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Maria Montessori and her ‘Sensitive Periods' 2

Parents are always baffled by the amount of times a child can repeat an activity or a song or an action and I always get questions about why children are repetitive in some things at certain stages so I thought I’d explain!

Maria Montessori believed that children pass through phases in which at certain stags throughout their development they have a predisposition or sensitivity to learning a specific skill. These stages are called ‘sensitive periods’! Each period last for as long as it is necessary for the child to accomplish a particular stage in his development. These periods of sensitivity are transitory and when the aim of the period is accomplished the special sensitivity simply falls away. In other words it reaches its peak and dies away.

These sensitive periods can be thought of as moments of readiness for learning. Sensitive periods appear as an intense interest for repeating certain actions over and over again, until, out of repetition, a new skill emerges and is mastered. These sensitive periods manifest themselves by a pattern of behaviour. A feature of growth at this stage e.g. a characteristic of such a period is the repeated performance of song actions for no apparent reason. During these periods the child shows vitality and pleasure in performing these actions. If the child has not been allowed to work in accordance with the sensitive periods Montessori said it was like “a dropped stitch in his mental life” because he would lose his special sensitivity and interest in that area and it would affect his whole physic development! Harsh but true!

In Casa de Bambini, Montessori observed that the sensitive periods were not linear. They do not follow each other. Some run parallel and some overlap it was obvious to her that the sensitive periods the child passed through were not only an aid to the development of his physic life but they were also an important aspect of his learning process. So in formulating her method of education Maris Montessori identified six major sensitive periods:

  1. Sensitivity to Order:

This appears in the first year and continues through to the second year. During this time, the child is striving to sort out and categorise all his experiences. It makes it easier for them if there is some kind of order in their lives. They liked to be cared for in the same way by a primary caregiver in a familiar environment. The child needs consistency and familiarity so that he can orientate himself and construct a mental picture of the world. This need is particularly evident in the child from about the age of 18 months. During this sensitive period change can be very upsetting for a child, even a minor change can feel like the end of the world to them. Providing order in a child’s life helps the child to become disorientated! This is why the prepared environment is so important for the young child. Order helps the child to orientate himself and organise his mind.

  1. Sensitivity for Language:

The sensitive period for language begins at birth and go the whole way through the first plane of development (0-6 years). A baby hears his mother’s voice and watches her lips and tongue. By the age of six, with almost no direct teaching, the child will have acquired a large vocabulary, basic sentence patterns and the inflections and accents of language. He will continue to acquire more complex sentence structures and to extend his vocabulary throughout his childhood. If a child has not been exposed to language (reading, listening, singing, writing etc.) regularly, during this period he may be irrevocably damaged! Maria Montessori believed that it was particularly important for adults to converse with children throughout this period, continually enriching their language and giving them every opportunity to learn new words.

  1. Sensitivity to Walking:

When the young child learns to walk at around 12 to 15 months, he has a need to perfect the skill, and will walk and walk as told in Maria Montessori’s book “The Secret of Childhood”. It is under estimated how long a child can walk for, once they are allowed to do it at their pace, however the adult must be aware that they have no concept of time and they love to explore…. During this period the child is moving from being helpless into an active being and as we all know this is when the real fun begins!

  1. Sensitivity to the Social Aspects of Life:

At the age of about two and a half years to three years, the child becomes aware that he is part of a group. He begins to show and intense interest in other children of his own age, and gradually starts to play with them in a co-operative way. There is a sense of cohesion which Maria Montessori believed came about spontaneously and was not directed by internal drives. She noticed that at this stage, children begin to model themselves on adult social behaviour and they gradually acquire the social norms of their group. This is an ideal time for developing social convention and manners, rules, grace and courtesy are very important throughout this sensitivity. During this period you may find that children need and want to be accepted by anybody including parents, friends, family etc. Circle time, group play and Grace and Courtesy lessons are all extremely beneficial to a child in this period.

  1. Sensitivity to Small Objects:

When the child reaches its first year and becomes more mobile and has a larger environment in which to explore, he is drawn to small objects such as insects, pebbles, stones and grass. He will pick something up, look at it closely and perhaps put it in his mouth. The urge to pay attention to detail that children of his age have is part of their effort to build up an understanding of the world. This sensitive period allows children follow the Practical Life materials.

