‘Interrupt the deviation; and give them something interesting to do’
Rita Schaefer Zener – AMI Primary Teacher Training Course 1981-82
The refresher course in Tampa this year was hugely productive for me. Ginni Sackett, my trainer from MINW in Portland, was the presenter for the Primary level and she is very engaging and an excellent communicator. I often return from the refresher courses with an overwhelming feeling of needing to change things, but this year most of the urge had more to do with philosophical implications of our work as opposed to practical ones. (More on that to come later)
There are many parts of Ginni's presentation that I am still processing, but one aspect of the course that had immediate applications to the classroom was a good old reminder of the importance (and existance!) of the sensorial memory games. I had a good look at our sensorial materials after returning. Some of our 5 year old materials have taken a little bit of a beating, and I spent some time giving them care and repair. (For any of you out there with leaky metal thermic bottles, for example, we solved the problem by pouring in about a 1/4 inch of liquid epoxy and let it cure for 24 hours. Problem solved!)
Ginni tied the importance of these games to the process of connecting children with sensorial reality, especially in the face of a popular culture "invasions." Because they respond to children's natural developmental needs and human tendencies, they are meant to be very attractive to the children. They are a great way to deepen a child's work with the sensorial materials once they have lost interest in the original presentation, or on the other hand, to extend the work of a child who is very interested.
To reignite interest in the games, I added a tray of new "sensorial markers" to the shelf (a quartz crystal, a cross section of a geode, and a smooth piece of galena), and bought two new blindfolds from Montessori Services.
I reviewed my albums and Ginni's handouts and made a list of the memory games:
*Games in 2 locations- This is a game for matching or grading at a distance. The child sets up the work on two rugs or two tables that are far apart from each other. With a marker, the child selects one of the items and then walks to the other set and finds the corresponding object (for pairing.) For grading, the child places one set of the materials at one table and brings them to order on another table (or rug) one at a time.
Ex. The geometry cabinet. I don't see very much repetition in my room of the orginal geometry cabinet presentation and this game helps keep children's interest. We use the cards a lot as well. I am interested in presenting this with grading a lot more than I have been for older children who still love to work with the pink tower, for example, but could use a bit more challenge.
*Games in scattered locations- One set of the materials is placed on a table or rug, and the other is scattered in different places around the room. Or the materials are brought to graded order at one table from mixed locations. (The group has to be prepared for this game so that a child's work that's spread out all over a room can be respected. )
*Matching materials to the environment- the isolated quality of the materials is matched to the environment by either bringing the matches to a table (like objects that match a particular color tablet), or taking the material to the environment (like laying a red rod across a shelf that has the same length).
Ex: Bells. I heard of people matching the bells to the environment and thought that was really fantastic. I haven't tried it yet, but am curious if we would have matches for all the bells within our classroom. More typically what I see in my room is matching the color tablets and a few times the red rods. I'm sure that with some presenting some of the children could enjoy matching dimensions of the pink tower, and the color box 3 tablets among other materials.
*Group games- Materials are shared among a small group and brought to order by either pairing or grading.
Ex. I've found that this game is a great way to bring attention back to the purpose of the material and reinforce its correct use. We play group games with the sound cylinders (why do children like to build with them so much?), color tablets (make such great small fences), and the pink tower.
*Memory game with language- This game is played with one child or a small group. The teacher says the name of the material or a quality of the material (for example, "The largest"), and the child brings it. We play this game a lot in small groups since most of the children in our environment are not native English speakers we rely a lot on language games as enrichment of vocabulary. It can also be played with writing for children who can read.