INTRODUCTION TO SENSORIAL
Sensorial is something Involving or deriving from the senses. This involve the sensory of the body and how these senses function to aid the development of the child. The senses are not limited to taste, sight, sound, smell and touch but other senses to give specific and detailed development to the child. To aid in this development, Dr. Montessori through careful observation and practice with children, developed a system which create the natural environment for the kids. In this environment called the Prepared Environment, is a section termed Sensorial where children between the ages of three to six in their sensitive periods explore and refine their senses. The aim of Sensorial education is to develop a child’s intelligence by building on his experiences and thought processes, to connect the child and his environment through the isolation of his senses. The Sensorial area is designed to expand the range and depth of sense perceptions by the children. The materials in this sensorial are specially created in aiding the child to use his senses in exploring and attributing things in his environment. All the materials in this Sensorial area are not only specifically designed to attract the interest of the child but at the same time, teaches important concept which the child will need to use or explore in his environment.
? The Senses and their function
Maria Montessori believed that there is more than just the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, she believed, visual, chromatic, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, auditory, baric, thermic and stereognostic play very important role in the senses of the child.
Visual Perceives shape, form, composition, size and pattern
Chromatic Perceives colour
Tactile Perceives touch and texture
Olfactory Perceives scents and odours
Gustatory Perceives tastes
Auditory Perceives loudness and pitch
Baric Perceives weight
Thermic Perceives temperature
Stereognostic Perceives shapes
? How the Materials Respond to the Natural Development of the Child
In the prepared Montessori environment, there are materials which response to the natural development of the child. For each Sense there are materials in the Sensorial area which isolate the particular qualities perceived by the sense organ for the child’s exploration. These materials are designed to meet universal needs of developing children hence the Sensorial Area will look the same in any Casa in any culture throughout the world.
Each material is available to the child’s for concrete manipulation, engaging the hands in meaningful work to the exploration by the sense. The child then learns valuable information encapsulated in the materials through his experience with the materials. This can be seen through the use of materials like Bells for auditory sense, Cylinder Blocks and Red Rods for visual, Tasting Bottles for gustatory just to mention a few.
These materials are designed specifically to aid the natural development of their specific sense.
? The senses that are helped by the Montessori Sensorial materials
? GENERAL AIMS
? Help the mind to organise, order and classify the impressions received from the environment.
? Refine the senses
In the Sensorial area, materials are available for the child to explore and manipulate. Through the exploration of the materials and through the structure of sensorial work, the child is able to further refine the sensory perceptions he is gathering in his daily experience. For example, the rough and smooth board exercise is designed to give children a clear idea of the roughness of the object’s surface. Each piece of the material has a different degree of roughness, with the most coarse and delicate touches clearly different. This directly assists the work of the Sensitive Period for the Development and Refinement of Sensory Perceptions and gives clearer and more accurate understanding of specific characteristics of various things in reality.
? Build a store of abstract concepts
Children have abstract mind which is driven by their tendencies for exploration. This abstract conception is then explored and manipulated through the objects in the sensorial area to be made real. These Sensorial materials enable the child to grasp some abstract concepts, such as weight, size, odour and so on into realization and help them into classification. Dr. Montessori explains more on this by stating “Abstract ideas are synthetic conceptions of the mind which, detached from actual objects, abstract from them, qualities held in common which do not exist of themselves but exist in the actual things. For example, weight is an abstraction; it does not exist by itself, only heavy objects exist. The sense material may certainly be considered from this point of view as materialized abstraction. It presents colour, dimension, form, odour, sound, in a tangible and distinct manner and arranged in grades which permit of the classification and analysis of qualities”. (The Discovery of the Child, p. 186, 187). Through his interactive exploration of the quality in the material, he constructs the generalized abstraction which organizes his previous perceptions.
? Offer a key for further exploration
The child is able to answer some curiosity through the manipulation and exploration of the sensorial materials. This exploration and manipulation further gives the child an insight into many things and pave the way for further exploration through the knowledge acquired. The sensory materials they have been exposed to and practiced help them accumulate knowledge and lay the foundation for their future education, which provides the child with a key for further exploration.
