Maren Schmidt: 3-period lessons help clarify

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Up to age 4, children are in a sensitive period for refining their senses. Children at this age are capable of learning to discern hundreds of qualities of the things around them.

Perfect pitch is acquired before 6 years old. Too often, adults stop giving information after certain basics are mastered.

Take the names of shapes. When a child can identify circle, square and triangle, we tend to stop. Keep going. Show the shapes and names of other figures such as oval, ellipse, quatrefoil, curvilinear triangle, rectangle, trapezoid, rhombus, quadrilateral, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon and decagon.

We can do the same for solid figures: sphere, cube, pyramid, rectangular prism, cone, ellipsoid, ovoid, triangular prism and tetrahedron.

To introduce new information, isolating a quality of an object makes it easier to learn.

Let’s look at introducing the words for sphere, cube and pyramid. In an ideal situation the figures would be made of the same material, be the same color and be on the same size scale.

This would isolate the quality of shape. Using a green, 5-inch wooden cube along with a red vinyl beach ball and 1-inch-tall white plastic pyramid will not isolate the unique quality of each figure.

Instead, other qualities including size, color and material will be shown with the figure. Isolating one essential quality helps learning occur faster and with less confusion.

I sympathize with 3-year-olds. Fast and confusing language is directed at our children when so much is new. Isolating a quality took on a new importance for me when I was learning a new language.

To introduce new words, showing three things at a time seems to work well. Two items are not challenging enough, and four can be too many.

A Montessori technique is the three-period lesson. It goes like this:

First period: Introduction.

This is a circle. This is a square. This is a triangle.

Second period: Show me.

Show me the triangle. Show me the square. Show me the circle.

We do many repetitions with the second period of the lesson, using a variety of expressions, such as: Put the circle in my hand. Place the triangle on the table. Carry the square to the chair.

Third period: The test.

Point to the object and ask: What is this?

If the child knows it, add more information. If not, return to the second period of the lesson.

When working with children, remember that the main objective is to build a loving and trusting relationship. It is not about whether they can give you the right answer now.

If a child tells you a square is a circle, avoid saying “No, that is a square.” Be friendly with error. Put your finger near the circle and then say, “Show me the circle.” We want to assure success as we introduce new information to our children. It helps build trust and respect and thus true learning. Also, research shows that we remember new information best if it involves laughter. So have fun.

Sometimes we can do three periods of the lesson in one session. Other times, it may be weeks between the first and third periods. Take clues from the look in your child’s eyes. Three or four minutes per lesson are probably enough. Stop before your child becomes frustrated.

Learning sensory language can help your child cope more easily. If your child is a fussy eater or has temper tantrums, he or she may be on sensory overload. To analyze what triggers the behavior, begin by looking at your child’s sensory environment.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has more than 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers. Contact her at maren@kids

talknews.com or visit www.MarenSchmidt.com. Copyright 2010.

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