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Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook Part 7

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When he raises it, if the drawing is well done, he finds upon the paper a geometrical figure contained by two outlines in colors, and, if the colors have been well chosen, the result is very attractive, and the child, who has already had a considerable education of the chromatic sense is keenly interested in it.

These may seem unnecessary details, but, as a matter of fact, they are all-important. For instance, if, instead of arranging the ten metal insets in a row, the teacher distributes them among the children without thus exhibiting them, the child's exercises are much limited.

When, on the other hand, the insets are exhibited before his eyes, he feels the desire to draw them _all_ one after the other, and the number of exercises is increased.

The two _colored outlines_ rouse the desire of the child to see another combination of colors and then to repeat the experience. The variety of the objects and the colors are therefore an _inducement_ to work and hence to final success.

Here the actual preparatory movement for writing begins. When the child has drawn the figure in double outline, he takes hold of a pencil "like a pen for writing," and draws marks up and down until he has completely filled the figure. In this way a definite filled-in figure remains on the paper, similar to the figures on the cards of the first series. This figure can be in any of the ten colors. At first the children fill in the figures very clumsily without regard for the outlines, making very heavy lines and not keeping them parallel. Little by little, however, the drawings improve, in that they keep within the outlines, and the lines increase in number, grow finer, and are parallel to one another.

When the child has begun these exercises, he is seized with a desire to continue them, and he never tires of drawing the outlines of the figures and then filling them in. Each child suddenly becomes the possessor of a considerable number of drawings, and he treasures them up in his own little drawer. In this way he _organizes_ the movement of writing, which brings him _to the management of the pen_. This movement in ordinary methods is represented by the wearisome pothook connected with the first laborious and tedious attempts at writing.

The organization of this movement, which began from the guidance of a piece of metal, is as yet rough and imperfect, and the child now pa.s.ses on to the _filling in of the prepared designs_ in the little alb.u.m. The leaves are taken from the book one by one in the order of progression in which they are arranged, and the child fills in the prepared designs with colored pencils in the same way as before. Here the choice of the colors is another intelligent occupation which encourages the child to multiply the tasks. He chooses the colors by himself and with much taste. The delicacy of the shades which he chooses and the harmony with which he arranges them in these designs show us that the common belief, that children love _bright and glaring_ colors, has been the result of observation of _children without education_, who have been abandoned to the rough and harsh experiences of an environment unfitted for them.

The education of the chromatic sense becomes at this point of a child's development the _lever_ which enables him to become possessed of a firm, bold and beautiful handwriting.

The drawings lend themselves to _limiting_, in very many ways, _the length of the strokes with which they are filled in_. The child will have to fill in geometrical figures, both large and small, of a pavement design, or flowers and leaves, or the various details of an animal or of a landscape. In this way the hand accustoms itself, not only to perform the general action, but also to confine the movement within all kinds of limits.

Hence the child is preparing himself to write in a handwriting _either_ large or small. Indeed, later on he will write as well between the wide lines on a blackboard as between the narrow, closely ruled lines of an exercise book, generally used by much older children.

The number of exercises which the child performs with the drawings is practically unlimited. He will often take another colored pencil and draw over again the outlines of the figure already filled in with color. A help to the _continuation_ of the exercise is to be found in the further education of the chromatic sense, which the child acquires by painting the same designs in water-colors. Later he mixes colors for himself until he can imitate the colors of nature, or create the delicate tints which his own imagination desires. It is not possible, however, to speak of all this in detail within the limits of this small work.

_Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs_

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 29.--SINGLE SANDPAPER LETTER.]

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 30.--GROUPS OF SANDPAPER LETTERS.]

In the didactic material there are series of boxes which contain the alphabetical signs. At this point we take those cards which are covered with very smooth paper, to which is gummed a letter of the alphabet cut out in sandpaper. (Fig. 29.) There are also large cards on which are gummed several letters, grouped together according to a.n.a.logy of form. (Fig. 30.)

