While I am pursuing Montessori for my children, I was educated in a far more traditional manner. I attended public school and have strong memories of sitting in rows of desks while a teacher stood up front explaining each subject. This is my experience with education personally and it's one that I'm sure many can related to. As much as I've read about, trained in and observed the Montessori Method, there are certain constructs that I find difficult to let go of. The need to explain everything is one of them.
One of the concepts of early Montessori that drew me in was the sensorial and practical life works. Observe any young child and you'll see an intense need to participate deeply in the world around them. They seek input with every sense. They attempt to copy the daily activities they see as well. It feels so natural. I looked forward to teaching those skills once my children were ready.
But see, here's where my idea of what teaching is gets me in trouble.
Young children learn by copying what they see. They learn through experiences. If there's one way they do not learn, it's through my need to explain things incessantly.
We must be cautious of how we give presentations, especially those in the area of sensorial and practical life. Not only do excessive words add no value, they can be detrimental. Young children have limited focus. When we speak, we direct attention to our mouths. When we are silent, the focus is then shifted to what we are doing with our hands.
Does this mean we should never speak during presentations? Of course, not! In fact, we should be teaching the language of the works we present. This includes the name of the work and the names of the various pieces and parts. The sensorial materials present additional opportunities for descriptive words. Larger, blue, sour, heavy, smallest, smooth, colder... These all give your child words they can use to describe their world. The real key is balance and being cognizant of whether your are speaking or demonstrating. When your hands are moving, don't speak. When you are speaking, don't move. Give the child a chance to shift focus.
Another key in being a silent presenter is to let your hands speak for you. Make every movement deliberate from the moment the work is retrieved until it is replaced. Think about how you carry the materials, lay them out and complete the task. You can point to highlight something important. You can pause to deliberate when comparing items. One of my favorite tidbits from a hands-on training course I took was to stop at the end and "admire your work". I try to demonstrate this by smiling and taking one good breath when the aim of the work has been completed.
I love watching presentations on YouTube. You can find one on nearly every traditional material. However, I think think sometimes these videos give us the wrong idea. Since they are generally geared towards adults, elaborate explanations are given while the presentation occurs; explanations that generally would be absent when the same presentation is given to a child.
This video is a great example of staying silent during a practical life presentation. Notice how the guide uses her hands to highlight want she wants the child to notice.
I hope this gives you some idea of how to improve your presentation skills.
And next we'll address what to do when the presentation is over and your child takes the driver's seat. I know I'm not the only one who struggles with what to do when the work isn't completed correctly.
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