? Increase perception of the world
The child’s continuous working and exploration of the sensorial materials help him build knowledge and increases his perception of things in the world. This exploration and manipulation further gives the child an insight into many things and pave the way for further exploration through the knowledge acquired. Thus the child becomes more informed and understand his environment well to purposefully explore more and affect it.
? Build the intelligence
The Sensorial Area in the Prepared Environment helps the child’s continuous working and exploration of the materials which enables him build knowledge. Maria Montessori believed that, the child builds intelligence through their experiences via the senses. Children are able to learn to order and classify impressions through touching, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening and exploring the materials in their environment. These Sensorial materials also provide a foundation for the child to build on in mathematics and language because they provide the platform for observation, comparison and judgment for their intelligence.
? Develop a scientific approach to learning
The sensorial materials as said, provide a foundation for the child to build on, in mathematics and language. This is done through the senses. Children use their senses to make observations about materials and the environment. They will then compare and contrast items or pictures based on senses and make inferences in the similarities and differences between the items. Some scientific tools like magnifying glass are used in the sensorial are for their exploration and manipulation.
? An aid in detecting some developmental defects
The Montessori materials play a significant role in detecting developmental defects in the child. The child has eyes and ears which doesn’t change. The thing that changes is the ability of the child to use the eyes and ears to see and hear well. The child in this sensitive period, has to build some structures in the brain which help him to see differences in things. When the child in his sensitive periods cannot adequately pair, contrast, sort, judge and grade things even after careful presentations and sensory exercises by the directress, show some developmental defects which give enough information for the directress to address.
SOME COMMON FEATURES OF THE SENSORIAL MATERIALS
? Isolate a quality
In the isolation of quality, the child’s abstract idea is put into a concrete idea by focusing on the exact exploration and keeping other qualities constant. In this way the child is able and readily concentrate on the designated quality for exploration. For example, Dr. Montessori took the pink tower and made it same color with different sizes. In this case when the child is working, the child is only concentrating on the sizes with the color and other qualities being constant. Distractions and confusions are thereby eliminated or kept to the barest minimum with the maximum focus on the isolated material quality.
? Isolate a sense
In isolation of senses of by the Montessori materials, the work of the child is concentrated through on the sense being refined. “Part of the technique of training the senses consists in isolating the sense to be exercised . Thus, for example, when we are about to indicate differences in touch, it is well to remove visual impressions from the child. This can be done by darkening the room or covering the eyes with a band. But in other instances silence is required.” (The Discovery of the Child, p. 180, Clio Press, Oxford). The other senses are eliminated or kept constant while the child is exploring and manipulating the materials. For example, touch impressions within a visual material is kept constant where as the visual perception is engaged. Non-visual materials keep visual information uniform for the same reason. Thus a material for the sense of touch can be explored with closed eyes or blindfolded. It’s the same way that when the child is working on the bells, the visual information are kept constant for the auditory exercise. The child therefore is able to concentrates on the information specific to the targeted sense.
? Aesthetically pleasing
The materials in the sensorial must be pleasing to the child so as to invite or capture the child’s imagination to explore them. Dr. Montessori put it that “The objects is that they are attractive. Colour, brightness, and proportion are sought in everything that surrounds a child. Not only the sensorial material but also the whole environment is so prepared that it will attract him, just as in nature coloured blossoms attract insects to drink the nectar which they conceal. …..At any particular moment a child is attracted to the object that corresponds to his greatest need at the time. In the same way the petals of all the flowers in an open field are calling other living beings to themselves with their colours and perfumes, but each insect chooses the blossom that was made for it.” (The Discovery of the Child, p. 105, 106, Clio Press, Oxford).
Thus all old and broken materials be put away with new and attractive ones for the kids to use.
? Scientifically designed
The Sensorial materials are specially made to help the child to focus on one or more sense on a particular property of matter through a purposeful activity. To help the child in achieving this sensorial materials are made in a precise scientific manner in order to be able to abstract both a prepared child and materials with these characteristics are needed. These designs also helps the child in preparing for mathematics in the later stages in Montessori house.
