If you landed on this page, you might find this blog to be the least interesting. You might just scroll down without really going through the details. I do understand. I was hesitant to give you a lengthy list of all the materials without visuals. But if I do that, it would mean longer uploading time and you wouldn’t want that either.
It is my purpose is to provide you practical ways to apply the Montessori methodology. It is important that sensorial materials not just to inform you but to give you a deeper appreciation of the design of the Montessori materials. They were truly designed by a genius. This assumption was further expounded and narrated beautifully by Angeline Lillard’s in her book, Montessori : Science behind the Genius.
What is the sensorial area?
The sensorial area was designed to heighten awareness of the 5 senses, namely; the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch and hear. Montessori believed that the senses are the means to open the doors to a wide array of experiences for the young child.
Sense of Sight : Visual
The material which I have described serves to educate the eye to distinguish differences in dimension, for the child ends by being able to recognize at a glance the larger or smaller hole which exactly fits the cylinder which he holds in his hand
The sense of sight, or visual sense has the direct aim of teaching a child visual discrimination of dimension, volume, height and thickness. For children ages 3 to 6 years old the following Montessori materials could be presented:
- Pink Tower : a series of pink wooden cubes increasing progressively in size from 1 cubic centimeters to 10 cubic centimeters
- Brown Stairs : ten brown rectangular prisms of equal length (20 cm) increasing in height and width form 1 square centimeters to 10 square centimeters
- Red Rods : Ten wooden rods varying in length from 10 cm to 100 cm (1 meter)
- Cylinder Blocks : Four wooden blocks with ten cylinders in each one. Each cylinder fits into its corresponding socket and has a small knob on top
- Colored Tablets : has three boxes namely,
- BOX 1 : 3 pairs of wooden tablets: red, blue & yellow (Primary Colors)
- BOX 2 : 11 pairs of wooden tablets : red/blue/yellow/green/orange/purples/pink/ orange/brown/gray/white/black
- BOX 3 : 9 wooden sets of color tablets containing 7 shades of one color graded from the darkest to the lightest
- Geometric Solids : Nine solid geometrical forms : cube, cylinder, cone, sphere, ovoid, ellipsoid, rectangular prism, triangular prism, square-based pyramid, triangular-based pyramid
- Geometric Cabinet :
- Demonstration Tray – A wooden tray containing six wooden squares, three of which have insets of the three basic plabe figured : circle, square and triangle. These insets have a small knob un the center by which they are lifted.
- Geometric Cabinet – A wooden cabinet with six drawers each containing six divisions similar to those described for the demonstration tray. Each of the drawers contains insets of various geometric plane figures.
- Drawer 1 : 6 circles decreasing in diameter from 10 cm to 5 cm
- Drawer 2 : 6 triangles varying in angle and sides : equilateral, isosceles right angled, scalene obtuse-angled, scalene right angled, scalene acute angled.
- Drawer 3 : 6 rectangular figures one of which is a square. All rectangles have the same base which is equal to the side of the square.
- Drawer 4 : 6 regular polygons, pentagon hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon
- Drawer 5 : 4 quadrilateral figures : rhombus, parallelogram. trapezium trapezoid
- Drawer 6 : 4 irregular figures : oval, ellipse, quatrefoil, curvilinear triangle
- **Drawer 5 & 6 contain two plain squares having no insets or having one irregular triangle.
- Geometric Cards : Three sets of cards on which are printed the figures contained in the geometric cabinet (one figure on each card
- Set 1 : Cards that has the complete figure printed on the cards
- Set 2 : Cards that has the figure printed in outline only, with a broad line
- Set 3 : Cards has the figure printed in outline only, with a thin line
- Binomial Cube : A hinged wooden box containing eight cubes and prisms painted in various combinations of red, blue, black to represent the formula (a+b)³ Formula (a+b)³= a²+3a²b+3b²a+b²
- Trinomial Cube : A hinged woodenbox of red, hinged wooden box contains 27 cubes and prisms painted in various combinations to represent the formula (a+b+c)³ Formula: a³ + 3a²b + b³ + 3a²c + 6abc +3b²c + 3bc² + c³
- Power of Two : A hinged wooden box containing three yellow cubes, two rectangular prisms and two green square prisms.