  1. Sensitivity to Learning Through the Senses:

From the moment the child is born, he receives impressions from the worlds through his five senses. Firstly, the senses of sight and hearing are active, and then gradually, as movement develops, the sense of touch and smell play a role, followed by a sense of taste, as he is able to put things into his mouth. By taste and touch the child can absorb the qualities of the objects in his environment, therefore allowing the neurological structures of language to be developed. The tongue and the hands are more connected to man’s intelligence than any other part of his body. Montessori referred to them as ‘the instruments of man’s intelligence’. This interest in sensory experience and the activities which they stimulate help to refine the child’s senses. Maria Montessori recommended that a baby be kept close to his caregivers so that he can see everything and hear what is going on around him. Then as soon as he can move around, he needs plenty of freedom so that he can explore. The child needs this sensory exploration in order to develop to its potential.

They are the main sensitive periods that Montessori believed that every child passes through. A child can have smaller sensitive periods also, for example a child can have a sensitive period for pouring. Throughout this period you may find that a child will repeat this actions for long periods of time on a daily basis. This can often be mindboggling to an adult but often the process is more important than the end result to a child. We pour things to move them from one place to another but the child’s focus is on the simple act of pouring in itself.

Our Drop Off Classes 0

We are offering two classes a week where parents can avail of dropping their kids off to our centre in Yeronga for two hours. Drop Off classes run from 11.30am to 1.00pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Classes for term two start on the third week of April beginning Monday the 20th and run consistently for ten weeks.

You can enrol for both Drop Off classes or just one.

Children need to be 3 years or older and able to independently use the toilet. Classes are $33 per session.

We, at I AM Montessori, believe that a little bit of Montessori is better than none. Therefore, even if your children are not in Montessori Day Care, one Drop Off class with us helps!

However, you can never have too much Montessori either so if they already in a Montessori Environment drop off classes further enhance Montessori and your child’s learning.

Drop Off classes are a great opportunity for children to be immersed in the Montessori Prepared Environment whatever they’re situation is presently.

Drop Off classes are completely child lead for the whole two hour work cycle. The session is broken up to roughly 100 minutes of Montessori work activities with the other twenty for food (if they wish) and group time at the end of the session.

During the 100 minutes of Montessori activities, the five areas of the curriculum, Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Culture and Mathematics are accessible. The teacher in our Drop Off classes is qualified with a Diploma in Childrens Services and trained in Montessori Teaching, specialising in working with 3-6years. It is her belief that every child has the capacity to learn all the exercises in the classroom starting from the basic pink tower all the way up to maths concepts such as multiplication and division.

Parents who currently avail of the Drop Off classes love hearing all the stories and the information that happened during the classes and most children are only too happy to tell them all about it. Parents who believe in the greatness of Montessori want their children to be independent, self-confident, self-correcting, able to problem solve and work out hard problems, able to grow and flourish in an environment that has freedom within limits and is perfectly suited to challenging their children’s needs and wants at that stage!

There is a maximum of 7 children in each class and there are two adults on site.

Call us on 07 3848 2391 or email info@iammontessori.com.au for more information!

The Four Planes of Development 0

Maria Montessori believed that the development of a person could be divided into four planes:

0 - 6 - EARLY CHILDHOOD - Construction of the Physical Person (The Absorbent Mind ) - Independence, Coordination, Concentration, Order

6 - 12 - CHILDHOOD - Construction of the Intelligence - Imagination, Socialization, Moral Justice

12-18 - ADOLESCENCE - Construction of Social Self - Trust, Self Expression, Analytical Thought, Commitment and Responsibility

18-24 - ADULTHOOD - Construction of Self Understanding

Although each and every child develops at his own pace, there are certain guidelines we can follow when observing the child’s development. These may be referred to as sensitive periods.

Montessori's theory on human development considers both physical and psychological development. This can be seen when you look at each of the four stages independently. Each plane is around six years in length and achieves an aspect of independence.

