Interruption to a child’s work

Imagine you are preparing for a very important meeting at work, figuring out logistics in your head and making notes, when all of a sudden a co-worker calls out for something or your phone rings: it disrupts your focus. It breaks the continuity of the momentum. The flow of thoughts or the rhythm is disturbed. For many adults, it takes a long time to put things back in their mind and get back to task at hand with 100% commitment.

The child whose attention has once been held by a chosen object, while he concentrates his whole self on the repetition of the exercise, is a delivered soul in the sense of the spiritual safety of which we speak. From this moment there is no need to worry about him – except to prepare an environment which satisfies his needs, and to remove obstacles which may bar his way to perfection.” (Dr. Maria Montessori,The Absorbent Mind)

What happens when we interrupt a child’s work? How do they feel? Does it interfere with their process of building their inpendence?

Children right from birth are experiencing most of the things for the first time and they need their space & time to explore them to internalize it, save them in their memory to build on for future learning. A young infant may look at a bird outside in the garden very intently and observe the finer details/color etc. In that scenario, what does interruption look like? Apart from the bird flying away from that spot, which could probably be the most common outcome, the interruption usually comes from the adult who is with the child and observing the bird too.

The adult curious to know what the child is learning from the bird, might start bombarding them with questions like Hi baby, what are you seeing? Are you watching a bird? Even make some noises like a bird and ask/state the color of the bird and on & on …..

The adult may think they are helping the child learn, but in this case with a young infant – the adult is “interrupting” the child’s learning by asking the questions.

If the child were able to focus on the bird without any interruptions from the adult, they would have created an imprint of the bird in their memory and built on it by learning more about it in future interactions.

Children are still developing and building their focus & concentration skills, they would experience the same kind of obstacles like an adult would, if they are interrupted. Building attention is a process, doesn’t happen overnight. When children are focussed on an activity, do provide them time to do so. Attention span in a young child may be small, but it is still important that it is not broken. When an infant is observing a bird or looking at designs on their hat or stroller, ‘watch them’ and wait until they look away from it on their own, to ask or say anything to them. Words can be extremely interrupting to their focus at that time if done before they look away from it.

When an older child is building with their blocks or figuring out the lock frame or puzzle, wait until they ask for help or move away from that activity to say anything. It is extremely critical to respect and protect those moments of concentration especially those that are independently chosen by the child. This will allow it to increase with time and consistency over the child’s growth process.

Similarly in a Montessori classroom, the adults observe the child and prepare the environment to suit their developmental needs to achieve their full potential. A prepared environment to foster independence without any or minimal interruptions goes a long way in helping a child build focus & concentration, eventually leading to self-actualization or normalization. That’s why Montessori guides do everything in their capability to protect and safeguard the work cycle which provides for enough uninterrupted time for a child to work with different materials, refine the skills based on their developmental needs, build concentration to aid in their overall growth.

How can adults help to promote concentration?

Adults knowingly or unknowingly are the primary cause of interruption for a child. Avoid rushing children or asking questions when they are focussing on something or even asking them if they need any help.

Model concentration and attentiveness.

Avoid technology or other distractions when playing with child.

Avoid multitasking as much as possible in front of children.

Quietly and gently touch a child on their shoulder/head/hand(something that you have discussed earlier) and wait for them to acknowledge if you have to interrupt for some reason.

Avoid calling out your child from another room or from across the room when they are engaged in an activity.

Practice technology free meal time

Give full attention to child when interacting with them

Prepare environment to ensure safety and success of the child and avoid using words like ‘be careful’, ‘watch what you are doing’ etc when the child is in the middle of the activity. This causes more interruption and break in concentration than anything else.

In summary, a prepared environment with almost no/minimal interruptions is the best way to help child realize their full potential and be successful in the classroom & in real life.

Also, remember even a young infant has the ability to build impressions in their brain from what they observe which could lead to them learning more about it, taking it up as a passion or even a profession. Nothing is too small or too short for the child at that time. The best thing we can do is to avoid or minimize interruptions.

“My aunt was a science teacher. Her son, my cousin would look at her books when he was a young child and was extremely fascinated by picture of trees. He would observe them repeatedly in his childhood and later learnt that they were called ‘sequoia” trees. Those images stayed in his mind well into adulthood and when he visited California recently, he visited “Sequoia National Park” to internalize that image from the book and match it with a real life experience.

Unique Features of Montessori Materials

Montessori materials were created by Dr. Maria Montessori out of natural materials, especially wood. These were scientifically designed after hours of observation. These materials are not like the commonly available toys /blocks in the market. They have some very unique features embedded in them which reinforce the Montessori principles of fostering independence, building focus and concentration & helping the child reach their full potential.

Montessori materials are ...

Simple, aesthetically beautiful and complete

Very inviting to the child

Minimalistic: Simple, clean lines, devoid of excess features, orderly and utility in teaching the skill.

