Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Unispiring geometric solids? Not anymore!!

I must admit that our Geometric Solids have been rarely used in our classroom, probably because it didn't inspire the children.  The children have been introduced to the names of each solids but this is not a popular activity. I had been thinking about extending the exercise but never gor around it until I finally got onto   Montessori for Everyone and downloaded a set of matching cards to be used in conjunction with the geometric solids.  The set of cards depicts each of the Geometric Solids with several corresponding photos for each shape. The photos represent objects in the child’s environment/community. I made a set of 10 labelled geometric solid cards to be placed under each solid and a set of 30 picture cards for sorting. I placed them all in a basket, right beside the geometric solids on our sensorial shelves. The child will be asked to first match the geometric solid cards to the solids. Then, he picks the set of picture cards and places each one of them under their corresponding solid.

Picture borrows from Montessori Albums

The first thing I do is to bring a child to the sensorial shelves and tell him/her that I am going to show him/her how to work with a new piece of material.

  1.   I use the work cycle to present the exercise
  2. At the start of the lesson, we first place the solids horizontally from left to right on the top of the mat.  I then re-introduce the names of the solids. As I go over each name, I point at the name labelled on the cards.  
  3.  I introduce the matching Geometric Solid cards and show the child how to match them to the solids.

  4. Once the child is successful with the first set of cards, I then invite her to sort the remaining picture cards underneath.  Everytimethe child places a card underneath a solid card,   I ask her/him why she/he does so, enticing her/him to think about the shape and its characteristics. Once child placed the tent under the rectangular prism and when asked why, he said: “well, it has a rectangle shape here and a triangle shape here. And I have slept in a tent before with my Mam and Dad, so I know”.  This comment spurred a flow of other comments from the children who eagerly shared their own experience.

Once the exercise is completed, I show the child how she could turn the cards around and check for herself if her work was correct. Each card is colour-coded for control of error. I then show her how to tidy up the picture cards first from left to right, row by row. Then we pick up the labelled geometric cards from left to right. We place all the cards back in their basket. We then pick up all the solids from left to right and place them all in their basket. Both baskets are then returned to the sensorial shelves.  

I have to admit, this is not a table top activity and I should have presented the exercise on the floor. There is always room for improvement!!! All in all though, I found this activity absolutely brilliant for several reasons:
  • During one of my many  presentations, many children gathered up around Millie ( 4 years old) and myself. I was surprised with the visual impact the cards created once they were all laid out with the Geometric Solids.  In fact, throughout the lesson, several children in the classroom came to see what the "new work" was and I heard more remark, "Oooh, what's that?  I want to do that!"  It was heartening to see a new interest develop in the Geometric Solids sparked by this set.
  • Children may make several observations about this work. This activity was brilliant to begin discussions.  First of all, the children realised quickly that certain shapes are much more likely to occur in nature (ellipsoids) while others are much more likely to occur in human made construction (pyramids). And the ones made by men are much harder to find than the others. It was wonderful to see the children speculate as to why that is, and brainstorm about other examples of each of these types of solids.
  •  The children’s range of vocabulary as we revised the names of all the solids and compared them to their day-to-day usage. For instance, people commonly refer to any structure that starts broadly and ends narrowly as a pyramid (a child’s tower of blocks, for example).
  • The children know to spot the differences between a square-based pyramid and a triangular pyramid. It got the children to look at the details of each shape more carefully by comparing and matching. So if you want to stimulates your children’s awareness of geometric shapes, this is the way to go!
  • The activity  introduces them to mathematical concepts (geometry)
  • And believe it or not, but the whole exercise indirectly introduces children to art appreciation as they learn about the specific characteristics of each solid.
Ok... as I am studying like mad at the moment for my Montessori Degree, I decided to link this activity to theory. So, you may want to quit the reading of this post right here as it is going to get a bit "boring" for some of you!!! But believe me, it is a great practising exercise for me. So just bear with me!!

"Teachers in general are continually looking for ways to guide students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. Contemporary research has demonstrated that pre-schoolers need opportunities to explore their world and experience mathematics. There are 3  fundamental mathematical concepts that form the building blocks of mathematical and scientific knowledge: matching, classification, order & seriation.  The development of these concepts allows the children to organize and categorize information so that when they start formal schooling, they begin to apply fundamental concepts by exploring ideas both in maths and science (Charlesworth and Lind, 1999). The constructivist paradigm based on Piaget’s (1955) theory of cognitive development has long provided a framework for  educational practices in which children gain concepts trough involvement with the environment and construct their knowledge as they explore their surroundings. This means using manipulative materials that enable children to engage in active learning. Using pictures of objects that can be found in the children’s everyday life gives them the right experience in assessing the different characteristics of the solids and help the children to place them in their environment.

Also, having a print rich, or literacy rich environment is an important aspect of a child’s literacy education. According to one study, exposure to written language helps children develop a number of things including: awareness of print, phonemic awareness, letter naming, listening comprehension and eventually word reading. (Gunn, Simmons, & Kameenui, 1995, 3). Marie Clay (Teale & Sulzby, 1986) was the first person to introduce the term emergent literacy to describe the behaviors used by young children with books and printed words, even though the children could not actually read and write in the conventional sense. Mary Clay suggests that literacy development begins way before children start formal instruction in elementary school (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Children have been found to learn about written language as they actively engage with adults in reading and writing situations; as they explore print on their own; and as they observe others around them engaged in literacy activities (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). For example, when hearing me say the word “ellipsoid” a few times and pointing at the printed word at the same time, the children are not just memorizing the word, but actually learning that printed words carry a meaning. And this is why labelling is very important. In a Montessori environment,  we use lots of nomenclatures and 3 part-cards with words printed on the cards. Just like in this activity. Repetition will provide experience for the children and help them associate the printed word with its meaning or what it represents."

 I hope I make sense!