Today I’d like to introduce you to Linda Karchmar. Linda is a now retired Montessori Guide who owned her own school for 28 years, and taught for 32 years. She has a wonderful online store where she is selling materials from her school, including lots of lovely Practical Life items! You can also find children’s books, ready-to-go activities, and themed materials. Click here to check out Linda’s Montessori Shop
The Lesson by Linda Karchmar
Montessori is a lot of things – the philosophy, the materials, the beautiful and calm environment, but without The Lesson, it won’t all come together.
The Lesson is one of the MOST important parts of Montessori to master. It isn’t easy!
Anyone who has gone through a Montessori program such as AMI or AMS will tell you about the hours of practice just to pour rice from one jug to the other, or to spoon from one bowl to the other! Hours practicing building the Pink Tower, counting the Number Rods, and writing down each step we took. This is how we mastered The Lesson long before we sat down with a child (which was a whole new experience!)
Through these most important lessons, the child gains freedom in the classroom, to conquer independence and self-discipline.
Before you even give the lesson, you must make sure the activity is interesting, appealing, and offers a challenge without frustration. The lesson must be clear, so that every movement is seen and understood by the child. This is done by careful analysis of your own movements prior to the lesson. These movements consist of a series of logical and subsequent actions which lead to the completion of the exercises. The lesson is given in virtual silence, so that the child’s attention is focused on your action, not your voice.
Here is an example of a lesson I wrote for myself in my AMI training:
Materials: Small tray, 2 breakable, matching jugs of equal size, one ¾ filled with rice
1. Bring the child to the shelf, show him the activity, naming it “This is pouring rice! I’m going to show you how to do this activity”
2. Carry the tray carefully to the table, with two hands. Place the tray quietly on the table, somewhat in front of the child’s dominant side.
3. Show the child the contents of the jugs
4. Pick up the jug on the right by the handle, with your right hand (we are assuming the child is right handed if we don’t know for sure)
5. Steady the jug with your left hand by placing 2-3 fingers under the spout. (choose one or the other and always present the same way)
6. Center the spout over the empty jug
7. Tip the jug and pour slowly at first, making sure the rice flows through the spout into the center of the jug.
8. Look into the jug in your right hand to see that all the rice has been poured out.
9. Place the empty jug on the tray
10. Turn the tray so that the jug with the rice is once again on your right side.
11. Repeat the lesson.
12. Invite the child to have a turn “Would you like to try?”
NOTE: if any rice is spilled, show the child how to pick up each grain using a pincer movement
Some people prefer to return the tray to the shelf before inviting the child to have a turn, thus totally completing the cycle.
Point of Interest:
· Placing the left hand fingers below the spout
· seeing and hearing the rice pour from the jug into the empty jug
· turning the tray
· centering the jug
· checking to see that all the rice has been poured
· preliminary to pouring water
· controlled action (hand-eye co-ordination)
· Indirect preparation of the fingers need for writing by picking up the grains of rice with a pincer movement
Age: 2.5-3 years
Variations: (After the initial activity has been mastered)
· Pick up both jugs, one in each hand, and pour the rice from the right jug into the left jug. Place the now empty jug on the left side of the tray, and the now full jug on the right side of the tray.
· Replace rice with beans or other substance suitable for dry pouring
A lot of repetition went into preparing this lesson!
After 30 years of pouring rice and giving lessons I would like to add: Before you start, have the child either grasp his hands together under the table, or place them on top of each other under the table. If the child starts to go for the activity before you finish your lesson, stop what you are doing, gently remind him to put his hands under the table, and place your left hand on top of his hands “remember – hands under the table!” (very quietly!). Don’t restart the lesson until he is ready. Sometimes the children are distracted from the lesson by another child. In which case you would freeze (or set down what you are doing) until his attention comes back to your lesson (you may have to whisper his name), and then continue the lesson once you have his attention. At no time should you chastise him for not looking or being distracted, just continue as soon as you have him again. Eventually, if you follow this every single time you give a lesson, the child will automatically place his hands under the table to show he is ready for the lesson.
Do as I do is the Montessori way. Lead by example. Therefore if you show a child how to hold a tray, bowl or basket by two hands, that’s what you need to do every time you carry a tray bowl or basket! If you show the children how to tuck in a chair when leaving your chair, you have to do it the same way every single time!! It’s all part of the lesson!
Here are some lessons in pictures. I have included a small group lesson with solids, done the same way as a table lesson, except I am across from the children, and there is more talking, since it is a language lesson.
Also, you will need to decide if the lesson is only for one child, or if others can watch. In this case, all the children watching were experienced second or third year children, and they were allowed to watch without making any sounds. They were also allowed to choose the work that I showed to the first child. I would observe when they chose the work, and if I felt they need a re-presentation, then I would give them an “official” lesson. I would never do this with a first year child. I would also give a large group lesson from time to time, to the whole class (or those who wanted it, some of the younger children would leave).
I had a small “floor table” that I would put in front of me, or use a carpet. Group lessons were usually interactive, where the children could take turns. Here is one on tasting different kinds of potatoes. The activity is then placed on the shelf for those who attended the group lesson.
In conclusion – never underestimate the power of The Lesson! Always do what you have shown the child to do! PRACTISE the lesson before you give it! Notice or record all the steps you need to take. If you give fantastic lessons, everything else should fall into place. Remember – a lesson is a GIFT to the child!
About Linda Karchmar
What does a retired Montessori Directress who has taught for 32 years, and who owned her own school for 23 years do when she retires? Does she go off to travel the world? Live in Hawaii? Put her feet up with a glass of wine? None of the above! She starts up an online store to sell the materials in her school to other Montessori schools, and homeschoolers.
Hi! My name is Linda Karchmar, and I am that retired Montessori Directress who decided to open an online store, called Linda’s Montessori Shop, in the fall of 2013, after retiring and closing my school. I have a garage and a storage locker full of materials, and my basement is full of about 2,000 children’s books. I wanted to share my materials and books with others who may need them. Montessori materials are expensive, especially the good quality ones that will last a long time. I know this because I have quite a few of those that have done very well over the past years, and still look almost new. All of the items I am selling are half price or less than new.
Practical Life! I love wandering around garage sales and Goodwill stores to find all those special, one-of-a-kind jugs, bowls, and trays. I’ve got a ton of those!
So, instead of sitting on the beach in Florida, or traveling to Paris with my hubby, I am staying put, and hoping to be of some benefit to those of you who are still out in the working/teaching world. Please stop by my Linda’s Montessori Shop or come say hi on Facebook. You can also find me on Pinterest. If you are already in the wonderful Montessori Facebook groups that I belong to, I will probably see you there!