Isolation of difficulty: In order to refine and encourage the child to master a specific skill at a time, each Montessori material follows this feature of isolating it. For example, Pink tower has 10 cubes- all of which are made of wood and are pink. The only difference is in the ‘dimension’ of each cube. So, the child needs to focus and learn only the ‘concept of big and small/dimension’ through the pink tower. So, there are no distractions or added features to it. This encourages the child to hone in on that skill and master it comfortably.

Each material has a set of similar items exploring the same property in various increments- the child is then stimulated to use their hands and mind to make the comparisons. In most cases, this hand on exploration of ‘1 specific trait’ encourages child to work with the material for extended periods of time to figure various ways to decipher it. This in turn builds focus and concentration in the child.

Extensions: Montessori materials are designed for the multi-age grouping seen in their classrooms. Almost all the materials can be used by a young child like a toddler or 3-year old and can also be extended out for an older child who is 5 or 6 years old. Different areas of the curriculum can also be combined to extend out the use of the materials.

For example: The Pink tower in Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom has 10 cubes made of wood, are pink and differ only in the ‘size’.

A young child can bring the cubes to rug and create a tower from big to small. You could also use it to make designs that are 2-D or 3-D. They can also be traced on paper and painted pink. Child can trace and pin prick the cubes on a pink construction paper – they can just glue the pieces from big to small to reinforce the skill. Pink tower can be combined with other sensorial materials like brown stairs, knobless cylinders etc to make lovely designs. Older children can also write the terms, ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘Pink tower’ etc on the paper. Staying true to the Montessori philosophy of basing the lessons on the child’s ability and not on the chronological age, a material introduced to the child can be extended out to provide the right amount of challenge for them to master the skill.

Provides opportunities for creativity and imagination: Montessori materials are colorful and aesthetically beautiful. This encourages the child to explore them using their creativity and build/design different things with them, enhancing their artistic abilities and imagination. Especially the Sensorial materials call out to the child to use them creatively in turn helping build a variety of skills in the child. You could observe towers, trains, bike, castle etc built from the Sensorial materials.

Purposeful: Montessori materials are built after hours of observation and understanding of the skill it should teach and removal of any obstruction in the path of the child to learn it. Most materials especially the sensorial materials encourage ‘Movement’ which is very important for children in the 1st plane of development(especially for those in the 3-6 years of age). For example, the Pink tower has 10 cubes, the child carries one cube at a time from the shelf to the work rug. This means for the child to complete the activity, they would make 20 trips from the shelf to the work rug to bring the materials, build the tower and return it back to the original spot so it would be ready for another child.

Control of error: This is probably one of the most defining characteristics of Montessori materials. The material has a way for the child to correct themselves. It is almost as if the child receives instant feedback about the progress they are making, allowing them to recognize, correct and learn from an error with any intervention from adults/other children in the classroom. This helps the child see it visually and correct it independently.

This aids in fostering independence, building self-esteem and self-discipline eventually leading to confidence.

One of the greatest examples of ‘Control of error’ in a Montessori material is the Knobbed cylinder. There are 4 cylinder blocks, each having 10 cylinders in them. They have different width, diameter, height etc.

Child won’t be able to fit all the cylinders properly even if one cylinder is out of place.

If you are building a DIY Montessori material , ensure ‘Control of error’ is embedded in it. It can simply be done through color coded ribbons or stickers at the back.

Last but not the least, each component of the material is there for a reason and satisfies a specific need in the child’s development. They provide awesome opportunities for hands on learning.

What the hand does, the mind remembers”

Dr. Maria Montessori

Math: An important part of the Montessori curriculum and our life.

What is Math? Why do we need it? Is it required to pass tests or will we use it in daily life?

These are some of the questions people explore as they navigate the world we live in.

Math is everywhere… in all facets of life.

From counting how many fingers we have on our hand to how many place settings to prepare at the dinner table to measuring ingredients for baking to counting the cash to pay for an item ….. Math is everywhere and there is no escaping it.

Math helps build analytical skills and strengthens reasoning ability & problem solving skills.

It helps give us a sense of order and prevent chaos in life.

Most of the basic math skills required for daily life can be learnt in the early childhood or initial years of schooling.

How to introduce “Math” to young children?

  • Talk about Math thoughtfully and beneficially.
  • Encourage sorting and categorizing
  • Count everything
  • Explain the concept of “nothing”
  • Encourage tons of “1:1 correspondence” activities
  • Have a sense of order in daily routine

Rote counting

Rote counting refers to a linear form of counting. It helps the child make sense of the world around us and find out how many of “something”. They count everything from how many cheerios they ate at breakfast to number of buttons on the shirt to how many steps to their room and so on.

Over course of time, with consistent practice, children understand the guidelines of counting. One of the most critical principles of “counting” is 1:1 correspondence.

1:1 Correspondence

It refers to an idea that ” number” corresponds to “specific quantities”.

No matter what is being counted, a “specific” number will always refer to that same “precise quantity”.