For optimal development to occur during any Plane, three conditions are
necessary:

o A prepared environment that meets the needs and tasks of that plane
o The opportunity and freedom to act in that environment towards self-construction
o An adult/guide who can assist facilitating activity within the prepared environment

Once sensitive periods have passed, its powers to motivate development under optimal conditions also pass. Although it will be possible to learn whatever is missed
later in life, it will never be learned with such ease as when it is learned in the appropriate stage of development.

Each child develops at slightly different stages which is why multiage environments are a key to a successful montessori environment.

Maria Montessori presented her view on development as a continuum with each phase necessary to the next. A child who will become a contributing member to society needs a strong foundation on which they can construct who they are meant to become.

In following blogs we will delve deeper into each plane of development and what each one holds for the child.

Prepping for Prep - how montessori can help 0

Making your child ready for prep can happen years before they are due to start.

When your child is able you can give them many practical life activities to help their independence. These can include:

  • Washing their hands
  • Pouring a drink
  • Learning to do up their shoes
  • Put on their clothes
  • Sweep the floor
  • Be in charge of where they put their hat and shoes
  • Brushing their hair
  • Placing activities back when they have finished
  • Keeping order and routine.

The list could go on forever as children are capable of doing many things if you give them the chance and opportunity to do so. All these activities are also developing their fine motor skills, eye hand co-ordination, cognitive thinking, building their language and making them aware of numbers and counting.

 As children are reaching prep age they need to be doing exercises that promote strengthening these muscles such as:

  • practicing to use scissors
  • wringing out a hand towel
  • using tongs
  • squishing play dough
  • squeezing an orange, etc.

Learning how to hold a pencil or crayon when writing or drawing is important, and correcting their grip as early as possible will benefit them immensely. 

At I AM Montessori we have found specially developed crayons for children having problems with their pencil grip. These crayons are wonderful as you can only hold them with a pincer grip so the child is learning to place their fingers in the right position.

Practicing puzzles is also important as this helps to build their cognitive thinking and their fine motor skills to enable them to pick up the pieces of the puzzle and place them back in. By prep age, they need to be able to put together a 10-piece puzzle by themselves.

Gross motor skills are also important to a child’s brain development.  A child playing outside is not about burning off excess energy; it is about having an outside environment that has order, beauty, structure and purpose. Equipment needs to be available that meets the child’s development. When children reach prep age they need to be able to run, skip, jump and walk backwards.  They also need to walk up and down stairs.

As your children develop it is important to talk to them about different things you see everyday, talking to them about the colours you see, the colours and textures of their clothes, the food they eat, the traffic lights, different vehicles and so on. Talk to your children about different sizes: things that are small, medium, big. Building a tower teaching them which is the biggest block and learning the different sizes in between. Tell your children the different shapes; such as circle, square, triangle, rectangle, etc. Your child needs to learn the names of different parts of their body.  This can be done easily and in a fun way if you put it in a song such as head and shoulders, knees and toes.  You can also teach them all the different parts of the body when you are dressing them. It needs to become part of everyday conversation so it forms part of their regular language.

When they are in prep, they need to know the names of their body parts.  They need to understand up, down, in and out. This can be done in a playground with a swing or going in and out of a tunnel, or in practical life placing things in a tin and taking it out of the tin.

Making numbers a part of your language is important to children’s learning.  Counting all things is a good way for children to remember and understand numbers. Counting fruit and vegetables as you take them out of a bag, counting the steps as you go up and down them, also counting fingers and toes. The tactile numerals are a wonderful way to learn numbers and how they are written (the abstract representation). The children learn them two at a time, they feel the numbers and use their fingers to feel the shape of the number in the way it is written, this is developing their muscle motor memory to help them write it correctly.

Children need to be able to sort and classify, so practice putting different objects that vary in colour, size and shape and get them to place them in their correct groups. You could do this by having a tray that has 4 compartments and a bowl with 4 different kinds of objects; they then sort the objects into the compartments that are the same.

