Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nurturing Concentration in the Montessori Child in the First Plane of Development

NAMC montessori education nurturing concentration in child first place of development reaching
If a child’s cycle of activity is interrupted, the results are a deviation of behavior, aimlessness, and loss of interest…So whatever intelligent activity we witness in a child – even if it seems absurd to us…we must not interfere; for the child must be able to finish the cycle of activity on which his heart is set.
- Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind. New York: Henry Holt and company, 1995. pg. 160.

Learning, by itself, cannot happen without concentration. Whether we are learning to tie our shoes, write our name, wash a car or solve complex algebraic equations, there is intense concentration specific to the task at hand. Dr. Maria Montessori understood the power of concentration, and her methodology is designed to nurture this power. In this, the first of a two-part article, we explore the importance of concentration in early childhood.

Nurturing Concentration in the Montessori Child in the First Plane of Development

Montessori observed that the formative stage of concentration occurs from birth to about the age of three. I recently had the pleasure of watching my nine-month old niece discover a piece of adhesive tape. As she tried to pull it off the fingers of one hand, it stuck to the fingers of the other. As she alternated between hands, her inquisitiveness and delight was apparent to all who observed this new experience. Wisely, her parents did not rush to take it away from her, though they were watchful, fearing she might put in her mouth. Rather, they sat nearby waiting until the adhesive strength lessened, thus ending her concentration. My niece spent 5-10 minutes in intense concentration to this new sensorial experience.

Concentration in infants is a fragile thing. Well-meaning adults often rush in to “fix” things. A whimper suddenly demands that new toys be offered, a frown means a change of scenery is required. Concentration is broken by the adult trying to shift the focus of the child. Indeed, Montessori said “no one acting from the outside can cause him to concentrate”. (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind. page 222)
NAMC montessori education nurturing concentration in child first place of development looking at fish
As the child grows and enters the Montessori Children’s House (ages 3-6), concentration and attention span increase. In fact, that is an indirect aim of most Montessori Children’s House activities. Practical Life activities are the cornerstone of the Montessori Children’s House curriculum which serves the purpose of building independence, improving coordination, and following steps in a sequence. All of these build on focus and concentration, with some activities requiring fifteen minutes or more to complete.

In the Montessori classroom and home, there is a deep respect for the child. In the Montessori environment it is rare that a child is interrupted while he is focused on his work. It is understandable that there will be times when a child must be interrupted. However, at these times, it is ideal to let the child know ahead of time, for example: “It’s almost lunch time. We will need to stop playing in the puddle and clean up in 5 minutes.” In five minutes’ time, offer a choice: “Would you like me to help you clean up or would you like to do it yourself?” Or, offer an alternative: “I know you are having fun playing in the puddle. After lunch, we can come back and play some more."

Our modern culture contains a multitude of distractions: video games, computers, television, and any number of sports- or arts-related extra activities. Combined, these can create an overabundance of sensory stimulation. Maintaining a calm, controlled, prepared Montessori environment and a clear approach to reducing distractions and sensory overload is an important task of the Montessori caregiver. This directed approach is designed to foster the power of concentration in children, so that they may grow to become happy, independent, and fulfilled adults.

Related articles:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, August 11, 2009.

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