Thursday, September 4, 2008
loving the practical life
I absolutely adore the Montessori Practical Life lessons. Of course, I love all the lessons, but the P.L. lessons are my favorite to set up and my favorite to teach at the beginning of the school year. For one thing, they're a great warm-up for a teacher who hasn't presented a Montessori lesson in over a year - systematical, straight-forward, useful! They also provide the perfect opportunity for me to bond with my new little 3-year-old students. :)
Practical Life lessons in the Montessori classroom serve many purposes. Most lessons that the 3- year-old does when she first comes to school are things she has seen the adults in her life do at home. She sweeps, she spoons, she opens locks. The first thing that one must realize is that the emphasis here is not necessarily on practical but on life. These exercises provide little ones with the opportunity control their movements and develop their coordination. This is the area of the classroom where students strengthen their fine motor skills, learn to complete tasks in an organized way, gain familiarity with left-to-right sequence, care for their person, become confident in the classroom, experience concentration...
Here's a picture of Sorting, the first lesson on the P.L. shelf. The child uses his fingers to separate the tiny objects into their own section on the tray. As the child does this work, so many incredible things are happening. He is using his pincher grip (thumb, pointer, middle) to pick up the objects. Visually, he is discriminating between the objects in order to separate and group them. He is also satisfying his sense of order. And, if he models the lesson the way it was presented to him, he is working from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Not to mention, he's already carried a tray to a table and pulled out a chair!
Most 3-year-olds have this lesson dialed from the very beginning. Still, it tends to be used multiple times during the work period because it's a comfortable, satisfying warm-up, and the children love the tiny objects. I like to spice it up each month with different tiny objects and trays. As an added challenge, I sometimes put small tongs (possibly used for sugar cubes?) on the tray to sort the objects with.