Why is 1:1 correspondence important?

1:1 correspondence is a precursor for almost all math concepts. So, if a child is not well developed with this 1:1 correspondence, they will struggle with basic math concepts- which are then foundation for advanced math concepts.

Steps to teach “Math concepts” with the Montessori Method

1.Presentation of Quantity

2.Presentation of Symbol

3. The Association of Quantity and Symbol

A child should be introduced to a wide variety of association activities like shown above to internalize the concept of 1:1 correspondence and be ready for basic & advanced math operations.

What are the broad categories of Montessori Math materials?

1.Number rods, Sandpaper numerals, Spindle box, Introduction to Color beads, Cards & Counters: Teach the basic concept of quantity, symbol and association; Odd and even; numbers tracing.

2. Introduction to Golden beads, 45 card layout/Global view introduce the concept of place value, decimal system and making big numbers

3.Teen boards and Tens board introduce the concept of numbers 11-19 & 20-100 respectively using the decimal system and place value concept.

4. Bead chains: Short and Long chains introduce the concept of Skip counting; square and cube of a number and helps prepare for Addition & Multiplication.

5. Stamp game, Strip boards for Addition and Subtraction; Multiplication and Division boards teach the concept of Math operations

6. Clock, Fractions and Currency studies are also introduced in Montessori Math curriculum.

What are the benefits of Montessori Math activities?

  • Hands-on
  • Sensorial materials introduced early on to the child helps prepare for Math
  • Engaging and inviting to the child
  • Follows a specific scope and sequence
  • Helps build on concept already taught to the child
  • Ensures success

Ways to encourage “learning Math” at home

  • Count everything
  • Involve children in setting snacks, help with food prep, baking etc which involves math concepts
  • Involve Math in daily conversations like “We can read 2 books tonight” or ” We can have ‘1’ sandwich” for snack today”. etc
  • Do the Calendar: Talk about how many seasons there are , how many months in a year, number of days in each month, specific date etc
  • Count toys when cleaning up
  • Use child’s favorite things like legos, shells, dinosaurs etc as counters
  • Involve Math in Art projects
  • Learn shapes and count their sides
  • Sing songs with numbers in them like “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed”
  • Teach the concept of “Measurement”- as its directly tied to Math
  • Sort and count coins
  • Make numbers with a variety of materials like nature, pipe cleaners, lentils etc

“Montessori believed that children were born with a ‘mathematical mind’, which she defined as a natural tendency for exactness, orientation and order, usually manifested in older children as capacity for logical, systematic thinking.”

Some Math facts & trivia

0 was called ‘cipher’ originally

One Googol is the number ‘1’ followed by ‘100 zeros’

‘Abacus’ is considered as the origin of the calculator

‘Forty’ is the only number that has all the letters used in the alphabetical order

Every ‘odd’ number has an ‘e’ in it

“The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics”

Happy back-to-school season!

first day of kindergarten

 

Skip Counting by 4

Learning to Walk

What is my Child really learning through Exercises of Practical Life?

“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.”  Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

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I find it fascinating how children have an innate desire to be a part of a community; to belong. They want to be involved in purposeful work, and to keep their tiny communities clean and orderly. It’s not necessarily something we have to teach, but something that can come about by providing the right tools, and making sure these tools are easily accessible. We model for the child how to carry about one’s body, how to handle fragile things, that everything we do has certain steps that have to be followed, and that their are effects or consequences for everything that we do. In Montessori, we teach the child skills that can be used in “real life”, beyond the classroom. These lessons are done so through their persistent participation in exercises of “practical life”.DSC_0265There’s much to be said about the Exercises in Practical Life, and how beneficial and extremely crucial they are to the child’s overall development. It’s through practical life works that the child learns concentration, focus, scope and sequence, pre-writing skills (cleaning a table with a bar of soap from left to right in circular motions), fine and gross motor development, small and large muscle development, they develop a sense of order, and generally learn to take pride in their work. They learn to be independent young adults, free to think critically and problem solve. Continue reading

Green Spaces Linked to Kids’ Cognitive Development

(Photo: PhilipYb Studio/Shutterstock)
“Children spend a considerable part of their active daily time at schools, and ‘green exercise’ has been related to greater mental health.”

Parents, as a rule, want to give their children every possible academic advantage. While this usually takes the form of tutors or computers, a new study suggests a surprising factor they may want to consider when checking out a new school, home, or neighborhood: Whether it provides adequate access to the natural world.

New research from Spain finds that, among second-, third-, and-fourth graders, quality time spent climbing trees and playing games on grass helps mental abilities blossom.

“Our study showed a beneficial association between exposure to green space and cognitive development among schoolchildren,” writes a research team led by Payam Dadvand of Barcelona’s Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology. This is partly, but not entirely, explained by the fact that kids who get to play in nature are exposed to less air pollution than those who hang out on city streets. Continue reading

Counting in Quantities of 6