In the Prepared Environment, we mostly have limited quantity as the principle of having only one of each exercise available to the children. There is only one material for each isolated quality. However, although there is only one materialization of that quality for the child to explore, through its design there are many levels of exploration possible with that one material. This limit channels the child’s purposeful activity into deeper levels of exploration, discovery and also helps to exercise patience and feel special. The child thinks I must have a good operation if I get it. This enable the child to focus his mind to order and to make it easy for him to understand the number of things which surround him.
? Offer activity and Prepare for other activities
The child in his sensitive period has the urge for movement and interest in his environment. This urge propels him towards activities and the use of the Sensorial materials gives him the platform to do this well and purposefully. The materials in the Sensorial Area are therefore designed to offer activities through presentations, the freedom to repeat it, the exercises, variations employed and the games used. He learns to classify the materials through pairing, grading and sorting the materials which prepares him for further exploration and manipulations.
? Control of Error
The child in his course of work and exploration has an innate desire to make a maximum effort to complete his task and achieve experience from his work. To do this, he needs the freedom to explore in the Prepared Environment which motivates his conscious learning and repetition in order to meet his learning goals independently. If there is something in the material telling him something is wrong, then his Human Tendency will help to push the child to get things right by repeating. This helps the child to gains understanding, clarity of judgment and sensorial refinement. It also builds his experience in knowing that ‘mistakes’ are sometimes inevitable and necessary for one to achieve perfection.
OVERALL PLAN FOR INTRODUCING MATERIAL
The Sensorial area assists the child to educate his senses. While much of this type of education occurs naturally in the child’s life, the Sensorial area helps to isolate and further refine specific sensory impressions in an ordered way. The key to introducing sensory material is to show how to do it. In introducing, we focus on how to it by demonstrating and emphasizing on actions through body language and not through language. First the place we do the presentation and demonstrating is very important. We sometimes need mat or on a table. The handling of the materials are also very important as it send messages to the observing kids in how to also handle them. During the presentation, the child has the absorbent mind to absorb and process the information given to him and can then proceed to do his own independent work. We should let the kids explore, give them the opportunities to keep their interests and observe their proficiency in order to introduce some new concepts as well as games and language.
? Offering Contrasts
In Sensorial presentation, we first introduce elements in the material which represent the most contrast or the extremes of the quality. Example, rough and smooth; hot and cold; the loudest and softest volume of sound; the most contrasting geometric shapes, smells, tastes; etc. Having identified the extremes in the set, the child can then explore the intermediary variables between the extremes.
Pairing is done on objects based on their perceived similarities across multiple sensory modalities. Thus by finding identical variables and matching them into groups. This is common about Sensorial materials in the prepared environment and these pairing activities enable kids to establish identities among differences and become conscious of the physical properties of the object that holds that quality.
In grading we find when possible, according to the sense quality by exploring and confirming the relationship among the variables. This is mostly done after pairing because pairing is simpler than grading and is the simplest of those two. The purpose of grading is to become conscious that each of the properties exists in a number of degrees of intensity. The nature of the activity is arranging the objects in series, according to the maximum similarity.
In the sensorial activities, language provides a rich source of vocabularies which the child use to discover and manipulate the sensorial materials for his development. When a new challenge or level of interest with a material is sought, Language is presented in the context of the Three Period Lesson.
• Stage 1 (the First part of the ‘Three Period Lesson’)
• The names are given to help the child abstract and retain the figure from the child kinesthetic experience into her cognition.
• Stage 2 (the Second part of the ‘Three Period Lesson’)
• The child follows a series of instructions to consolidate those concepts and act on the auditory processing that she received at Stage 1.
• Stage 3 (the Third part of the ‘Three Period Lesson’)
• The child is asked to verbally express card/material to confirm that he has associated the corresponding sounds with the new form explored at Stage 1.
The three period lesson is also use to expand the language of relationships: Comparative language names the relationship between any two variables in the series eg “Larger”; “Smaller”, “Louder”; “Softer”. Superlative language names the extremes of three or more variables in the series – eg “Largest”; “Smallest” “Loudest”; “Softest”.