 By pre school age your child needs to recognise their name and try to write it. Having their name written on their bedroom door, or written on a place where they put their hat, on their brush or toothbrush. You can help your child to write their name by practicing to write each letter. If this is done with the Sandpaper letters they can trace the letter with their fingers to feel how to write it and then write it on a piece of paper with a pencil, or in a sand tray.  Children need to know their full name, age, address, telephone number and their parents first name. So it is good to practice this with them, you could do this in a game, maybe pretending to have a phone call and asking them to say their names and ask their age, etc.

When it comes time for prep children need to be able to take off and put on their shoes and socks by themselves, use the toilet without help, open and close their lunch boxes and drink bottles. Ensure you buy containers your child can manage; and also through their earlier years you can teach them how to open and close containers and bottles, as this helps to build their fine motor skills and their concentration. With your child’s clothing they have to identify their own clothes at prep, putting their name inside is a good way for them to know, and talking about what clothes they are wearing each morning will help them to remember. It is important to teach your child from a young age to care for their things and helps put away their activities. In a Montessori environment they are taught this from a very young age so it has become habit for them to care for their environment.

Children’s social skills are incredibly important at this age.  At prep they will have learnt to use words instead of being physical when angry, they need confidence to speak clearly so an adult can understand them. They need to follow simple directions and play with other children. It is important that children express their feelings and needs so they are not left unaided. Sharing and taking turns is important at school to avoid conflict.  As parents we need to explain why they need to have manners and be polite. Children, by now should be able to talk in sentences, ask questions and say please and thank you. Having a book read to your child should be something they enjoy, this should be started from when they are very young. By this stage children should be comfortable with you leaving them and be left for an extended time and feel happy and safe.

Food is a very important part of a child’s life, when children are at school they need healthy lunches which will help them to concentrate on the tasks they are given and also help their brain and body develop.  Teaching children to use a spoon or fork to eat is necessary for them to manage different kinds of food in their lunch. Children by prep age must cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough and know to wash their hands after going to the toilet. Having a routine for your child is important, so they know to brush their teeth before bed and in the mornings.

Children’s first year at school should be a happy introduction to the rest of their school life. Helping them feel positive and genuinely being interested in what they did in their day, is very important. Prep will give them confidence and make them feel what they are learning is helping to make them into an adult that will be a wonderful contribution to the world.

Why I plan to give my son a gap year when he is 10 1

Something that my montessori journey has lead me to is the importance of real life experiences when it comes to the child picking up concepts and understanding subjects.

 

There is no book or materials that can beat the reality of seeing a cow, smelling a cow, touching a cow. It seems so logical and simple to me. Yet what I have seen is how many children don't get access to real life experiences because the world is moving too fast and we cannot schedule it into our diaries, or they simply cannot access them due to a lack of resources (money, location).

In my head, I have been planning and working out my nearly 3 year olds educational journey and what would suit him best. It has me continually returning to a transition that happens for a lot of kids. When they hit grade 5, they move to their private school and get on with 'proper education'.

I plan to give my son a gap year for Grade 4 and to home school him whilst travelling the world backpacking.

I don't think there is anything more important than the real life experiences travel offers a person, and at ten, imagine the things you could learn. Imagine the experiments you could do in different parts of the world. The languages you could be exposed to. History, geography - the way people learn maths in different countries. Imagine the humanitarian connection from being part of communities who need your contribution to survive. Imagine being 10 and having the opportunity to teach a child in Africa something new.

I don't believe in sitting in a four walled environment day in, day out. I don't believe in not sitting down and learning like this. I believe in a balance. And I don't think our current 'factory' of educational institutions offer the right balance. 

Some questions I have been faced with - 

What about if he misses something crucial? If you have the curriculum and basic concepts, you can adapt and expand on this, and introduce them into your travels. It is probable that the child will learn more in this one year than in two years at school, in my opinion.

How could you afford that? I make the plan now and have 6 years to plan for it. Its part of the future budget and planning.

People will think you're crazy - why should what others think stop me from doing something I believe in.

What about siblings? - We plan to add one more to our family. At the rate this is going, the youngest would be around prep age when we would plan to do this. At the end of the first six critical years in their life. Also, a perfect time to have these experiences. Their view and lessons will be different to a ten year olds, which doesn't make it any less critical or important.

