Sensorial Materials (Montessori)

From Montepedia
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Montessori's range of educational tools
A design created using colored cylinders.
The yellow, green, and red cylinders stacked cohesively.
Knobless cylinders paired with those from the cylinder block.
The combination of the pink tower and broad stair in an extended task.
Students have the freedom to create myriad designs within the constraints of the materials.
The third box of Color Tablets
Geometric Solids set
Montessori's Bells
A depiction of the Binomial Cube

In Montessori education, Sensitive Periods refer to specific times during early child development when the child shows strong propensity to specific kinds of learning. These are transient periods of intense sensitivity to particular stimuli in their environment.[1] During a sensitive period, a child may exhibit spontaneous concentration when engaged in an activity that aligns with their current sensitivity.

For instance, children in a sensitive period for order will be attracted to activities that involve ordering. They may repetitively engage in such activities, demonstrating deep concentration and requiring no external reward or encouragement. Thus, children are naturally drawn to aspects of their environment that meet their particular developmental needs.

Montessori Quotes

  • "It is true that some children...learn to read without having been taught, and that comes about because these children are in a social environment where many people know how to read, and because they come into contact with written language."[2]
  • "The only outwardly recognizable sign of the sensitive periods is the child's behavior: his intense interest for certain objects, a certain repetition of exercises, a certain type of concentration." [3]

Research and Critiques

  • Pros: The concept of sensitive periods underscores the importance of aligning educational activities with the child's natural developmental stages, thereby making learning more effective and enjoyable. This view is consistent with contemporary developmental psychology.[4]
  • Cons: Critics argue that the concept of sensitive periods may overemphasize the importance of certain developmental stages and undervalue learning that can occur outside of these periods.[5]

Comparisons to Other Methods

While all educational methods recognize developmental stages, the Montessori approach uniquely emphasizes the idea of sensitive periods, during which the child's learning is particularly receptive to certain types of information or activities.[6]

Examples of sensorial Montessori materials

as seen on Wikipedia

Montessori Sensorial Materials refer to tools utilized in Montessori educational settings to aid students in refining their five senses. Following practical life exercises, these sensorial materials present a more challenging learning tier.

A distinguishing feature of many Montessori materials, including the sensorial ones, is the "control of error" concept. This allows students to assess their own work without constant reliance on a teacher, fostering both independence and problem-solving skills.

Cylinder Blocks

Cylinder blocks consist of ten wooden cylinders of differing sizes, each fitted into a base with a knobbed handle. These cylinders naturally encourage the child to adopt a three-fingered grip akin to that used in holding pencils.

The primary task with these blocks involves removing and then correctly placing the cylinders back into their respective slots. An embedded error-checking mechanism ensures that each cylinder can only fit into its designated spot.

Pink Tower

The pink tower comprises ten pink cubes, ranging in size from 1 centimeter to 10 cm in 1 cm increments. The exercise with this tool aims to teach the student the difference between "big" and "small."

Starting with the largest cube, the student stacks the progressively smaller cubes on top. If stacked incorrectly, the visual disparity acts as a self-correction mechanism.

Broad Stair

Often referred to as the Brown Stair, this set of tools aids in understanding the concepts of "thickness" variations. Comprising ten wooden prisms stained in natural or brown shades, each prism measures 20 cm in length but varies in thickness between 1 to 10 cm. When correctly arranged, the prisms form a smooth staircase.

A common extended activity combines the broad stairs with the pink tower to allow various design constructions.

Red Rods

The red rods, with a uniform square cross-section, differ only in their length. Ranging from 10 cm to one meter, these rods, when held at their ends, aid in comprehending the concepts of "long" and "short."

Colored Cylinders

Alternatively known as knobless cylinders, these are identical in dimensions to the previously mentioned cylinder blocks.

There are four sets:

Yellow cylinders vary in both height and diameter. Red cylinders maintain a consistent height but differ in diameter. Blue cylinders have a uniform diameter but variable heights. Green cylinders display variation in both dimensions. Numerous activities can be performed with these, including pairing with the cylinder blocks, creating towers, or forming various patterns. Combining the yellow, red, and green cylinders results in identical heights.[7]

Binomial Cube

The binomial cube consists of distinct pieces, stored in a specially designed box. The cube elements correspond to the mathematical expression . While its use as a mathematical tool becomes more evident in advanced Montessori levels, its primary function remains sensorial, introducing students indirectly to the cube root.

Trinomial Cube

A progression from the binomial cube, the trinomial cube represents the formula:

Additional Materials

Montessori's sensorial tools are expansive and continually evolving, thanks to contributions from educators globally. Other notable tools include the Monomial Cube, Geometric Cabinet, Constructive Triangles, Color Tablets, Geometric Solids, Mystery Bag, Rough and Smooth Boards, Fabric Box, Thermic Bottles, Baric Tablets, Sound Cylinders, and Bells.

Related Tools

See Also

Glossary of Montessori Terms

The Glossary of Montessori Terms is a collection of specific terms and vocabulary that are related to the Montessori method of education, primarily focusing on the theory and practice for children aged 3 to 6. The jargon used by Montessori educators offers a unique insight into child development as discussed by Maria Montessori. The 'Montepedia Glossary of Montessori Terms' originated from a glossary that was compiled by the late Annette Haines from the Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis, at the request of Molly O'Shaughnessy from the Montessori Centre of Minnesota. The reason behind the creation of this glossary was to supplement O'Shaughnessy's lecture at the Joint Annual Refresher Course that took place in Tampa, Florida, in February 2001.[8] The glossary has since been expanded and updated with additional 'Montessori Terms'.

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  1. Montessori, M. (1949). The Absorbent Mind. Clio Press.
  2. Montessori, M. (1949). The Absorbent Mind. Clio Press.
  3. Montessori, M. (1958). The Child in the Family. Avon Books.
  4. Lillard, A. (2017). Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. Oxford University Press.
  5. Egan, K. (2002). Getting it wrong from the beginning: Our progressivist inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. Yale University Press.
  6. Mooney, C. (2013). Theories of Childhood, Second Edition: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget & Vygotsky. Redleaf Press.
  7. "Knobless Cylinders by MattBronsil on Flickr".
  8. Haines, A. (2001). Glossary of Montessori Terms. Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis.