This wealth of information can be helpful, but it is important to remember some basic Montessori principals as you search the Internet for Montessori work.
Tips for Educators: Adjusting Activities Found on the Internet for Montessori
1. Is the work beautiful? I recently saw a cutlery sorting activity that used a plastic tray and plastic cutlery. While this is a wonderful practical life activity, I couldn't help thinking how much more appealing it would have been had it used a wooden tray and real cutlery. It may have cost a bit more, but using real materials inspires children not only to frequent the materials but also to take time and care with them.
2. Does the work have real purpose? Spooning flour and pouring juice are excellent lessons in learning skills needed to be independent. But tonging wine corks? Tonging activities are worthwhile as they help the child develop fine motor skills. Many Montessori classrooms use tonging activities as part of their theme work, in fact. However, it is always valuable to the child to use materials, such as tongs, for their true purpose. I have never had to use tongs for wine corks, but I have used them with spaghetti, ice cubes, sugar cubes, and tossing a salad. When children see that activities have a real-life purpose, they are more apt to use them.
3. Does the work have a control of error? If a child has to come ask you to check their work, there is not a control of error. Matching cards can have either a master list or a color scheme on the back of the cards to indicate if the work is done correctly. Shelf work can have a key that the children can compare to their own work. Spilled water indicates that the child did not pour correctly, but he knows he can clean up the spill and try again. If the lid to the Binomial Cube does not fit, the child has not put the cubes back in their proper order and needs a different approach. The less a child needs the teacher, the higher his motivation is to continue working.
4. Is the work culturally sensitive? A NAMC student from Lagos recently wrote me and said that our blog about doing community service in an assisted living facility would not work in Lagos, where entire generations live with and care for one another. She is completely right. Instead, she has her own culturally sensitive community awareness activities that include providing fresh water and food for new mothers in impoverished areas.
5. Does the work incorporate passive or active learning? Passive learning often involves worksheet type materials. Maybe it is a “Color the Continent of South America” worksheet. Is this really teaching the child about South America? Maybe it is only keeping the child occupied coloring. To make this an active activity, and thereby increase the child’s comprehension and retention, invite the child to remove the continent of South American from the Puzzle Map of the World and trace it on a piece of construction paper. In this case, the paper should be pink to match the color on the Puzzle Map of the World. Ask the child to use a paper puncher to perforate the paper, making tiny holes along the traced outline of the continent paper. The child can then glue the paper continent onto a large piece of blue construction paper. When completed, the child will have created a flat representation of the globe. By working actively instead of passively, the child learns the physical shape of the continent along with its relationship to other continents and oceans.
While the Internet a great tool, we should always remind ourselves of our purpose as Montessorians and create works that follow the teachings of Dr. Montessori.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, April 4, 2014.