Wednesday, October 7, 2009


As I cleaned the classroom this afternoon, I couldn't stop thinking about these pink tower/broad stair extension cards. Some teacher, somewhere along the way made them. They feature drawings and photos of various structures that can be built with the pink tower and the broad stair. They are super-worn out, and I can't decide whether I should make new ones or just get rid of them all together.

Here's my internal debate:

In my classroom, we try not to put out models with art lessons.
One of Bev Bos' (Don't Move the Muffin Tins) rules for preschool art teachers is to avoid models. Here's what she has to say about it:

By models, I mean those things you have made for the child to copy. Never make a model to show a child. In the first place, it's insulting. It's like saying, "You don't know what a turkey looks like, so I'll show you." I've heard teachers say, " Well, I always tell them they can make theirs any way they want, even if I make a model. " This isn't a solution. I know how inadequate I feel trying to copy any product made by someone much more skilled than I.

Does this apply to these cards? Do they stifle creativity and intimidate the children?

Not all children use them when they build with the pink tower and the broad stair. I've always felt that the children who do use them are inspired by all the possibilities, but maybe they should be making these discoveries on their own.

I took an art education class last spring, and when the instructor found out I was a Montessori teacher, he told me that one thing had always bothered him about Montessori schools. He couldn't understand why we had pictures to go along with the long red blocks. He was referring to the long stair, aka the red rods. (We have extension cards for this lesson in our classroom, too, they just didn't make it into the photo.) I couldn't give him a good answer then, and I still can't!

What do you think?


  1. hallo...nice blog...i love arts...=)

  2. The first thing I do when I get a new building toy (Legos, KNEX type stuff) is hide the boxes and the instructions. My kids are endlessly focused on building it just like the box when they are capable of figuring out something perfectly fine on their own. Maybe the cards can just go into hiding for awhile and then you can see how the children react without them? Love your blog, btw.

  3. My trainer recommended no extension cards and not showing children extensions either. I've never shown a child to build the brown stair vertically (or pink tower horizontally) but they always manage to figure it out. Maybe they can be stored for a while. See what happens.

  4. I found that the children in our classroom did not really want to work with the pink tower after they had mastered it, so I started to place a different card out on the shelf every few days. The children loved it would always look to see if there was a new card out on the shelf. They would first attempt to model the picture, but would then start making their own creations.
    I like the extension cards, but that's just my 2 cents:)

  5. We have extention cards blu tacked to the back of the shelf the pink tower and broad stair live in. Also in the shelf is a book I made of architecture and natural phenomena that have similar properties to the the tower and stair. There is no requirement to look or copy but sometimes I see a child looking carefully at one or the other and then take the materials and use them in a new way.

    Last year no-one was touching either of them and we had a challenge. The children were able to use 1 or both and copy a card or do their own version. We took their photo and put them all up together. The children loved that week. The phots were included on the shelf and the tower and stairs are in constant and very creative use.

    So - I like cards if they are used to promote creative and inquisitive exploration!

  6. Hello there!
    I thought you might find these posts relevant...:)

  7. Thank you so much for all the ideas! I love discovering how other people do things. I'll let you know what I decide!

  8. I agree with the "no models" for art. In that situation it does stifle creativity. I have been told that once you show a child a model drawing they will always try/draw it that way. My professor did not believe in using any extension cards for sensorial materials. She felt that the children will naturally find these alternatives once they have mastered the original. This may also be true in a class of many children, when a child observing may see how another child experiments and then pursue it themselves. I do use them with my daughter because she loves to look at them and duplicate the structures and I don't think she would otherwise be using these materials after mastery. In my opinion, because the child has mastered the materials first, I don't think it would inhibit creativity, but instead provide a starting point for "thinking outside the box" showing them that it is okay/encouraged to experiment. =)

  9. I will pull out extension cards when I notice that none of the children are choosing to do the pink tower or the brown stairs. I have found that the children never limit themselves to the "models" on the cards, but after they try the cards they are inspired to see what they can come up with on their own. I actualy really like the extension cards.


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