Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Less is more.

I had been experimenting with dramatic reductions in the amount of materials available to the children for the last month. Then, at the AMI refresher course this weekend, the presenter, Annette Haines, said something that really struck me:

"Repetition comes naturally IF the environment is limited enough."

We have a large group of new children this year, all very young three year olds and although it's February, I had been leaning on a lot of transitional materials that I still felt these new children needed to sustain a 3 hour work period. Of course, as it happens with transitional materials (Legos, puzzles, etc.) the older children also end up working with them instead of with other materials. A few weeks ago I decided to just "see what happens" and took away all of the transitional materials, including some of the art works that are ALWAYS out. Not necessarily because I have anything against these materials (ie. clay, crayons, blocks) I still feel that they do have a place in the classroom and are educational, but what would happen without these staples?

I saw someone choose the red rods for the first time in AGES. That was one thing that happened. Explorations with the pink tower and brown stair deepened as children began to work with them more freely (the kind of exploration they had been doing with blocks.) A return to practical life happened when there were none of the automatic "go to" materials on the art shelf. And yes, aside from all these very positive occurrences, there was a slight fluctuation in amount of works out during the day (it took some children time to wander to rediscover the materials on other shelves that they had forgotten were there.)

I had thought that the refresher course was going to end up being a reminder of how all the Montessori materials are woven together into a perfect web of indirect preparations and interconnectivity. I guess what I wanted was the lecture that my trainer at MINW gave us in our last session of training, which inspired me to trust in the value of each material as part of an inter related whole that is the Montessori classroom, without needing to rely on additives.

Yesterday I returned to my classroom feeling strongly about the outcome of the past week's experiments. Feeling more emboldened in the pruning of the shelves, instead of the ever adding-on. Reaching out and not feeling a limit to the depth that the materials presented to me so many years ago have to offer. I am welcoming the mystery of all I have yet to learn about what is right in front of me.


N from the Learning Ark said...

Great reminder & lovely post! As teachers we often get lost in adding more to the classroom when in fact the classroom runs better on limited materials. A few years ago we also cut back on the materials and the change in the children was amazing.

nichole said...

I agree. That's one of the aspects of the Montessori environment that actually stresses me out. To much to choose from! :) I've asked myself many times, "Do we really need so much?"

Oftentimes, I think not.

Laura S. said...

Susanne, Thx for the post. Nice to see you reflecting directly on classroom matters again! I'm wincing, though, because the last two weeks I've added to the shelves. Great reminder to trust in the materials.

2 little seeds- The Montessori Potential said...

Thanks for this post! It is very timely because I'm in the process of setting up a new home-school Montessori environment for my daughter since we have moved away from where her Montessori school was. I was fretting a bit over how much less choice in materials she will have in the new space. Now I feel much better about our situation! (now should I take away the art supplies and move them to a cupboard somewhere, hmmmmm!)

Anonymous said...

I believe in the "less is more" idea to a certain extent. I have apprehensions when we cut out a whole vital segment of a classroom, i.e. creative expression. The ideal is to meet the needs of the individual child and allow the child's inherent concentration and contentment to grow in a holistic manner.

Llama_school said...

Timely post!
I am moving to a new classroom at our large and well-established school of four 3-6 classrooms, and have always felt that the feng-shui is off in this particular room. I was wondering if a good deal of honing of materials might help, and you've inspired me to go for it.
And, that's a beautiful photograph.

Elsa said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am glad to say I learnt something today.