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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Equipment and Didactic Material

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The Equipment and Didactic Material.

The equipment of the Montessori schools is simplicity itself. Small, light tables, of a height suitable to the children, and little, comfortable chairs; these, together with cupboards for storing material, plenty of floor space, and a supply of light mats, constitute the furniture.

The didactic material, about which so much discussion centres, has been invented and designed by Dr. Montessori with a view to training definitely the senses of the child. It is briefly as follows (I quote from the official booklet supplied with the English material):—

Exercises of Practical Lite.

A series of eight wooden frames, to enable the children to practice coordinated movements of the fingers and the everyday exercises which occur during the process of dressing, viz.:—
1.Buttoning large buttons.
2.Buttoning small buttons.
3.Buttoning boots.
4.Lacing leather.
5.Lacing leather with eyelit hooks.
6.Patent snap fastenings.
7.Hook and eye fastenings.
8.Ribbon bow tying.

Sense Training—Touch.

1.A rectangular wooden board, one half with smooth surface and the other half covered with sandpaper.
2.A rectangular wooden board, with alternate strips of sandpaper and plain smooth surface.
3.A polished wooden cabinet of seven drawers, containing pieces of different fabrics in duplicate—silk, muslin, calico, linen, cloth, serge, velvet—by means of which the child learns by feeling the difference in texture and quality—coarse, fine, rough, smooth, thick, thin, &c.—of the various materials.

The Sense of Hearing.

Perception of sound is taught by means of duplicate sets of six cardboard cylinders containing different substances—sand, flax seeds, corn, gravel, pebbles, stones—which, when shaken, produce gradations of sound according to the contents of each cylinder.

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Exercises in perception of weight are given by means of tablets of wood of the same size and thickness, but of different weights. The didactic material provides three boxes, each containing a number of thin wooden tablets of (a) mahogany, (b) oak, (c) poplar.

Visual Perception of Dimensions.

This didactic material consists of:—
1.Solid insets.—Three solid wooden blocks, each containing ten wooden cylinders, which fit into the corresponding number of holes. In the first of these blocks the cylinders are of equal depths but of varying diameters; in the second, the cylinders are of equal diameters but of varying depths; in the third set the cylinders vary both in diameter and in depth. With these solid insets the child learns to differentiate objects according to thickness, height, and size.

The Broad stair.

Thickness.—Ten solid wooden bricks, enamelled and brown, of equal length but varying in thickness. These blocks, when placed in position according to their thickness, form steps, which grow broader towards the top.

The Lon Slaif.

Length.—The long stair consists of ten enamelled, square, wooden rods, varying in length from 1 metre to 1 decimetre, each decimetre being enamelled alternately red and blue, and when arranged in order according to their lengths, these rods form a series of long stairs.

The Tower.

Size.—Ten square wooden blocks, enamelled in pink, varying from 1 decimetre to 1 centimetre square, which, when placed one upon another according to size, the largest at the base and smallest at the top, form a pyramidal tower.

Visual Perception of Form.

1. A polished wood cabinet of six drawers, each containing six wooden frames with geometric insets of various shapes—squares, rhomboids, rectangles, circles, triangles, polygons, ellipses, &c.

These insets are fitted into position by the child, the frames acting as a control.

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By passing the fingers round the outlines, the child, through the tactile muscular sense, receives the perception of the form of each shape, and at the same time is taught the names of the various geometrical forms.

2. Three Series of Cards.—In the first series the cards represent the same geometrical forms in the same size as the wooden insets, and are printed in solid blue.

In the second series the same geometrical forms are depicted by a thick blue contour about a quarter of an inch wide.

In the third series the geometrical forms appear in thin outline.

Thus the child passes by easy stages from the concrete form of the wooden shape to the abstract outline.

The Sense of Colour.

This didactic material consists of duplicate sets of sixty-four colour spools, each containing eight carefully graded shades of eight colours—blues, browns, greens, greys, rose-pink to red, salmon to scarlet, mauve to violet, yellow to orange. Each set of sixty-four tablets is contained in a wooden box divided into eight compartments.

Design as an Introduction to Writing.

Metal insets and frames, similar in size and shape to the wooden geometrical figures, with which the child can, by drawing round the edges, form outlines on card, to be afterwards filled in with coloured chalk, and thus obtain the necessary control of the pencil and hand before proceeding to writing.

Visual and Tactile Perception of Alphabetical Signs.

Reading and Writing.—The didactic material for this purpose consists of:—A set of script letters, the vowels cut from sandpaper and mounted on blue cards, and the consonants of black emery cloth mounted on white cards. By passing the index and second finger over these letters, following the direction in which they are written, the child obtains the tactile perception of the form, and at the same time is taught the sound of each letter.

Composition of Words.—For word-building the letters are of the same size and shape as the sandpaper letters on card, but are cut out of cardboard and unmounted, the vowels being made of blue and the consonants of pink cara.

Four sets of these cardboard letters are contained in two flat boxes, each letter having its special compartment.

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Numeration and Arithmetic.

In teaching arithmetic the ten rods composing the long stair previously described are used in conjunction with a set of the number symbols, cut out of black emery cloth, mounted on cards, and two wooden trays, each divided into five compartments, with fifty counting sticks.

Busy Little Gardeners.

Busy Little Gardeners.

Two number frames, with grooves to take a set of printed numbers, are also supplied to demonstrate the various arithmetical operations.

The retail price of the complete set of the Montessori material in England is £8 8s.