I still remember the days working with other Montessori colleagues. There was this young teacher who always reminded us of her lecturer’s words. “Always return to the insets for design if your child is having difficulties forming shapes, letters, numbers or any types of drawings, or if the child is wandering aimlessly.”
So, what did I do when I saw a complete set of metal (NOT plastic) insets of design hibernating in a box, I can’t just ignore ‘them’. Their cheers was simply too loud.
The idea behind this more-than-a-century old material is Dr. Maria Montessori. In the magazine “Understanding The Montessori Environment. Your Montessori Child” (Montessori International: London. pg.11), it stated that Montessori believed strongly in the aim of ‘indirect preparation’. She invented fun ways for children to learn how they can learn to do things themselves without realising they are actually learning to do something. The metal insets for design is a good example. This material is consisted of ten shapes and frames with straight sides in one group and curves in the other group. Children use this for drawing the shapes with colour pencils and fill the shapes with very closed lines or simply colour them with their favourite colours. This activity actually helps to form fine motor skills that indirectly prepares for writing.
To learn pencil-control skill, children use colour pencils to fill in outlines made with geometric insets in different shapes, often creating beautiful designs.( Feez, S. (2013). Montessori The Australian Story. Montessori Australia Foundation: Sydney. pg.24)
I’ve also combined finger-painting with this exercise. I think it’s a very interesting sensorial-creative-writing experience for very young children.
Finger printing is not only fun but is also a good invitation for the young inquisitive mind to explore their own fingers.
What is your experience in using the metal insets for design?
The first story began four months ago when I learned to juggle between hospital, school and home; and when my whole energy of body, mind and soul was completely focused towards my mum’s recovery. To my immense delight, I found out that I can still function in my job. I remembered making frantic calls to pharmacies asking for a wheelchair, whilst standing near the shelves and directing a child on a floor mat. (I had to receive urgent calls from the pharmacist during working hours.)
This corner was empty when I walked into the school. I was shown to a few Montessori materials kept in boxes and stacked under sleeping mats and pillows. I couldn’t just let the materials to remain there and collect dust. So, I dug them out, cleaned them and found a house for them. Everything in the picture above are pre-loved and not in the best of condition but still usable. It’s funny when I think about how I got all excited simply seeing the small and big mats.
Now, all the shelves are filled with trays, bowls, dressing frames, ready-made play dough. There is a table that is placed at the opposite inside but that is not enough. I requested for a room which I doubt I will get one in this school. There are more materials in the box to be ‘recovered’ and I would love to use the outside area for washing activity but still waiting for a gate to be built for safety purpose.
Oops I didn’t mention that this area is called Practical Life area, did I? Yes, and I swear by it. I feel sorry for not using it according to Montessori’s philosophy when I introduce the activity to children who are turning four, and there is not much time for freedom of choice to occur. Lately, two new and very young children are using the materials because they just couldn’t cope with the book-based curriculum in the classroom. I also showed other teachers how to use the materials as a one-to-one activity with them for the purpose of settling into the routine.
My next mission: simple grace and courtesy, using the words ‘tolong’, ‘buang air kecil’, ‘buang air besar’, ‘terima kasih’, ‘ini cikgu’. Yes, I’m in a kindergarten where the main language is Bahasa Melayu, and they can hardly understand what I say in English.
I will reveal the second story in the next post. Upwards, me.
So, I have finally found the best place for the kids to rest or take a nap anytime of the day. The measurement of this bed is 1.6m x 60cm x 15cm and it stands sturdily on four feet. It is made of plastic and the netting allows comfortable sleeping so that the child doesn’t sweat heartily on a fiery hot day. Even when the child has a wee accident, this bedding is washable and requires only quick rinsing.
Professor Sue Jennings, world authority and pioneer of Play Therapy will be demonstrating play sessions for children, giving a talk on the use of drama and play to reinforce leaning and sharing her views on the art of play and drama learning with parents at HELP International School on 23 May, Sat.
– Information taken from The Star newspaper.