- Constructive Triangles
- Rectangular Box :2 scalene right angled yellow triangles, 2 scalene right angled gray triangles, 2 scalene right angled green triangles, 2 isosceles yellow triangles and 2 isosceles green triangles, 1 scalene obtuse-angles red triangle, 1 scalene right angled red triangle, 2 equilateral yellow triangles
- Triangular Box: 1 gray equilateral triangle with no black lines, 2 green right angled triangles, 3 yellow isosceles obtuse-angled triangles and 4 red equilateral triangles
- Small Hexagonal box : 6 gray equilateral triangles, 2 red equilateral triangles, 3 green equilateral triangles, 1 large yellow equilateral triangles, 1 large yellow equilateral triangle (without lines) 6 red isosceles obtuse angled triangles.
- Large 2 red obtuse-angled isosceles triangles, 2 gray obtuse-angled isosceles triangles, 6 yellow obtuse-angled isosceles triangles and 1 yellow equilateral triangle
- Large Hexagonal Box : 2 blue right-angled isosceles triangles, 2 gray obtuse-angled isosceles triangles, 6 yellow obtuse-angled isosceles triangles and 1 yellow equilateral triangle
- Blue Box : 2 blue right -angled isosceles triangles, 2 blue right-angled scalene triangles, 2 small blue equilateral triangles, 1 blue right angled scalene triangle and 1 bee obtuse angled scalene triangle
Sense of Touch : Tactile
The exercise in touching and feeling is peculiarly attractive to the child and induces him to seek similar experiences in his surroundings
The sensorial material used for sense of touch has a direct aim of tactile discrimination of texture or temperature. The materials used to refine the sense of touch are the following:
- Mystery Bag : An attractive washable drawstring bag containing an assortment of small objects, familiar to children. They must be real objects and not toys. Examples could be : cork, spoon, feather, pinecones
- Rough and Smooth Boards
- Board 1 : Rectangular wooden tablet divided into two parts, one of smoothly polished wood, the other of sandpaper
- Board 2 : rectangular wooden tablet with alternating strips of wood and sandpaper
- Touch Tables : A wooden box that contains five pairs of sandpaper tablets graduated in different degrees of roughness
- Box of Fabric : A box containing five pairs of squares of fabrics, all the same size contrasting noticeably in tecture
- Thermic Tablets : Matched pairs of materials which have different temperatures (felt, wood, marble metal) etc in tablets of identical size
- Thermic Bottles : Eight metal containers, each with a ring on top, divided into two sets matching in temperature
- Baric Tablets :eighteen rectangular wooden tablets divide into three sets according to their weight. heavy, medium, light. The six tablets are medium in color and the light tablets are light in color.
Sense of Hearing : Auditory
When the children have become acquainted with silence, their hearing is in a manner refined for the perception of sounds.
The sensorial materials used for the sense of hearing has a direct aim of auditory discrimination of sound. The materials used for the refinement of the auditory senses are the following:
- froSound Cylinders : A box with a red top, container six cylinders with red tops filled with different materials. An identical box, with a blue top contains six cylinders with blue top. Each cylinder is filled with materials that makes a sound.
- Montessori Bells : A wooden board painted black and white. This represent the graded keyboard of a piano which produce various degrees of sound from middle C to C# ring from the loudest to the softest
Sense of Taste : Gustatory
As to the taste, the method of touching the tongue with various solutions, bitter or acid, sweet or salty is perfectly applicable
The direct aim of the materials for the sense of taste is for the development of the gustatory sense. Children discriminates salty, sweet, bitter and sour. There is only one material used to refine this sense.
