This is the third installment of the Montessori Sensitive Periods series. You may also want to read the intro, post on order, and post on movement. Also, if you have any questions about Montessori or Montessori discipline, parenting or the like, please email me and your question could be a Montessori column here on Swiss Lark. Thank you.
Sensory perception is the sensitive period related to all forms of sensation or receiving impressions through our senses. Touch, sight, hearing, tasting and smelling. Of course children are in most cases are born with all of these senses. The sensitive period is focused on the refinement of these senses.
Montessori discovered that the best way to refine and perfect the five senses was to isolate the senses and qualities that they perceive. It drives me nuts how on educational videos for kids, they're always mismashing qualities perceived by the senses. For example, they'll be doing colors and shapes at the same time. A red triangle, a blue square. These things need to be learned separately. It's important for a child to understand what quality makes a square a square before focusing on the color of the square. Make sense?
The child in the photo above is feeling geometric shapes from the geometric cabinet. The shapes are all blue, coincidentally, but that is not discussed by the teacher during the lessons. If the child notices it, it is acknowledged, of course, but color is not the focus, shape is. By making the shapes all the same color, their difference in shape is highlighted as the quality that makes them different.
Before names are assigned to the shapes, they are understood through extensive feeling and seeing. There are matching exercises (done without a blindfold!) and feeling exercises. Then, once the shapes are understood on a sensory level, the names are introduced with a three-period lesson.
The Sensorial area is my favorite in the Montessori classroom. There is a tasting exercise in which children match seemingly identical liquids based on how they taste. There are exercises for listening, smelling, tactile and then complex puzzles that the children become ready for through refined recognition of shape.
One story goes that in the first classroom, Montessori brought in a worker to repair a window pane. As he brought the glass through the room, the children remarked that it was too big and wouldn't fit. He scoffed at them, and when he got it over to the window, it was about an inch too big. Montessori thought it remarkable that the children could see that and put it down to exceptional refinement of sensory perception, gained from the materials she had designed herself! ;)
So I really must apologize for not posting this yesterday. I tried to write it - several times! But something very exciting happened and I was too distracted to even focus on it at all. Hopefully I'll be able to share it with you soon! ;) Please leave your questions or reaction in the comments! xo