This child is a beautiful seven-year-old who is very caring and intelligent. She has delayed development, her mental age could be as young as a 4/5 years old but she is on par in her emotional and social development. She shows less interest in academic work and her handwriting is of a 3/4 year-old child. Hence, the only thing that can occupy her for hours is art and craft and Practical Live/Sensorial activities. She was born with brain of the size of a pea, and doctor didn’t give her parents much hope of her survival. Now, she goes to a mainstream primary school without any learning support there. She goes for speech and occupational therapy at a private therapist’s centre. She has temperamental and anger management issues especially when she doesn’t have enough food and sleep. However, when I am attending her, I treat her with respect, patience and care. I respect her needs and attention. I try not to give too much attention to her qualms and tantrums. I want to show to her that every child is treated with equal care and love. I don’t tease her because she is still learning how to differentiate playful and serious tease from adults. Remember she still acts like a toddler. I talk to her like an adult and I tell her what is the right thing to do and what can she do. My purpose is that she learn to be an independent child in managing her physical, emotional and social needs. Homework or school work is not the priority although I give lessons on academic subjects according to the school’s syllabus.
This child and I did this work together when I met her the first time a few months ago. I knew she was ‘special’ when I first saw her, and thanks to the voluntary experiences I had with people with special needs, I did not felt threaten by or afraid of her disorderly behaviour. Again, I respect her as another human so I talked to her with care and love. My instant treatment was Practical Life (dry and wet pouring), playdough and art and craft. I drew a big heart, cut out hearts of different colours and invite her to paste the hearts along the line of the heart. When she’s tired of doing that, I drew a picture of her and invited her to colour it. Then , I invited her to draw a picture of her mum!
I can list an array of wonders of fireworks that are happening between her brain neurons, such as:
- developing eye-hand coordination when arranging the hearts side by side.
- mastering the skill of applying glue (not too much, not too little). A lot of very young children are not getting this type of exercise when sticking shapes onto papers
- expressing ideas about a person’s body when she was drawing her mum. She had to retrieve from her working memory how her mum looks like.
- articulate clear speech, which she is still practising wholeheartedly. Nowadays, she looks at my mouth very closely.
- strengthening muscles through sitting position. She has weak leg muscles and likes to sit in frog-like position. I have to keep reminding her to cross her legs and sit up straight.
- listening and following instructions, which a lot of children find it difficult to comply to, unless when there’s a heap of play dough on the tray.
- She can also cut along shapes or pictures, but lack the patience and determination to follow through until the end. This is why the cycle of activity and work cycle is utmost important in a Montessori classroom.
Are there any more benefits you can yield from the photos below? Please share with us.
Her mum, as imagined by her. Sweet!
Gluing the pictures and hearts. I pasted most of the hearts.
She pasted the yellow hearts that cut across the big heart.
Her lovely work. Draw and colour with your kids is the best time to learn. Who needs flashcards!!??
It’s nice to see her engrossed in her work.
2 day Workshop with Horst Hellmann
Date: 23 – 24 May 2015
Time: 8.00am – 4.30pm
Venue: Around Kota Kemuning (To be confirmed)
About Horst Hellmann
Born in 1943 in Germany. Horst Hellmann has spent 30 years teaching in Steiner schools. Since 1982 he has been giving seminars to teachers who want to be Steiner Waldorf teachers in Australia, India, Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan. He has been involved in setting up of 14 schools across Australia and Asia, as well as the teacher training seminar in Iloilo in 2005. In 2004, he resigned from active teaching and became more active in Asia, especially supporting new initiatives. At present he is focusing on a young waldorf-inspired school in Davao, Tuburan Institute, and Dulyapat in Khonkaen, Thailand.
23rd May 2015 (Saturday)
Morning Session (8:15am – 12pm): 12 Senses
While natural science maintains that we have only 5 senses, Steiner shows that in reality we have 12. Understanding the 12 senses offers a glimpse into why some things are done the way they are in a Waldorf environment. This topic starts off our 2 day workshop and serves as an introduction to all the rest of the topics that follows.
