When I first read this, I was struck by the frankness of the message. Rather than putting observation on the back burner and attending to it when we found time, was Rambusch actually suggesting that we observe first? The simple answer is “yes.”
Observation in the Montessori Environment: How do we follow the child, if we don’t observe him first?
A NAMC student recently asked me for advice on how to encourage a child to work on math activities. She was having trouble helping him, as he refused to even go into the math area. I asked her tell me what she knew about the child’s interests and the choices he was making during the work period; she quickly told me that he was very interested in dinosaurs. I was happy to explain to her that based on her observations, we could find a solution. I suggested that she consider ways of incorporating the child’s interest into the math activities — creating dinosaur math. Together, we brainstormed a number of activities she could present: activities related to geologic age, size comparisons, measurement, graphing, and more — all focused on dinosaurs. Because the teacher had observed what captivated the child, she was able to use his fascination to expand his learning in an engaging way.
“Wait,” you say. “There is no dinosaur material on the Montessori math shelves.” This is true. However, Montessori tells us that the teacher’s guidance and knowledge of the children is as valuable as the materials. “[We] must know how to call to the man which lies dormant within the soul of the child. I felt this, intuitively, and believed that not the didactic material but my voice which called to them, awakened the children, and encouraged them to use the didactic material, and through it, to educate themselves.” (Montessori, 1970)
By observing the interests of the children, we validate their strengths.By seeing how and when they concentrate, we can reflect how best to attend to their needs and thus help them engage more fully with the environment. We verify what we already know about the child while making new discoveries along the way.
The Child in the Family, p. 132.
Observations are not what we throw together at the end of the day. They must be the driving force that constructs all learning in the Montessori environment.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, June 24, 2016.