Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Art of Observation in a Montessori Classroom - Sensitive Periods, Productivity and Humor

NAMC montessori classroom art of observation sensitive periods productivity examining pinecone This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. The Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Student’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that has arisen from one real student's Montessori journey, viewed through the eyes of his Montessori Teacher, Bree Von Nes.

The Art of Observation - Part 1 
A Montessori directress is a skilled observer who uses her knowledge and training to provide children with the necessary guidance to facilitate individual development. A directress frequently observes her Montessori students to determine where they are at developmentally and to guide them to appropriate lessons and activities. The Montessori directress also observes her students to determine what, if any, changes need to be made in the environment to facilitate student growth and development. Perhaps an area is too open or too narrow … a skilled observer will notice if the Montessori environment can be altered to promote safety, encourage ease of movement and overall, create a more productive work space. 

Another important part of being a skilled observer is being a meticulous note-taker and doing so through checklists, narrative reports, jotting down quick comments through the day, etc. It is so important to regularly track a child’s progress to ensure you are in tune with each child’s individual needs and to help paint a true picture of where each student is at in all aspect of his/her development.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to observe many children, including my own in a Montessori environment and I can honestly say that I always learn something new! Observation gives the Montessori teacher a chance to see where a student is developmentally and what skills he or she is working to perfect.  It is such a gift to be able to step back and observe without distractions and I think one of my favorite aspects of observing in my Montessori preschool classroom is being able to hear the interesting and often humorous exchanges between the children.

The Art of Observation in a Montessori Classroom - Sensitive Periods, Productivity and Humor

I’ll never forget the time I was observing two students working with the World Puzzle Map and I overheard one child tell his friend that every Thursday he goes to Antarctica for skating lessons …how cute is that? Or the time I observed two children exploring the items on the Nature Table and the little girl told her friend that the prickly pine cone felt exactly the same as her mommy’s legs … I’m sure her mommy would have loved that comment! And just the other day, my three-year-old student Jordan picked up a shark’s tooth and said to his friend, “Wow, the tooth fairy must be a great swimmer and very brave to have taken that tooth!” The logic of a preschooler is absolutely priceless.

Observing children is truly a skill that takes years to perfect. It is a skill in the Montessori classroom that develops over time with a great deal of practice. Today, I had the opportunity to observe Jordan and I noticed many important aspects that will help me be more in tune with his sensitive periods and individual interests. 

Today showed me that Jordan is definitely in a sensitive period for counting, as he made a point of counting anything and everything that he could find, from the smooth river rocks on the Peace Table to the cutlery on the snack shelf. I observed that he still needs practice with one-to-one correspondence, and consequently, have made a note to myself to provide lessons with the Number Rods and various other counters in the coming weeks. I also noticed that he is in a sensitive period for washing his hands. In a 20-minute period, he washed his hands FOUR times and was clearly proud to be able to do it all by himself! 

Over the weekend, I think I will prepare a hand washing activity for the Practical Life area and I am certain it will be one of Jordan’s favorites. Another observation that struck me is that Jordan has a much harder time focusing on his work when he is at a group table. He works SO much better at an individual table…the difference was like night and day! I will definitely make a point to guide him towards individual tables from now on until his attention span increases and he learns to tune out distractions more effectively.

Over the years I have definitely learned to appreciate the power of observation and there is always something new to be learned!

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. © the North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, January 5, 2011.

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoy reading these posts as they are truly helpful in envisioning what a Montessori classroom looks like and how all the pieces fit together. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Bree,

    When I read your words about how observing children is a skill that takes many years, I had an "Oh how I understand that"! I'v always had a difficult time making notes while I observed. I also read every book I could find about how to observe children and takes note. And yes, it took many years for me too "get it". Thank you for your post. All the post I read are so helpful in understanding the Montessori way, as it is so new to me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Shelley,

    Thank-you for your kind words of appreciation and I'm pleased that you are finding the posts so helpful. It sounds like you have experienced firsthand the challenges that go hand in hand with observing children and yes, it does take a while to truly "get it". Thank-you for your comment and input!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Cheryl! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoy reading the posts and that they help you to envision what a Montessori classroom looks like. If I can ever provide my support or answer any questions for you, please don't hesitate to ask.

    ReplyDelete

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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.

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