Instruments of Intelligence

The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.” – Dr. Montessori

Concrete materials being manipulated in the classroom.

We learn first and foremost through our senses; they are a direct and powerful conduit to the burgeoning intellect. What a child experiences through his or her own eyes, ears, fingers and other senses are the vivid impressions that enable the child to understand and learn. When the time does come for the abstraction of knowledge to take place, it does so naturally, indelibly, and masterfully, having a rock-solid foundation of concrete experience.

The Lower Elementary classroom offers the curious child well-ordered, enticing manipulative material designed to engage the hand and intrigue the mind. The math and geometry materials are of

Fraction inset material.

particular note, brilliantly translating numbers and mathematical concepts into colours, shapes and textures that are eagerly explored by young fingers and eyes. Fractions, for example, are introduced in the first year of elementary through fraction insets that can easily be seen and handled, instead of being taught as numbers on a board or a piece of paper. Children gain a very clear understanding of what one fourth or one eighth is, and fully comprehend concepts such as equivalence and operations with fractions. On this foundation of visual and tactile experiences, the abstraction of complex processes and advanced ideas is built.

Even something as seemingly abstract as the parts of speech are given concrete clarity through manipulation. Students manipulate and use the colour-coded symbols of the grammar boxes and grammar cards to identify and classify words according to their functions. Students form phrases and, later on, sentences using cards of varying colours. They symbolize each word with a specific symbol, gaining a definite and clear understanding of how each part of speech is used in language. The exploration of words is carried out through the manipulation of various word study cards: Compound words are linked together to build compound word chains, antonyms are placed side by side, clearly showing their relationship.

Hands-on learning: Creating a mountain range!

In addition to the rich and varied range of Montessori materials in the classroom, students often investigate and learn about cultural and scientific concepts through hands-on exploration. Plate tectonics come to life as the children slide and collide graham-cracker plates atop oatmeal-porridge magma. The sheer wonder and elation on the children’s faces when observing wet graham crackers crumple into picture-perfect mountain ranges suggest the depth of learning taking place; the thoughtful questions and astute observations articulated in their science journals confirm it.

By connecting academic concepts to meaningful, concrete experiences, we facilitate true understanding and lifelong learning. Indeed, “The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”



OCTOBER LESSON THEMES – Please CLICK HERE to view this month’s lesson themes.

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