Here are some "Montessori Basics" as a foundation for future tool presentation posts. Also see our tabs at top for the Philosophy and our general school tools and classroom.
Yup. Totally drinking the Monti-Kool-Aid...gulp.
There is a preference for learning materials to resemble the natural organic world around us. The idea is that children learn about their physical world BEST when handling things that come from their natural surroundings.
This is a preference, not a must.
But whenever possible, materials like wood, glass, ceramic, metal, wicker, grasses, rocks, grains, sand, are placed in a classroom.
Also helpful are tools that show how the physical world works.
So hinges, zippers, buttons, lids, sprays, transparent boxes & jars, anything that reveal a function is great for learning the source of "Cause" and result of "Effects".
There is also emphasis on setting up a "Beautiful and Breakable" environment.
The natural beauty of all the tools and the clean presentations will attract a child to come explore and learn. The breakable nature of the natural materials will teach a child to value and take stewardship over his belongings and to treat the physical world with respect and understanding.
A Work Mat:
This is the start and finish of any work.
Mats provide a visual "space outline" for the child to work in. Just like how a place mat functions for meal times, a work mat gives the child a clear sense of where his work area is. It carves a boundary for the child to focus, and for other children to stay outside the work perimeter when a child is working. Respecting another child's space and focus is of utmost importance in a Montessori environment.
Children are asked to get a mat from the mat basket, carry it to their work area, roll it out, put an activity tray on it, do the activity within the mat, clean up when done, roll the mat back up, and replace into the basket.
Mats can be any material, just easily rolled and carried. Sizes are 24"x24" for table mats and 36"x48" for floor mats (approximates).
This simple "visual" FOCUS cue is ingenious.
Again, a matter of visual boundaries and practical method of transporting tools to a work mat. Best to get wood or bamboo tray with cut-out handles. This provides stability when carried by a child to a work mat.
You can find some fine materials at online stores such as:
http://www.alisonsmontessori.com or http://www.montessoriservices.com
This is when a teacher (director) is sharing a new tool/skill with a child.
If you haven't noticed by now, Montessori is VERY detail oriented in their presentations. The stress is on a CLEAN presentation to a child. The theory is that the FIRST impression is the DEEPEST impression. It is preferred that you practice any tools before hand, to minimize any mistakes during your presentation, since any mistake may be interpreted as part of a lesson and not an error. Generally best to gather all materials needed for a presentation prior to starting to minimize student confusion. So rule of thumb: Don't show anything your child is not ready for (lack of interest), or that you have not prepared for.
That's the Kool Aid in a nut shell.