“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Let me do and I’ll understand!”-Confucius
Many of us are familiar with this quotation as it rings true with many of us. As we go about our daily lives how often do we actually use it as a means of helping to share information or to learn and teach?In our busy lives we may just quickly tell a work colleague how to do something before moving on. We later become frustrated when they ask the same question the next day. If we had showed them how to do it, guided them when they tried it for themselves and then stood back to make sure they could do it unaided, they would not have needed to ask again. It is always worth investing the time at the start; this not only gives you more time later, but leaves the learner feeling more confident and valued.It is the same with children. It can be argued that it was because Maria Montessori realised, through her own observations, the significance of the idea of this quote with her first children, the widespread success of her philosophy and method occurred. The children under her care were considered what we call today ‘special needs’ children, but they passed the exams set for children attending the mainstream schools at the time. She provided opportunities and materials for the children to learn through movement, through their hands and senses. Children were shown how to undertake skills like buttoning and encouraged to explore and feel materials.
When children play with objects, they gain what Piaget called a ‘physical knowledge’ of the object, if they are given the opportunity to explore further they then can start to understand relationships between objects for example, long and short, ‘Logico-mathematical knowledge’.
Our Montessori environments at The Children’s House in Overton and Steventon are set up with this in mind and we use many of the materials Maria Montessori designed herself.
When working with the geometric solids, one of the earlier materials, children at The Children’s House, learn the properties through exploring them first and working out which ones they can build with or roll. They may then go on to find similar objects before being given the proper names of the solids, for example sphere, cylinder and cube.
We show children how and then give them the freedom to practice as many times as they need. They are often so pleased with themselves when they have achieved it all by themselves and show a real sense of pride.
It is often the temptation of the adult to rush and help a child, but we need to think what may the child gain if we don’t.
The adult in the Montessori environment plays a vital role as the link between the child and the activities.
If all our children were given the time and space to explore and investigate ideas, concepts and materials, rather than being told to memorise facts, I am sure our children would understand so much more about the environment they live in.