 Planes of Development: birth to 6; 6 to 12; 12 to 18; and 18 to 24. During the First Plane the child incarnates the immediate environment; during the Second Plane, the child uses his creative imagination based on reality in order to psychologically conquer the world. Two sensitive periods during the Second Plane were discussed by Dr. Montessori: imagination and abstraction.

Maria Montessori developed materials based on each sensitive period. These materials are called the didactic apparatus. These materials were used with children all over the world and the children naturally gravitated to these materials on their own. The children worked with these materials with great concentration not usually seen. The reason children gravitated towards these materials and were able to work with such intense interest was because they were constructed around the children's natural inclinations or sensitive periods for that age.


Each Montessori class, from toddlers through high school, operates on the principle of freedom within limits. Every program has its set of ground rules which differs from age to age, but is always based on core Montessori beliefs-respect for each other and for the environment.
Children are free to work at their own pace with materials they have chosen, either alone or with others. The teacher relies on his or her observations of the children to determine which new activities and materials he may introduce to an individual child or to a small or large group. The aim is to encourage active, self-directed learning and to strike a balance of individual mastery with small group collaboration within the whole group community.
The three-year-age span in each class provides a family-like grouping where learning can take place naturally. More experienced children share what they have learned while reinforcing their own learning. Because this peer group learning is intrinsic to Montessori, there is often more conversation-language experiences-in the Montessori classroom than in conventional early education settings.


The Montessori method of teaching is founded on the premise that all young children pass through a well-defined sequence of steps to maturity, but at different rates of growth and in different ways. Growth is as individual as each child. Advancement within a child varies from skill to skill. Presented with the proper instruments and direction, however, a child's curiosity and eagerness to comprehend the world will motivate him/her to move from mastery to one task to another with tenacity seldom seen in adults.

The Montessori philosophy believes that before children can take advantage of a good education, they need to know how to learn. We need to train the senses in order to perceive and acquire knowledge through experience. Only then can we aid children in the development of basic skills and the ability to judge, think and create. The child is introduced to the joy of learning by providing a framework in which intellectual and social discipline can develop. When children learn how to think and reason, they can give intelligent responses.


Montessori Education is both a philosophy of child development and a rationale for quality in that development. The special method, named for the Italian physician Maria Montessori, stresses the importance of the development of a healthy self-concept. Education, she believed, is a preparation for life, not merely a search for intellectual skills. The child has one intuitive aim - his self development. Maria Montessori has said" The child works to perfect himself, while the adult works to perfect his environment." He desperately wants to develop his inner resources and his ability to cope with a strange, complex world. The child who accomplishes this moves into harmony with his world and becomes a full person. The Montessori method pursues the fact that the mind of the very young child is absorbent and thus the environment should be prepared carefully to train his senses, to stimulate his curiosity, to satisfy his need to know and to protect him from unnecessary failure. Montessori's philosophy and psychological principles led her to devise carefully graded series of self-teaching devices that are now commonly accepted and supported by current research.


Each Montessori school provides a precisely prepared Montessori environment which fosters satifaction in learning by discovery and a joy in achievemet. The climate and selected activities are prepared to interest and motivate the child and to protect him from unnecessary failure.
All Montessori materials are self correcting. The montessori guide or teacher never corrects, she only observes and continually models the propper way through lessons. In the Montessori environment you will not see correction or praise. The child does an activity for the joy and satisfaction of it, not to please the adult or for the adults approval. We must be lovingly careful not to interfere with praise and or criticism. Just observe the work, ask questions about the work. If we are not careful, we can cultivate the need for approval. The child must be free to experience the joy of the work for himself not because we like it. He must be allowed the opportunity to learn how to confidently discern himself whether a work is right or wrong.
The Montessori materials develop basic problem solving and observational techniques. The child begins in the concrete and manipulative materials and gradually works toward the abstract. Montessori's recognition of the importance of a stimulating environment as a means of "freeing the child's potential" is now supported by a multitude of studies in early learning. The classroom is equipped with specially designed and sequenced materials which Dr. Montessori devised. These materials, together with highly trained and administrators, provide a classroom where the child is stimulated and challenged, but never pressured. In such a climate the child learns to feel good about himself. His right to dignity and worth are protected.

*Some excerpts in the above passage taken from The Montesssori group*

Additional Resources for further study of the Montessori Philosophy

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Christian's Creative Thinking

I was pretty impressed with this game Christian thought of. He called this game, letter rocket. The picture is pretty dark so I will explain. He has a rubber ball secured to a string, which he put in between the railings. The other end, hanging down has a cube with letters on each side.

Christian would pull down this string and the cube would bounce up high and then come down. It was like a bungee cord. When the cube stopped moving it would land on a letter.

What ever letter it landed on, we had to find objects in the house that begin with that letter.

Love the creative ideas!!!!!!

Here is another activity Christian and I developed together. One of us would draw pictures of different shapes and the other person had to draw a picture using all of those shapes.
We had a blast and came up with some really neat pictures!