During Montessori work periods, there are often times when a child tries to interrupt a presentation or disrupt another student’s work. As a Montessori teacher, it is important to have a variety of different strategies for dealing with these situations and the ability to implement them in a subtle, non-intrusive manner. One of my favorite strategies is gluing. It is particularly effective for Montessori students in their first phase of normalization, who may struggle with staying focused on the task at hand. Essentially, gluing refers to keeping a child who is behaving in a disruptive manner close by your side, before inviting them to choose a more suitable activity.
Today, my three-year-old student Jordan was having difficulty choosing his own work, and staying focused seemed next to impossible. His mother mentioned to me that he went to bed very late the previous night and she worried that he may have some behavior challenges throughout the day — boy, was she right. I was grateful for that little bit of information, as it provided me with the necessary insight to effectively guide Jordan throughout the work period, while being sensitive to how he was feeling that day. Jordan was clearly overtired, and was interested in everyone else’s work but his own.
The Montessori Gluing Strategy — Helping Redirect Behavior and Focus
I observed him touching another student’s Montessori Practical Life work, so I calmly approached him, got down to his level and said, “Jordan, please remember we need to concentrate on our own work during work time. Would you like me to help you find some work?” I helped him to choose a work from the shelf and take it to a table. However, even when he had his own work in front of him, he wasn't at all interested in focusing on the activity.
He reached out and took the small jug off of his classmate’s tray while she was in the middle of working with her pouring activity. Again, I approached him and said, “Jordan, I know you’re feeling tired today and I can see that you are having a really difficult time concentrating. However, it’s not okay to disturb your friends while they are working.” I explained that I was about to give a sound presentation to Maggie, and that I would like him to watch until the presentation was done. After, we would see if he felt ready to find some work without disturbing his classmates.
It is important to make it clear to the student that the teacher will decide when the child is ready to leave their side.
Jordan sat beside me without making a sound, observing the presentation as well as what was going on around him. I am sure the few minutes that he spent beside me seemed like an eternity to him, but it was the perfect way to allow him to reflect and settle himself. After a few minutes, I asked Jordan if he was ready to choose his own work and whether he felt he would be able to concentrate, and he answered yes. He then took out the mitten-hanging work, carefully paired the mittens by color, and hung them one by one on the hanging frame. He worked on the activity for quite some time and took great care when tidying up and putting it away. Once he returned his work to the Montessori Practical Life shelf, I quietly approached him, commenting on how well he concentrated on the mitten activity and asking him which work he was planning to do next. He smiled, looking very proud of himself, and went straight to the color-mixing work.
Gluing should never be used as a punishment, but instead serve as a way of helping the student refocus and observe their surroundings.A restless child can benefit so much from taking a few minutes to settle themselves and watch how the other children are working; doing so allows them to feel like they are still participating in the work of the Montessori classroom.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, December 29, 2010.