Afternoon Session (1pm – 4:30pm): Nutrition, TV and Value of Play
Nutrition, TV and Free Play, they all play a very important role in the behaviour of children. Are we giving them enough good nutrition? Too much TV or screen time?
Not enough free play? How do all these affect our children?
24th May 2015 (Sunday)
Morning Session (8:15am – 12pm): Marriage and Partnership & Drawing with Partner
In the journey of marriage and partnership, it is essential to learn how to deal with the power in human relationship and how to create conditions for lifelong development and health. The human relationship is a spiritual necessity in our biography.
Afternoon Session (1pm – 4:30pm): Danger of early learning in Kindergarten
Children will learn new skills when they are ready. A baby will learn how to crawl up the stairs step by step and foot by foot when they have mastered the motor skills required. However, how do we know when our children have mastered the cognitive skills required for learning in kindergarten? Are we pushing them “down the stairs”?
Workshop Fees (GST Inclusive):
Full 2-day workshop:
RM200 (Spouse RM100)
Single Session Only:
RM60 (Spouse RM30)
For inquiries and registration, please contact Shin Yee or Jamie (03-55253126)
* Lunch is not inclusive in the workshop fees. It is available upon request at RM20 for both days. Please let us know during registration and we will arrange accordingly.
* Please register before 22nd May 2015. Seats are limited and will be on a first come first served basis. You can download the registration form at https://goo.gl/tvNB3H
About a month ago, I had a rare but golden opportunity to interview Visha, a mental health advocator who is also undergoing counselling sessions as treatment for schizophrenia, and her mum, Maladavi, who is a Montessori educator. The interview conducted was part of a completion for my assignment on the subject of Counselling.
Visha appeared to me as a 22-year-old petite, but rather gutsy lady who can articulate her opinion and perception well, with much boldness and confidence. Initially, she was shy and had very few eye contact with me. However, as our conversation steered towards awareness on mental health and learning disabilities, her eyes started to spark as she ignited her words about her experiences along the road to recovery as a schizophrenic patient. Personally, I felt very fortunate and honoured to meet such a wonderful young lass who has discovered and mapped out a journey for her future and her ambition of helping people who share similar experiences as her. Mental health is still a stigma in Malaysia, but with the grace of Visha’s presence, I’m sure the public will open their eyes a little bit more to recognise and accept mental illnesses like any other physical illnesses. Prevention is better than cure. With early intervention strategies available especially for children of very young age, the risks and uncertainties of mental illnesses can be mitigated and patients/sufferers can live in harmony with their families and communities.
Visha’s mum, Maladavi, who is a Montessori educator, said that her experiences while studying and working in Montessori schools in Thailand and Malaysia, had actually helped her to detect the early symptoms of delayed developmental problem since Visha was in kindergarten. Mala’s acute observation skill had captured the signs but help was not available at that time. When Visha’s condition started to deteriorate as she stepped into primary and secondary schools, Mala decided to seek help from a psychiatrist and the healing journey began. Again, her skills as a Montessori trainer and educator, such as preparing Practical Life activities that assisted Visha in gaining in her independence, principle of isolation and utilising her strength rather than her weakness to enhance her quality of life, has given Visha the strength and motivation to emerge from the swamp of mental sickness.
Well, if you would like to meet the young lady behind the facade of schizophrenia, or if you would like her to talk about real life experience of being a mental health patient, do contact her at Facebook (Visha Arunagiri) or http://www.vishalsmindscreations.com. She has written about her experiences with schizophrenia in a self-published book ‘In My Shoes: Part One’ and has just embarked on a hobby/business similar to mine – Beading. Yes, love those beads!
Another wonderful way to use toilet rolls for decoration purpose. This activity can be performed independently by a 5/6 year old child.
1. Shape the end of the toilet roll into a heart shape by squeezing it.
2. Put the toilet roll into a pot of glue and press the roll onto a piece of paper.
3. Then, sprinkle salt, coloured rice or glitter on the heart patterns. Wait for the patterns to dry before cutting out two heart shapes to make the butterfly.