Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just the Right Time

How do you know if you've introduced a material at the right moment? One of my favorite explanations is from the Gettman:

Whether a presentation is successful depends partly on the director's skills in conducting it, and partly on the child's readiness to respond to it. If a child, when later working independently, has continuous difficulty with an activity or appears to be manipulating the materials aimlessly, then either another presentation is needed, or the child is not yet ready for the challenges which the activity presents. If the child makes no erors at all when first attempting the activity, it is likely that the child is already too advanced and may lose interest in the activity before benefiting from it. When the child has grasped the purpose of the activity from the presentation, but there are occasional errors in judgment and technique, then the child is at just the appropriate stage of development. The challenge to perfect the activity will induce repetition and concentration, resulting in that remarkable self-directed, self-motivated learning that Montessori first witnessed in her Children's House[my emphasis]. [29]

If you have been reading this blog for a while you might remember my unsuccessful track record with Me Too and the pink tower. I thought I could avoid missing the "right moment" by trying to introduce things a little earlier. He just wasn't ready. Now that Me Too is officially three and the materials are all fresh because they have been packed away for the house sale we had a much different experience with the pink tower presentation.

Me Too built the tower fifteen times in a row, making and correcting occasional errors. And it was obvious that he really was absorbing the concepts intended. He narrated his entire experience to himself non-stop as he did the work, constantly using words like "big," "huge," "bigger," "smaller,""little," "the next smaller," and "the next larger."

When he was done he asked to build the "stairs" next and he fetched the pieces from the closet one at a time. The child's experience of bigger and smaller is very tangible when working with the sensorial materials. You could see Me Too experience this as he talked about "heavy" and "light" as he physically carried the materials. He liked to judge the "heft" of each prism by hoisting it over his head.

He built the brown stair with varying degrees of success three times. He found many mistakes as he checked his work with the smallest prism but had trouble correcting them. He put the material away and said "This tricky. I work on it more tomorrow."

So, in short, enjoy doing all of those practical life works, pre-sensorial, pre-language, and pre-math activities with your "under-three." It's worth the wait.

In other news, my husband is constantly shaking his head at the new levels of what he calls "nerdiness" that our family is reaching. He is appalled that Kal-El keeps pointing out "rectangular prisms" and "ellipses" to us in public where people can hear him.

Home of:The Ultimate Montessori Blog ListThe Ultimate Montessori Search BoxThe Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration


  1. I had a similar experience, recently. I had a little girl in my room who didn't do ANY work last year. (I just posted about her last week) Now, she is working up a storm. She washes 2-3 tables per morning. It is so wonderful to see such deep concentration and repetition.

  2. Yea!!! Way to go Me Too:)


  3. Woo hoo! He looks so proud of himself! I was actually thinking of your stories of Me Too and the pink tower just the other day. Pita Pocket has moved to the Montessori area, and with that comes the knowledge that he can't always do Short Pants' lessons. It reminded me of that funny pic you'd posted at one time of Me Too throwing a fit over not being allowed to use the pink tower yet. ;)