What about jobs, your own lives? - If you have a plan, you can work this into your decisions and daily choices and make anything work. Its all about a lifestyle, and committing to something, and getting it done. My life, after a year travelling with my family, would be one of the best things I could imagine ever doing, and the most fulfilling for me personally. At 18 when all of my friends were travelling, I was running my own business. The one thing I used to always say is if I do this now, I can travel later and for longer. This is that time.

 

It's the gap year that teenagers crave in high school. The one they all want between school and uni. Just earlier. And I strongly believe that this experience before my son becomes a teenager will help shape him into a wonderful adult who is compassionate, resilient, understanding, committed and happy.

That thought makes my heart sing.

 

 

 

PRACTICAL LIFE - “The Hand and brain work together” 0

The practical life activities that are set out in a Montessori environment, and the activities that children do in their daily living, helps them to develop an understanding of the environment that they are living in. The activities that they perform need to link between the child’s home environment and the classroom. They learn to concentrate on activities that they do, we see this happen when a child chooses an activity, takes it to a table or mat and starts to work on it, the children are using precise movements which challenges them to concentrate, they work at their own pace and work uninterrupted.  When they are very young the time they spend on it may not be as long as an older child, but they are learning the way in which to do the activity, as you will have demonstrated it to them before they start, completing the cycle of work results in the feelings of satisfaction and confidence. When the children are working on their practical life activities they are developing their hand-eye co-ordination, they learn this as they practice, transferring, pouring, sewing, threading, working with the dressing frames, using tongs and tweezers to transfer they are learning their control of movement. They are also developing their manual dexterity and independence while doing these activities.

Children when doing practical life, show an enjoyment of work, they love to do the activities themselves, and clearly enjoy the outcome of their work. This is building their self-esteem as they are allowed to work on different tasks that help them to become independent. They learn a good work ethic and they will have an awareness of their contribution to society and will grow intellectually. They learn a sense of order, which is learnt from the very beginning in a Montessori environment when they first learn to get a mat roll it out onto the floor, choose an activity work on the activity then place it back on the shelf in the way they first found it. Practical Life activities, give children the ability to care for the environment, care for themselves and to learn grace and courtesy.

Clearly Practical Life gives children the preparation for maturity that they need. Today’s children are the adults for the future; we need to give our children the best learning experience so their path through life is clear, and they become strong independent people.

5 Reasons Every School Needs Montessori 0

I have been heavily involved in the Education Accord here in Queensland the last couple of weeks and it is clearer to me than ever before as to why Montessori is the answer to so many issues Principals, Teachers, Parents and Children are having in the classroom.

 

1/. TEACHING THE WHOLE CHILD - Montessori has always had an environment which allows the child to work in many areas that help them establish a whole sense of self and gives them the opportunity to work with materials that meet their mental, physical, spiritual, social and spiritual needs. Practical Life, Grace and Courtesy exercises promote children who understand about contributing to the world around them.

 

2/. MEETING EACH CHILD WHERE THEY ARE AT: Montessori teachers meet each individual child where they are at. They are not forced into boxes, or have to struggle to keep up with 30 other children who are rushing through a curriculum prepping them for tests. A child is in an environment where they can comfortably move through with guidance from their teacher who only assists when needed. Montessori classes are multi-age environments, usually 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-15, 15-18.

 

3/. LESS STRESS ON THE TEACHER: Teachers time is so stretched that they barely get a moment to themselves. Between parent-teacher interviews, marking , planning, lunch duty, staff meetings and normal class time, the burnout rate of teachers is alarmingly high.  A montessori environment allows teachers to do what they love to do - teach children. 

 

4/. MASS EDUCATION IS FAILING: Our students are not taught the skills of critical thinking that would serve them well as citizens in a free society for the entirety of their lives. Mass education focuses upon memorization and scoring well on exams. Our schools do not promote independent thought or independent actions–they teach conformity and control of the masses. Every student is taught virtually the same thing in essentially the same way - (Sullivan, http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/02/24/the-failure-of-mass-education/). 

