Young children like to explore experiment, tinker and try new things. They like to touch and feel and manipulate objects. They feed their minds through activities. They learn through their senses to satisfy their insatiable appetite for things to do. The first of the child’s organs to begin functioning are his senses.
Dr. Maria Montessori based her method of teaching young children considering the fact that a child between two to six years passes through the ‘sensitive period for the refinement of senses’ and they can be helped in the development of the senses while they are in this formative period. In order to serve this purpose Dr. Maria Montessori introduced a subject called ‘Sensorial’ where the materials are specially designed to enable the children to use their senses to explore different attributes of the world.
“it is necessary to begin the education of senses in the formative period, if we wish to perfect these sense development with the education which is to follow” (Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, page 221)
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. The prepared environment offers the essential elements for optimal development. The key components comprise the children, teacher and physical surroundings including the specifically designed Montessori educational material. All of the materials in the Montessori classroom have been specifically designed to attract the interest of the student, while at the same time teaching an important concept. The purpose of each material is to isolate a certain concept the child is bound to discover. Montessori believed that “what the hand does, the mind remembers”.
The materials are simple, direct and are easy to understand. Children use these materials in spontaneous exercises. The sensorial materials are concrete bits of information which can be organized into meaningful patterns. The didactic nature of the material gives the children hands on experience with all concepts, taught. Human senses can perceive nine qualities in an object: Shape, Colour, Texture, Sound, Smell, Taste, Temperature, Weight and Size. Montessori materials are made to isolate each of these qualities in order to individually perfect the senses that identify them. Hence, a child who is subjected to these materials are refining, exercising and sensitizing all five basic senses; visual sense, tactile sense, auditory sense, gustatory sense, olfactory sense and also the additional senses; baric sense (sense of weight), thermic sense (sense of temperature) and stereo gnostic sense (sense of shape and size of an object by feeling it with hands).For example: a child using his tactile and visual sense explores different dimensions of an object i.e. height, diameter etc. in the presentations like Knobbed cylinders, Pink tower, Brown stairs and so on. He explores different intensities of colours using his visual sense in Colour boxes. His auditory sense is enhanced while exploring different intensities of sound; loud and soft in Sound boxer while he can differentiate between tow textures; rough and smooth using his tactile sense in Touch boards. In Baric tablets, he gets a clearer perception of weight – light or heavy using his baric sense and so on.
“A tower of blocks will present to the child only a variation of size from block to block- not a variation in size, colour, design and noises…”(P.P. Liliard, Montessori A modern Approach, Page 62)
Though the idea of didactic materials is taken from Seguin, Dr. Montessori modified them based on her observations of the children. By Didactic materials we mean the materials which are self-corrective and by the process of trial and error a child can achieve the end result without much assistance from the. This is basically known as ‘Auto Education’. For example, when working with the sound cylinders, the child can check the bottom of the cylinders to see if the...
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