Montessori Didactic Material
The Montessori system has a unique scientific approach that can be seen in the way it focuses on self-teaching material that is manufactured in a perfect size, color, and proportion. The subjects in Montessori are also carefully selected and integrated through a broad curriculum that encompasses not only academics but social life skills as well. By following Montessori subjects in a parallel and systematic way so that each domain of development is integrated efficiently, you will be able to raise your toddler in the best possible way.
The didactic material is special-purpose, intended to be a pedagogic aid or teaching resource, yet it can also provide a pure self-learning experience for a child. The Montessori methodology is not just scientific in its aim but in its substance too. That is why the didactic material is also called scientific material. It has certain special characteristics that ensure the maximum training of the senses, and possess a specific shape or dimension. Objects in the same activity group often show the same quality in gradation or sequence. They include the extremes of high and low and the medium-graded objects in between. The children choose their material activity according to their interests and inner urge or sensitivity. The graded contrast sharpens the sensorial perception of a child and teaches them the intended quality in vivid detail.
The child is exposed to the material first by being given a proper presentation. The teacher or an adult acting as a directress shows the child a constructive way to use the didactic material and the aim of the related activity. This helps the child explore the material purposefully.
The following characteristics are the essence of scientifically prepared, Montessori didactic material:
A Single, Isolated Quality:
Each set of materials has a specific quality isolated in it, such as weight, color, height, length, size, form, roughness, etc. This ensures that the child learns only the lesson that the material was intended to teach, nothing more, nothing less. This also helps to retain the child’s focus, as well as to make the learned concepts clear and concrete. For example, the red rods or long rods are presented to teach the concept of length. So, the child will only realize the length while arranging them. All other qualities such as color, form, and breadth are all the same. Only the length changes from one rod to another, that is the intended lesson for this particular material. Similarly, in color tablets, the intended quality is teaching colors and their degrees of lightness and darkness, also called gradation. Thus, the structure, form, size, etc. of each tablet remain the same—all except its shade of their colors because it is isolated to this material.
Error control ensures that the child realizes their mistake the moment they make it. This characteristic makes it so that the errors are self-corrected. The child instantly realizes that something is wrong in the way they are performing the activity or handling the material due to the apparent visual disharmony of the object. Take, for example, the set of cylinder blocks. Each cylinder must be inserted in its respective socket for the whole set to be in the proper order and proportion. A child would, for instance, be unable to insert a thick cylinder into a smaller socket. Similarly, a small cylinder may easily go into a larger socket, but it still wouldn’t fit right. This way, the child will notice their possible errors and would correct them of their own accord.
All materials in a Montessori environment are meant to contain certain attributes that make them interesting to a child in their own right, but they also offer a meaningful motor activity to hold the child’s interest. The child must know that the material can be used purposefully to achieve a particular task to learn something. For example, regardless of how much a child may like the Pink Tower and its cubes, they will eventually begin to get bored by just looking at them. They will be eager to touch them, move them around, explore their shapes and dimensions, and stack them into a tower. The child will feel immense joy in holding each cube, feeling and weighing it, and even playing around with it. This way the activity can be prolonged, offering numerous opportunities, placements, arrangements, replacement, and rearrangement of the material to explore the possibilities. This is all possible if they know how to use the material and for what purpose it should be used.
A very interesting pedagogic principle is the concept of a limited quantity of learning material. This principle is applied to all the sets of material used in a Montessori classroom, and it helps to promote patience, tolerance, sharing, and mutual respect among the children. The limited quantity of material teaches the child to cherish it and realize its value. They learn to patiently wait for their turn and also to manage their time well to be able to benefit from the material fully and letting others do the same. The limited quantity of materials also helps to maintain order and to keep clarity on the purpose of each material. It also makes it easier for the child to maintain concentration and develop an affinity with the material. Even though many would argue that a vast array of objects would help children learn quicker and explore further, this actually couldn’t be farther from the truth. Too many objects would only serve to confuse the child and introduce a chaotic and disorderly state both externally and internally.
All the didactic material is meant to be attractive and eye-catching for children. The color, luster, brightness, clarity, and harmony will appeal to the children’s aesthetic sense. The clean, polished surface both the material and the environment itself appeals to them just like the bright petals of a flower appeal bees. From the in sixty-three beautiful shades of the color tablets, the large letters, and numbers in their holders, the lovely pink colored cubes placed on a small perch, the bright red rods, everything will irresistibly call to all children.
When your toddler is presented with all these aesthetically appealing objects in your home environment, they will naturally gravitate to whatever the dominant sensitive urge they feel at that time.
This characteristic showcases varying degrees of each set of materials that exhibit the same quality. Gradation offers the opportunity to understand the extremes and the degrees found between those extremes. For example, after the teacher has introduced the child to the fabric boxes and shown them a rough fabric and a smooth one, the child can then be given a presentation regarding the gradation of the roughest to smoothest fabric by feeling the surface and texture of each piece of fabric.
Precision and Proportion:
The materials are precise in their color and have a fixed proportion in regards to their form or dimensions. For instance, the brown stairs are always brown, and the child knows their precise color and distinguishes them from other materials easily. Similarly, their size and proportion are fixed too—all the prisms of the material set the same length, for example.
Point of Interest:
Each material has its point of interest and the directress must keep it in mind when presenting the exercise so that the child is fully aware of every aspect of the activity. This will stimulate the child to perform the activity or concentrate while it is being performed by a peer because of the underlying points of interest in that particular material presentation.
A child may get fixated on a particular part of the activity or material and will engage in it more, repeating it over and over again. For example, upon shaking a particular sound box, the child may become tremendously interested in listening to the sound it makes, and will thus shake it constantly and repeatedly. In this case, the sound that the box makes when shaken is the point of interest in this activity.