Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Metal Insets

Today was not a "school day." We spent much of the morning outside, enjoying the weather. However, when we don't go into the school room it doesn't mean no school work was done. I follow the practice of "strewing" items around the house, particularly if it is something I want to see more action. This buffet in the kitchen just happens to be the most logical place for our metal insets. We had to move the boys' little table out of the school room for a while because our house is on the market (which makes "strewing" a little more dangerous by the way). Also, I have trained the boys to only use "art things" in the kitchen and the colored pencils used with this task certainly qualify.

Last night I left Kal-El's baseball diamond out in the family room so he might enjoy it during the couple hours early in the morning before Me Too wakes up. I left his baseball three-part cards in his bedroom where they might get some use while he tries to avoid sleeping during his naptime. He was eager to start on the metal insets right after breakfast today. It was his first presentation.

I certainly could use some tips. I have to correct his pencil grip every single time he picks it up right now which is not very fun for either of us (and kept me from getting a picture of the insets in action). He has trouble holding the inset or frame down firmly enough while he traces and it often drifts (I demonstrated that correctly a few times and then figured from there trial and error will teach him how to correct that). He also is not very meticulous when he snakes the lines through the inside of the shape to fill it in. He does the first couple okay, and then becomes impatient and scribbles the rest in. It is still a little bit of a problem when the hand holding the inset or frame in place gets in the way of the tracing hand, but I demonstrated the transfer motion for him and this improved. He also traces the frame better than he does the inset. He tends to drift away from the inset when he comes around the left side (he's right-handed)...particularly if he has just transferred his left hand.

So, those of you who present insets year after year...is this typical for the first day?

I did not expect Kal-El to have so much trouble with his grip after all the prep in the various Montessori activities. The boys have always used Stockmar wax blocks or (starting around age two) those little rock crayons that require the tripod grip so they haven't been using bad grips in their art activities. I guess I hoped that all of this would magically prepare them for a seamless transition to pencils when the time came. Unrealistic expectations or have I missed something important? We are using Galt, short, triangular pencils.


  1. This is so so so SO common :) despite all of the prior work with the pincer grip and tracing, this is pretty challenging for children at first. I've never seen a child trace the inset without floating away the first few times. For some children, this can be quite frustrating. Others just go with the flow. Also, the idea of making lines inside of a shape (as opposed to coloring) seems to be pretty new or foreign to most. I love watching the metal insets change and progress as the child's hand develops. Everyone ses to have their own style. It's really interesting to watch! It will work out with time :)

  2. I noticed you mentioned that you had to adjust your sons grip almost every time. We don't have metal insets but I've made some shapes for L to trace out of margarine containers. She's not too bad with the grip usually but does add an extra finger. Would you then suggest correcting her each time? I've mostly been just letting her get on with it but I know how important the proper grip is.

  3. P.S. Montessori,

    Thank you, I so appreciate your experienced advice!

    Monessori Beginnings,

    That's a better question for P.S. Montessori than me. I'm NO EXPERT. I've just been going off of what Margaret Homfray said in her insets video...something to the effect of not allowing the child to use a pencil, marker, or crayon unless they can hold it properly. She said that even from the time they are given a spoon they should be encouraged to hold the spoon with the tripod grip.

  4. I have no advice, just a question. Is there a reason you introduced the insets after spelling and reading or is that just the way it happened? With my son's sudden interest in writing and drawing, I have toyed with the thought of what would have happened if I had waited until now to do the insets, and you usually do things in order, so I am curious.

  5. Evenspor,

    I guess it just kind of happened that way. Kal-El was in period two/three for everything. I wasn't finished with the sensorial in period two. Then, all of a sudden he started trying to read everything he could find...signs in the hardware store, words on paper bags, labels on cans. I knew that was the cue to start the moveable alphabet so I had to plunge into period four. Same with math...he started counting everything and asking about numbers. So, now we are ahead in those two subjects and I was in deep water for a little while catching up to him and it distracted me from presenting the remaining period two items. I am working on remedying that situation this week...hence bringing out the metal insets. I also finally put out stereognostic bags and the binomial cube.

    I suspect that I drag my feet a bit too much on sensorial so it got us a little out of sync.

  6. I guess the kids know better than any master plan in the end.