Treating education this way - in my opinion, never really worked. But even moreso in today's world where the pace of the world is moving far beyond what we have and/or can cope with. It is more important than ever for a child to be able to problem solve, to think about things in a different way, using their minds to connect dots adults haven't been able to do so yet. In a society where most of the kids that are in schools now may work in a job that hasn't even been created yet, in an industry that may not exist today. Our mainstream school system under prepares our children. That is worrying.

 

5/. NO NEED FOR GOLD STARS: A child in a montessori environment doesn't require an adult to tell them when they have done a good job to feel like they have. They don't require a chart with gold stars showing the world that they are worth something. They don't just get a trophy for participating. A Montessori environment allows the child to create their own intrinsic rewards system, to determine their own self-worth and ability to judge their own success based on their own performance, not on others.

WHY THE ANSWER TO MODERN EDUCATION IS OVER A CENTURY OLD 0

The Queensland Government is wasting millions of taxpayer dollars trying to fix our failing education system. The answer they are looking for is over 100 years old.

A modern classroom for the modern world is a Montessori environment. 

There is NO homework, no NAPLAN, and no teacher standing in front of rows of desks.

The Montessori philosophy follows the child by allowing them the choice to choose their work in an environment prepared by their teacher, with a multi-age group of children, using materials backed by scientific observation.

And when you look deeper – there is something going on in our society that is screaming for this kind of change.

With Montessori childcare centres in Brisbane having three-year waiting lists, with a new Montessori centre opening up every month, parents want their kids in this type of care and they are willing to pay for it. They want to send their kids to a school that nurtures their child and has a holistic approach to education.

MASS PRODUCED education is no longer (though never was) an option. Education needs to be about meeting each child where they are. How do they expect to do this by forcing kids to learn the same thing at the same time as 30 others who are all at different points in their development?

You just have to see the results I AM Montessori are getting at their Yeronga premises with their Parent Child classes where over 100 families come through each week with children from 6 months to 6 years of age. Many of the families have been enrolled since the first ever term in January this year.

A number of Queensland Government schools have been using our Montessori materials in their classrooms with brilliant results and its proof that this approach can work for any child of any age.

 

I AM Montessori will be attending the Queensland Governments Education Accord Summit this week and we are looking forward to being a part of the 30 year plan for education in our state.

 

For more information, images or interviews please contact Rebecca Grugan on 0409 649 321 or email rebecca@iammontessori.com.au

{QUESTION} My child keeps going from one activity to another; I feel she is not learning anything, is she too young for Montessori? 1

Children are never too young to learn Montessori, they are constantly learning, discovering and exploring. Every piece of equipment in a Montessori room is designed to help a child’s learning and independence.

While in the room with your child, you need to show by example how to be calm and quiet, and speaking in a soft voice.  Depending on the age of your child, help them to carry a tray to their mat, sit and demonstrate the activity, then they can try.  When they have finished they take it back to the same place on the shelf and if very young, with your help. If they do not want to finish the activity that is fine, as long as they place everything on the tray and put it back the way they found it. If your child is upset, assure them that when they place the activity back they can choose another. If all else fails tell your child that you will do it for now and maybe next time they could help you. It is important that your child picks out the activity that they want to do, or else they may not want to work with it. This is their room and they need to have the freedom to choose.

When a child is interested in an activity they may become focused on that one thing for quite some time. They are learning many things from this activity, one activity may teach them, order, hand eye co-ordination, independence, how to open and close, refine their fine motor skills, build there vocabulary etc. Repetition is an important part of learning, a child who keeps doing an activity over and over is still learning from it, and when they have exhausted learning about that activity they will then move on.  We as parents have to accept that, and realise that it is for your child’s learning development.

If your child has completely lost focus and has become unmanageable, take them outside to look at the garden, have a snack, and then come back in refocused and ready to go. As most children only attend classes once or twice a week, a ninety minute session can start off as a long time for them, but over time, their focus and ability to self regulate will grow and their attention span becomes larger, which is what we are wanting to achieve.

What are good resources for teaching reading and writing to a 3 year old? 0

The child absorbs his native language, and even another language during the period of the Absorbent Mind.  Dr. Montessori found that between the ages of 18months and 3 years of age was the most sensitive period for Language development.  There is an explosion of words, between the ages of one and two years which when they reach two becomes thoughts and sentences. The child’s language moves from simple to complex, showing tenses and moods and he begins to organise language.

