Define the term sensitive periods, and explain how the teacher's knowledge and understanding of these periods determines his / her preparation and custodianship of the prepared environment
A thorough understanding and knowledge of the 'sensitive periods' (Montessori, 1972) that a child passes through is crucial in aiding the teacher to provide a suitable environment to assist a child's optimum development as the environment that the child is in plays a crucial role to their formation according to Montessori. A sensitive period refers to "a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state" (Montessori, 1966, page 38). Such sensitive periods were first discovered in insects by the Dutch scientist Hugo de Vries. Montessori stated that sensitive periods can also be found in children and are very important for a teacher to consider to aid optimum development through providing the correct type of environment. Therefore to fully understand the sensitive periods, an understanding of Montessori's 'periods of growth' (Montessori, 2007) that she devised from birth to maturity is needed. These outlined the progress of a child's mental development, which correspond with phases of physical growth. Montessori's periods of growth consist of phase one; birth to six years, phase two; six to twelve years, phase three; twelve to eighteen years and phase four; eighteen to twenty-four years. Within each stage the child has different characteristics and needs, therefore requiring an alternative suitable environment for optimum development to occur, as each stage lays the foundations for the child to continue to develop within the next stage, with the first stage being fundamental (www.casadimir.org). Stage one is split into two sub-phases, comprising of birth to age three and three to age six. During this first stage the child has an 'absorbent mind' (Montessori, 2007). 'The unconscious absorbent mind' from birth to three years old, which is described as "a mind that is constantly absorbing impressions from the environment; and yet does this without knowing that it is doing so, and without willing it" (Standing, 1998, page 109). 'The conscious absorbent mind' from three to six years continues to build on the faculties that developed during the phase of the unconscious mind. However, instead of soaking in the environment unconsciously "it is the child's own ego which guides and directs him" (Standing, 1998, page 112). This stage is critical for the foundations of an all round well developed child both mentally and physically. Stage two, from six to twelve years, is a stable periodwith noticeable physical and mental changes. The absorbent mind is replaced with reasoning and logical thinking; the child continues to develop and build upon his development from stage one. Stage three, twelve to eighteen years, is split into two sub-phases comprising of twelve to fifteen years, the stage of puberty and fifteen to eighteen years, the stage of adolescence. This period is a very unstable and an emotional time for the child. Stage four, eighteen to twenty four years, the beginnings of adulthood; this time is usually very stable. Montessori identified six main 'sensitive periods', consisting of a period of sensitivity to order, to language, for refinement of the senses, for walking and movement, for small objects and to the social aspects of life, all of which are present during the first stage of growth; the 'absorbent mind'. Theses sensitive periods are not consecutive; some are continuous and some overlap, which will now be looked at in greater depth. The period of sensitivity to order is one of the first sensitive periods to been seen in the development of a child and usually appears within the child's first month. Throughout this sensitive period the child requires a precise, ordered environment, which can be observed by the joy which children show at seeing things in their correct places (Montessori, 1972). The...
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