5 tips to get Montessori children practicing lessons!

5 tips to get Montessori children practicing lessons!

How do I get my class to practice things independently?
Short answer: Normalisation
Long answer: see below!

Oh my word do I know what it is like giving a lesson and having the student not practice it. My 'favorite' bit is when said student walks around the room looking lost or interrupting other children!
Here are some things that I found worked in helping students practice works they had had lessons on. I am a big advocate of the portion of Montessori philosophy that says it is not okay for students to wander around all day doing nothing - this is especially important in Public Montessori classrooms where we often have to justify our pedagogy more and/or meet state regulations to get certain content taught in certain times!
Even with doing all these things independence might not happen, that is the wonder of the journey of normalisation. When normalisation happens children will joyfully choose work without prompting because it is something that interests them. Normalisation is a journey and we need to ensure the prepared environment we give the children helps them to be independent.

1) Is the lesson I gave appropriate for the child?

The state curriculum may say I have to teach something however a certain material might be too easy or hard for the child.
How can it be adjusted to meet the child's needs?
Do I need to find a different 'hook' or way to interest the child to that lesson?Perhaps a lesson on vertebrates could be related to the child's pets.
Does the child have an opportunity to 'opt' into lessons?
I like to offer a variety of lessons that children can opt into, along with the ones that I invite them to. This allows them more choice over their learning and helps them reflect on what they are interested in, and also gives you an insight into the psyche of the child. For example, if a child is constantly signing up for optional lessons it might mean that they are seeking more challenges. 

2) Are my expectations clear?

When I gave a lesson I made it clear what the expectation was and why I am giving it, e.g.
  • 'I expect this equipment to be practiced 3 times this week, please write it in your diary so I can check.' 
  • I am giving you this lesson because I can see you are really good at ______ and this is something that you can now do / is interesting/ ......
  • After you can do the stuff in this lesson the next thing we will be looking at is x, I have seen you look at Jane practicing x, I think you are interested in it
  • I'll check in with you this week/tomorrow to see how you are doing.
  • Can you please write it down in your work plan when you have done this?
3) Do children know where the equipment material is and how to check their answers?
This sounds basic but sometimes it really is that simple for some students. For my younger or more forgetful students I often walk with them to show them where the equipment or material lives on the shelf.
For some children fear of failure or not knowing how to check their work can be the big thing. In the first lesson I make it really clear how to check the work or how I will check it. 
4) Checking in with students to see they have done the required follow up work 
If you don't check in on students then they will become of the opinion that your words mean little. Checking in can take a variety of forms - conferencing (something I never managed to get done in a way I like!), a 'checking box' where children hand in completed work, meeting with children individually to check-in.  Whatever way you do it it has to be done, not only to show children that you have expectations but also to show that you care and you are genuinely interested in the child. Through individual conversation, the child may tell you things you hadn't thought of or allude to things about their learning, best of all one on one conversations are fantastic for continuing to build relationships!

5) Logical consequence

If a child doesn't practice things they have already had lessons on AND the lesson is something they need to practice and know how to do AND it is something within their 'ZPD' then I do not give any more lessons in that subject area. I make this clear to the child and politely and clearly explain why. In discussion they may say something about the lesson e.g. it is too hard, easy, boring, they don't know where it is (however I usually know this as I have already done step 4!)

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Rezwana Noorani - October 23, 2019

What an informative post! Very easy to understand and follow.. using this as a guide one can really "follow the child.. "amazing!!

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