Areas of Curriculum
What is the purpose of the Practical Life area in a Montessori class room?
Practical Life exercises provide self help skills that lead to independence. They allow the child to take care of himself, others and environment. The movements required build self confidence as the child gains self mastery. Also, a foundational hand-eye coordination skill is being laid down as the children learn responsibility, order and sequencing. These exercises are most foundational. Once the child has these areas mastered the learning process is freed up by establishing order outside and inside the body. Now he is ready to proceed.
The materials in a Practical Life room are the most familiar to the children, there for appeal to them first. The experiences of Practical Life have objects and materials normally encountered in everyday living experiences such as cleaning, pouring, dressing, and polishing. The exercises of Practical Life fall into four major categories: Care of Self; Care of the Environment; Grace and Courtesy; and Control of Movement. Many are fundamental exercises that the child needs to master to be able to live comfortably in the real adult world.
Practical Life prepares the child for life experiences through purposeful work and is the gateway to all other activities in the classroom and life. In short it prepares the child for success.
Some of the terms you may hear the Montessorians use are: synthetic movement, motives of activity, isolation of difficulty, preliminary exercises, points of interest and motives of perfection. Let's take a closer look at each one of these terms. Synthetic movement, this means movement ordered and directed by the mind for an intelligent purpose. The children are making decisions and developing critical thinking skills and follow through. This is where thought, will and action come together (example, opening and closing containers and sorting objects.
Motives of activity, "The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child." This is a quote from Maria Montessori. She is talking about an environment with reason to move and work, an environment that attracts the child to explore and participate in exercises that facilitate the unfolding (not molding) of the child's spirit.
Isolation of difficulty, this means that the particular concept being taught is the ONLY concept being taught. Nothing distracting is shown to the student. If color should be a distraction then you would limit it by using all the same colors or natural wood. You would not want introduce any unnecessary words either.
Preliminary exercises; All future activities in the classroom depend on mastery of these exercises. These acts sound simple to an adult, but to a child they are complex tasks to be undertaken. Knowledge of the ground rules and ability to perform basic tasks allow the child to move confidently in his classroom environment while he is learning and developing. A child needs to know certain class rules and procedures for certain exercise; in other words, he must know that he can do something and how to do it, like carrying a mat and unrolling it in preparation for a job.
Points of Interest; these are sensory and attract the child to assimilate and categorize the experiences in his mind. This process is like little lights of energy going off in the child's brain. These synapses help propel the child forward in his intelligence level for life. For example, the feel of a sponge, sound of a brush, sudsy soap all get processed in a childs brain and cause him to want to know more. This is often exciting and fun and at times you will hear a burst of laughter in the room during a childs' discovery.
Motives for perfection; or control of error, this is when something in the material stands out to show an error. The child immediately wants to correct it and is able to on his or her own. When an error does occur and assistance is needed, the focus is on correcting the material not the child. This provides concrete built-in feed back that the child can assimilate through the senses. -and never forget.
All these terms are taken into consideration when developing an exercise and write-ups for the children. In summary the ultimate goal is to develop order, coordination, concentration and independence as a foundation for all future exercises. (O.C.C.I.)
-written by Erica Thomas