Dr. Maria Montessori believed that there is nothing in the intellect which first does not exist in the senses. She based her method of teaching young children considering the fact that a child between two to six years passes through the ‘sensitive period for the refinement of senses’ along with the others and they can be helped in the development of the senses while they are in this formative period. In order to serve this purpose Dr. Maria Montessori introduced a subject called ‘Sensorial’ where the materials are specially designed to enable the children to use their senses to explore different attributes of the world. It is not fully correct to say that Dr. Montessori was the first person to realize the importance of sense training for a child. She was greatly influenced by the ideas of his two predecessors – Jean Itard and Eduoard Seguin. She took the idea of introducing didactic materials and the three period name lessons to the child in Sensorial curriculum from Seguin. In fact, it was Seguin who first followed the scientific method of teaching which was later adopted by Dr. Montessori in a more concise and modified form. She also took the idea of isolating one sense and highlighting it through one presentation from her predecessors.
Though the idea of didactic materials is taken from Seguin, Dr. Montessori modified them based on her observations of the children. By Didactic materials we mean the materials which are self-corrective and by the process of trial and error a child can achieve the end result without much assistance from the adult because of these didactic materials in Sensorial. This is basically known as ‘Auto Education’.
All the sensorial materials involve the use of the hands in a
classifying act. For example: visual classification of dimensions. The hand and the mind act together making a mental connection between an abstract idea and its concrete representation. The materials should be simple, direct aim being highlighted and the material is easy to understand. Children use these materials in spontaneous exercises. The sensorial materials are concrete bits of information which can be organized into meaningful patterns. The didactic nature of the material gives the children hands on experience with mathematical concepts. As teachers, we need to understand how children move towards understanding concepts and how different ways of using the materials match children evolving conceptual development.
An object possesses nine qualities as following:
8. Weight and
By using his all five basic senses i.e. visual sense, tactile sense, auditory sense, gustatory sense, olfactory sense and also using the additional senses like baric sense (sense of weight), thermic sense(sense of temperature) and stereognostic sense (sense of shape and size of an object by holding it with hands) the child explores all the nine qualities of an object but in separate sessions and also with separate materials. For example: a child using his tactile and visual sense explores different dimensions of an object i.e. height, diameter etc. in the presentations like Cylinder Blocks, Pink Tower, Brown Stairs and so on. He explores different intensities of colours using his visual sense in Colour Boxes. His auditory sense is enhanced while exploring different intensities of sound i.e. loud and soft in Sound Cylinders while he can differentiate between tow textures i.e. rough and smooth using his tactile sense in Touch Boards. In Baric Tablets, he gets a clearer perception of weight – light or heavy using his baric sense and so on.
Young children like to explore experiment, tinker and try new things. They like to touch and feel and manipulate objects. They feed their minds through activities. They learn through their senses to satisfy their insatiable appetite for things to do. Dr. Montessori designed her sensorial curriculum area considering these facts. The first of the child’s organs to begin functioning are his senses. It is necessary to begin the education of the senses in the formative periods, if we wish to perfect this sense development with the education to be followed. The education of the senses can start from infancy and should continue during the entire formative period to prepare a child for his future.
Sensorial materials not only provide the refinement of sense but it actually prepares the child for many other subjects which the child encounters afterwards. Sensorial activities are indirect preparation for Maths. Because in Sensorial, we deal mainly with different shapes and seizes like what we do in Geometry. There is an excellent way of introducing Geometry to a child at a very tender age by the presentations of Geometry Cabinet, Geometry Solids etc. in every presentation a child thinks logically or compares the materials with other to achieve the final goal. This actually sharpens the comparative study skills and logical thinking of a child. It indirectly prepares a child for Decimal system because most of the materials are ten in number. Sensorial also prepares a child for different aspects of Languages like Adjectives, Opposites and also new words by the three period name lesson given on each material. We prepare a child to write with the presentation of drawing insets and the knobs present in the materials being the thickness of a writing pencil prepares the hand for holding it.
The education of senses makes men observers. The child who has worked with the sensorial materials has not only acquired a greater skill in the use of senses but also guides his exploration of the outside world. The aim of sense training is not only that a child shall know the colours forms and textures but also that he refines his sense through an exercise of attention and through comparison.