The children "have to _touch_ over the alphabetical signs as though they were writing." They touch them with the tips of the index and middle fingers in the same way as when they touched the wooden insets, and with the hand raised as when they lightly touched the rough and smooth surfaces. The teacher herself touches the letters to show the child how the movement should be performed, and the child, if he has had much practise in touching the wooden insets, _imitates_ her with _ease_ and pleasure. Without the previous practise, however, the child's hand does not follow the letter with accuracy, and it is most interesting to make close observations of the children in order to understand the importance of a _remote motor preparation_ for writing, and also to realize the _immense_ strain which we impose upon the children when we set them to write directly without a previous motor education of the hand.

The child finds great pleasure in touching the sandpaper letters. It is an exercise by which he applies to a new attainment the power he has already acquired through exercising the sense of touch. Whilst the child touches a letter, the teacher p.r.o.nounces its sound, and she uses for the lesson the usual three periods. Thus, for example, presenting the two vowels _i_, _o_, she will have the child touch them slowly and accurately, and repeat their relative sounds one after the other as the child touches them, "i, i, i! o, o, o!" Then she will say to the child: "Give me i!" "Give me o!" Finally, she will ask the question: "What is this?" To which the child replies, "i, o."

She proceeds in the same way through all the other letters, giving, in the case of the consonants, not the name, but only the sound. The child then touches the letters by himself over and over again, either on the separate cards or on the large cards on which several letters are gummed, and in this way he establishes the movements necessary for tracing the alphabetical signs. At the same time he retains the _visual_ image of the letter. This process forms the first preparation, not only for writing, but also for reading, because it is evident that when the child _touches_ the letters he performs the movement corresponding to the writing of them, and, at the same time, when he recognizes them by sight he is reading the alphabet.

The child has thus prepared, in effect, all the necessary movements for writing; therefore he _can write_. This important conquest is the result of a long period of inner formation of which the child is not clearly aware. But a day will come--very soon--when he _will write_, and that will be a day of great surprise for him--the wonderful harvest of an unknown sowing.

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 31.--BOX OF MOVABLE LETTERS.]

The alphabet of movable letters cut out in pink and blue cardboard, and kept in a special box with compartments, serves "for the composition of words." (Fig. 31.)

In a phonetic language, like Italian, it is enough to p.r.o.nounce clearly the different component sounds of a word (as, for example, m-a-n-o), so that the child whose ear is _already educated_ may recognize one by one the component sounds. Then he looks in the movable alphabet for the _signs_ corresponding to each separate sound, and lays them one beside the other, thus composing the word (for instance, mano). Gradually he will become able to do the same thing with words of which he thinks himself; he succeeds in breaking them up into their component sounds, and in translating them into a row of signs.

When the child has composed the words in this way, he knows how to read them. In this method, therefore, all the processes leading to writing include reading as well.

If the language is not phonetic, the teacher can compose separate words with the movable alphabet, and then p.r.o.nounce them, letting the child repeat by himself the exercise of arranging and rereading them.

In the material there are two movable alphabets. One of them consists of larger letters, and is divided into two boxes, each of which contains the vowels. This is used for the first exercises, in which the child needs very large objects in order to recognize the letters.

When he is acquainted with one half of the consonants he can begin to compose words, even though he is dealing with one part only of the alphabet.

The other movable alphabet has smaller letters and is contained in a single box. It is given to children who have made their first attempts at composition with words, and already know the complete alphabet.

It is after these exercises with the movable alphabet that the child _is able to write entire words_. This phenomenon generally occurs unexpectedly, and then a child who has never yet traced a stroke or a letter on paper _writes several words in succession_. From that moment he continues to write, always gradually perfecting himself. This spontaneous writing takes on the characteristics of a _natural_ phenomenon, and the child who has begun to write the "first word" will continue to write in the same way as he spoke after p.r.o.nouncing the first word, and as he walked after having taken the first step. The same course of inner formation through which the phenomenon of writing appeared is the course of his future progress, of his growth to perfection. The child prepared in this way has entered upon a course of development through which he will pa.s.s as surely as the growth of the body and the development of the natural functions have pa.s.sed through their course of development when life has once been established.