We must always teach our children how to pronounce words correctly and speak clearly. Your child needs to see you reading for pleasure, for instructions and for safety, and so on. Visiting a library from a young age helps to bring forth the love of books.  We need to teach children the respect for books and how to turn the pages and develop an interest in the spoken language and the written language.

Your child’s fine muscles in their fingers must be trained for a correct pencil grip.

This is why we do Practical Life activities and Sensorial Education. As it develops and refines the senses and the movements and understanding that are to prepare a strong foundation for all their future intellectual development. “ Hand and Brain work together.”

In Montessori education children are taught sandpaper letters, generally from age 3 or younger depending on the child’s development. These are the letters of the alphabet cut out in the finest sandpaper mounted on a strong backing the vowels are in blue and the consonants on a pale pink. The children are taught letters phonetically, which means they learn what sound the letter makes rather then saying what the letter is. The letters are taught using a three period lesson, two letters are taught at one time.

The first period is: Sitting next to your child put the first letter which maybe p in front of them, you trace the letter with two fingers and say, “p, (as in the sound “p”) this is p, p this is p”. Ask your child to trace the letters with two fingers; he can do this several times.  Place the p down by your side and then bring out another letter, for instance “o” and doing the same steps as before go through sounding and feeling “o”.

The second period: In this section you put the two letters on the table in front of your child, and say “ point to o”, then ask him to ”feel p, pick up o, show me o”. When you have finished take the letters off the table.

The third period: Bring out the letters one by one, saying “What is this?” they should say “o”, put the “o” off the table and place the other letter on the table, and say “what is this?” they should say “p”.

If they make a mistake you can go back to the second period or show it at another time. All the letters are taught in this way, feeling the sandpaper letters they are getting a muscle memory of the shape of the letter. Learning the alphabet by using phonetics helps them to build words and to read words. When they have learnt the entire alphabet they then go onto the moveable alphabet.

The moveable alphabet is a large box with 26 compartments, one for each letter of the alphabet. The box contains stiff cutout letters. The vowel in blue, and the consonants in red. First the children start off with what is called the Pink Box which is a box with 5 objects that are spelt with 3 phonetic letters, such as hat, pan, dog.  They place the moveable alphabet box on the floor then put the small hat just under the box, you ask your child what can they hear when you say hat, they might say “h” ( as in the sound h), they then look for the ‘h’ in the alphabet tray and place it next to the hat, you then ask them what else can the hear when you say hat, they may say ‘t’, they find the ‘t’ and then place it near the ‘p’ they will next find ‘a’. The word is spelt out next to the hat, they will say h-a-t, hat. They do this with the remaining objects. When they have mastered the pink boxes they can then move onto the blue boxes that have phonetic words that have more then three letters. There are quite a few different activities that help them to build onto their words and they are given these as they progress in each level.

With writing, children first learn to do the metal insets, these are ten geometrical shapes in metal. The frames are in one colour and the inset shapes are in another. They need squares of paper that perfectly fit the frames and some coloured pencils. This activity helps children to prepare for handwriting. This helps them to gain control of a pencil, and it is fun.

At first the child uses the frame and places it on the paper covering it perfectly, they then trace the inside shape with their pencil, this takes strength and control. When they have drawn it you then take the frame away so they can see what they have drawn. Next ask you child to get a different coloured pencil and draw fine straight lines parallel from one side to the other. The grip used on a pencil is the thumb and middle finger hold the pencil firmly and the index finger lowered to a resting position on top. When your child has become proficient at this they can then start to hold the inset by the middle knob and trace around this. This activity is harder as they have to keep the inset steady with their less dominant hand while the dominant hand draws around it. Your child can make many designs from the insets and they really enjoy doing it and seeing what they can make.

When you child is ready for writing, they use the sandpaper letters, first you ask your child to feel the letter a few times and then write it on a piece of paper, they feel it again and write it.

When your child is writing confidently they may be introduced to lined paper, with blue and red guidelines, they can then practice their letters.

 

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”