“How can any one paint who cannot grade colors? How can any one write poetry who has not learnt to hear and see? “ ~Maria Montessori
What is Sensorial Work?
Working with the materials, children take things apart, put them back together, and think about what these relationships mean. This gives them practice with analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. It leads to mature questioning, research, and true creativity when they put things back together in new ways. The youngest children in the environment catch on to the enthusiasm of the older ones as they make discoveries and reach toward more sophisticated materials, while enjoying their own pursuits and ‘games.’ The Montessori classroom provides opportunities for exploring and refining all senses. Overstimulation is curbed because all the material is purposeful and assists with isolating and mastering control of one’s senses.
The child is a “sensorial explorer”. ~Maria Montessori
Through work with the sensorial materials, the child is given the keys to classifying things around them, which leads to the child making their own experiences in the environment. Through the classification, the child is also offered the first steps in organizing their intelligence, which then leads to them adapting to their environment.
Children from birth to age six are in a ‘sensitive period,’ exploring the world through their senses. By the careful selection of items of different textures, colors, sizes, and geometric shapes, children will discover relationships. Sensorial experiences indirectly prepare children for future exploration of languages, mathematics, geometry, art, and music.
Studies prove that the years from three to six are the most critical period for nurturing a child’s natural curiosity and for laying the foundation for all future development. The primary aged child possesses a remarkable ability to experience and absorb the world.
The Pink Tower
A classic activity in a Montessori preschool classroom is the pink tower. The series of cubes develops visual discrimination of size in three dimensions. Exploration with this material prepares a child for mathematical concepts in the decimal system, geometry, and volume.
The trinomial cube is a concrete representation of the algebraic formula (a+b+c)3. The factors of the equation are represented by the cubes and prisms. The primary Montessori child explores the trinomial cube as a sensorial activity of visual discrimination of color and form. This indirect preparation for algebra prepares the child for the elementary Montessori class.
In the tactile sense exercises, the child learns through his sense of touch. “Although the sense of touch is spread throughout the surface of the body, the Exercises given to the children are limited to the tips of the fingers, and particularly, to those of the dominant hand,” M. Montessori. This allows the child to focus on what they feel, through a concentration of a small part of their body.
Sensorial materials offer individual work and repetition opportunities, and allows children to classify their sensorial impressions in an organized orderly, and scientific manner. They have a built in control of error, which is conducive to the habit of working independently, without fear of making mistakes, becoming comfortable in the fact that errors are essential to the process of learning and discovery.
The special importance of the sense of hearing comes from the fact that it is the sense organ connected with speech, therefore, to train the child’s attention to follow sounds and noises which are produced in the environment, to recognize them and to discriminate between them is to prepare their attention to follow more accurately the sounds of articulate language,” M. Montessori.
In the auditory sense exercises, the child discriminates between sounds. In doing these different exercises, the child will refine and become more sensitive to sounds in the environment.
Click here for a video demonstration of sensorial materials.