For the interesting and very complex phenomena relating to the development of writing and then of reading, see my larger works.

THE READING OF MUSIC

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 32.--THE MUSICAL STAFF.[A]]

[A] The single staff is used in the Conservatoire of Milan and utilized in the Perlasca method.

When the child knows how to read, he can make a first application of this knowledge to the reading of the names of musical notes.

In connection with the material for sensory education, consisting of the series of bells, we use a didactic material, which serves as an introduction to musical reading. For this purpose we have, in the first place, a wooden board, not very long, and painted pale green. On this board the staff is cut out in black, and in every line and s.p.a.ce are cut round holes, inside each of which is written the name of the note in its reference to the treble clef.

There is also a series of little white discs which can be fitted into the holes. On one side of each disc is written the name of the note (doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh).

The child, guided by the name written on the discs, puts them, with the name uppermost, in their right places on the board and then reads the names of the notes. This exercise he can do by himself, and he learns the position of each note on the staff. Another exercise which the child can do at the same time is to place the disc bearing the name of the note on the rectangular base of the corresponding bell, whose sound he has already learned to recognize by ear in the sensorial exercise described above.

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 39.--DUMB KEYBOARD.]

Following this exercise there is another staff made on a board of green wood, which is longer than the other and has neither indentures nor signs. A considerable number of discs, on one side of which are written the names of the notes, is at the disposal of the child. He takes up a disc at random, reads its name and places it on the staff, with the name underneath, so that the white face of the disc shows on the top. By the repet.i.tion of this exercise the child is enabled to arrange many discs on the same line or in the same s.p.a.ce. When he has finished, he turns them all over so that the names are outside, and so finds out if he has made mistakes. After learning the treble clef the child pa.s.ses on to learn the ba.s.s with great ease.

To the staff described above can be added another similar to it, arranged as is shown in the figure. (Fig. 32.) The child beginning with doh, lays the discs on the board in ascending order in their right position until the octave is reached: doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh. Then he descends the scale in the same way, returning to _doh_, but continuing to place the discs always to the right: soh, fah, mi, re, doh. In this way he forms an angle. At this point he descends again to the lower staff, ti, lah, soh, fah, mi, re, doh, then he ascends again on the other side: re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, and by forming with his two lines of discs another angle in the ba.s.s, he has completed a rhombus, "the rhombus of the notes."

After the discs have been arranged in this way, the upper staff is separated from the lower. In the lower the notes are arranged according to the ba.s.s clef. In this way the first elements of musical reading are presented to the child, reading which corresponds to _sounds_ with which the child's ear is already acquainted.

For a first practical application of this knowledge we have used in our schools a miniature pianoforte keyboard, which reproduces the essentials of this instrument, although in a simplified form, and so that they are visible. Two octaves only are reproduced, and the keys, which are small, are proportioned to the hand of a little child of four or five years, as the keys of the common piano are proportioned to those of the adult. All the mechanism of the key is visible. (Fig.

39.) On striking a key one sees the hammer rise, on which is written the name of the note. The hammers are black and white, like the notes.

With this instrument it is very easy for the child to practise alone, finding the notes on the keyboard corresponding to some bar of written music, and following the movements of the fingers made in playing the piano.

The keyboard in itself is mute, but a series of resonant tubes, resembling a set of organ-pipes, can be applied to the upper surface, so that the hammers striking these produce musical notes corresponding to the keys struck. The child can then pursue his exercises with the control of the musical sounds.

DIDACTIC MATERIAL FOR MUSICAL READING.

[Ill.u.s.tration: FIG. 33.

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Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook Part 7 summary

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