- Tasting Bottles : 8 bottles with dropper lids, made of dark glass where there are 2 bottles of each flavor: sweet, sour, salty and bitter
Sense of Smell : Olfactory
The olfactory sense in children is not developed to any great extent and this makes it difficult to attract their attention by means of this sense.
The direct aim of the materials for the sense of smell is for the development of the olfactory sense. As the child uses his sense of smell, he becomes conscious of the different aromas that could be pleasant or unpleasant. The heightened sense can identify the names of the essences used. There is only one material used to refine this sense.
- Smelling Jars : A box with 8 opaque jars, in pairs of 4 different essences. You can make your own pairing of essences. Some of the possibilities you can use are coffee, cinnamon, vanilla and lemon
What is the idea behind the creation of these materials?
All the sensorial materials are uniquely designed for refinement of the senses, one sense at a time. As Montessori believes that,
Nothing goes through the mind without passing through the senses.
Beauty lies in harmony, not in contrast; and harmony is refinement; therefore there must be fineness of the senses if we are to appreciate harmony.
Purposes of Sensorial Materials
- The design of the sensorial materials are deliberate to purposefully isolates each sense.
Let’s take the example of the Pink Tower.
The pink tower consists of 10 pink cubes in increasing sizes, from 1 cubic centimeters to 10 cubic centimeters. The purpose of the pink tower is specific: develop the child’s visual discrimination of size. That is why it was designed to be just one color to make child focus on the size and not the color.
2. Sensorial materials aim to refine perception and analytical thinking. The materials are a series where a child will proceed in a gradation of complexity. After mastering this basic concept, a child can proceed to the next level of materials.
Let’s take the example of the Color Box series.
Color box #1 is a material to visual discriminate primary colors. The child has to match the three color tablets. After the child can visually discriminate the primary colors, he can proceed to color box #2. The child has to match all nine colors in Color Box #2. After the child masters this skill then the teacher can present the Color Box # 3.
Color box #3 aims is to visually discriminate seven shades of nine colors. The child’s task is to arrange it from the darkest to the lightest shade.
3. Sensorial Materials encourages “spontaneous education” that means the child can independently work on the sensorial materials without the help of the teacher. Meaning, the teacher assumes the role of an observer after a presentation.
4. The sensorial materials have a control of error. What does control of error even mean? Control of error means that the sensorial material lends itself to correct the child.
Let’s take the example of the knobbed cylinders.
All of the knobbed cylinders have a specific slot. Each slot is an opening that matches a specific knobbed cylinder. If the child puts one knobbed cylinder in the wrong slot, the child will not be able to complete the activity.
5. Sensorial materials serve as foundation for higher learning: Language, Mathematics, Geometry and Algebra.
Let’s take the example of geometric solids
Every time a child is presented a lesson, let’s say, the geometric solid for example, the teacher uses the right term for all the geometric solids. That’s why, we don’t say “round” just because it is easy for the child to understand instead we say “sphere.”
At the same time, the child in a Montessori classroom can physically touch each geometric solid. As the child touches each geometric solid, it imprints a better visual representation of the faces and vertices, base and height. As the child is exposed to the names of each geometric and being allowed to touch the material creates a foundation for the understanding of geometry.
I was able to appreciate this when I went for Montessori Upper Elementary (9-12) training. I never thought that the sensorial material used in the Early Childhood classroom is still the actual material used for the higher grades.
The only difference is the Montessori middle school child can now calculate the actual perimeters or areas of geometric figures. The geometric formulas are better understood, plus it make sense because the child had the visual and tactile experience of the material.
So the next time you visit a Montessori classroom, go ahead and look around. Touch the sensorial materials if you want to. Now that you have a better understanding of the Montessori materials, you can confirm that Maria Montessori with its unassuming design of the sensorial materials 100 years ago, has changed the landscape of early childhood education.