“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behavior, he must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon…”
The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 22
Discuss how the Montessori Education helps to develop a child’s concentration and helps the child in his social development.
In order to accomplish any task you need to be able to concentrate your mind for a time, it is a basic requirement for learning or socializing. Children not only need to be able to focus on tasks but also need to stay in the one place long enough to understand the task at hand, so they can listen to and follow instructions.
Montessori Education system offers remarkable methods of teaching children, the system believes in working with children who show attention problems and helping them develop the essential mechanism for learning – Concentration, which helps in social development of a child.
This system stands out because it does not create a divide between children who are smart and the ones, who are disoriented. According to the system a child’s mind should be dealt with sensitivity and utmost care, all disorders should be acknowledged for fine tuning before a child can actually start processing knowledge that is imparted to him. A child can only develop social skills after he has mastered the essential attribute of concentration
“Concentration is a part of life. It is not the consequence of a method of education.” The Child, Society and the World p. 12, Chap II
Children from time to time experience some concentration or focusing difficulties, this for the most part happens when they are over-tired, over-stimulated or over-loaded. However some children due to their physiology or psychology have greater difficulty focusing on tasks and on other people, children may either settle into a task very smoothly or find starting a task difficult or they lose focus entirely and leave that task half done. It is not possible for a child to develop social skills if his concentration is diluted.
There are diverse reasons why children have problems concentrating. One child might be visually oversensitive. For example, he’ll be highly distracted by bright sunlight coming in through a window or too much color on a display board. Another child who is oversensitive to smells might be distracted by the teacher’s perfume or an odor coming from the cage where the animals are kept. Auditory sensitivity can be just as distracting. Some children are so sensitive to certain kinds of low-pitch sounds, such as motors, that if their classroom happens to be near the boiler room, a rumbling noise most people don’t even notice will grab their attention. If we could get these children in a less distracting environment, they might do much better at attending.
Dr. Maria Montessori, the pioneer of children’s education introduced methods that were widely accepted all across the world. Her primary focus being fine tuning the concentration power of a child, she clearly cited that “The First essential for the child’s development is Concentration”. The foremost purpose of Montessori education is to help children develop concentration skills already within them and direct them to exercise this creative learning process all through his social life. The inspiring Montessori environment provided to the child is mapped with care to help the child develop a concrete foundation for future creative learning and interaction. The learning activities provided are individualized, so that the learning task appeals to the child- this helps develop a positive attitude towards school.
There are specific activities that are provided to the child that helps in building the habit of concentration. The learning environment is equipped appropriately so that the child has a series of absorbing experiences that helps him form habits of gradual extended span of attention. Montessori learning environment is all about surrounding the child with learning activities and appealing materials. We also see children who are under-reactive and may not focus when they hear a voice. Typically, they don’t alert to sounds or to touch. A teacher might tap a child with this problem on the shoulder, and he will seem to be “living in his own world.” Montessori structure provides unparalleled child concentration solutions, it deals with these issues very sensitively and strategically.
“A teacher does not interfere when a child is destroying a piece of material, because she thinks that this may be a moment of concentration.” Ibid p.13, Chap II
Now, in order to develop a child’s concentration there are a number of Montessori methods that are currently in practice –
Focusing on Individual disparities
Montessori educations principal objective is to identify disparities and cure them before a child starts to learn things. It’s important to remember that children with developmental difficulties may have multiple disorders at the same time which forbids them from concentrating, for instance – An auditory processing problem which makes it difficult for a child to make sense of the things he hears. If you give him three or four directions, he may only get the first two and seem not to be concentrating on what you have instructed him to do. Visual-spatial processing problem provide still other deterrents to concentration. A child with this challenge doesn’t need glasses; she just has difficulties organizing what she sees. For example, if you hide something in the child’s room, instead of searching in each corner or looking under things, she may get stuck looking only in one part of the room.
Children with this difficulty may be over focused some of the time and unfocused other times. They may have problems connecting what they see with what they hear, which hampers learning to read as well as attentiveness, and so they may appear lost or easily side-tracked. Motor planning or sequencing is yet another disorder that has been identified in children who are struggling with motor planning or sequencing, the ability to carry out complex actions, to plan and sequence ideas. This situation is even more common than processing problems. Let’s take the example of a child who is trying to get dressed. The way Montessori education works is, first – diagnoses the concentration disorder of the child for cure, once the curing is done and the teacher is confident – the learning process begins.
Thinking about Attention
The mind has many different functions that contribute to attention. As per Montessori culture, if we treat all intrusion on attention as one and the same thing, we can’t help children master their own particular challenges. So by looking at inattention in terms of what contributes to it rather than as one global function, we are better able to identify the different origins of the problem in different children. If we figure out the underlying troubles, we can develop specific exercises to strengthen the underlying functions. This method offers a better way to help a child become more focused and attentive. Watching Closely
The Montessori education system looks very closely at children and observes who are inattentive, self-absorbed and daydreaming, while not overlooking the ones who show an unusual amount of activity and may even be aggressive with others. Interestingly, a lot of overactive children turn out to be under reactive to things like touch and sound, and even to pain. They crave more sensations and so become very active in an effort to get more sensory input. They feel the need to be moving in space just to keep their own inner sense of movement going. In contrast, children who are overactive to their own movement are likely to be very cautious.
They don’t like to move much at all and none of them would turn out to be the daredevil who jumps from the top of the monkey bars. The system points out that – It’s important to note that worries and fears can cause children to be very active and inattentive. Some children may be showing sensitivity to medications or to foods or chemicals in their environment. Many children are overloaded when they feel overwhelmed with noise and commotion, or they’re enduring an environment that’s scary or abusive. In the end there’s no substitute for trying to understand what’s at work for each individual child by profiling her unique characteristics. Encouraging Team Approach
Montessori system has persistently pointed out that both teachers and parents are the key members of every team. They know the child best. They know the subtleties of what each child can and can’t do — not just at school, but at home and with peers. Bringing in qualified professionals can help everyone better understand the child’s strengths and areas of vulnerability. A child psychiatrist or clinical psychologist can look at the child’s processing challenges, the family dynamics, the role of anxiety, and so on, and then make suggestions. With the help of additional team members observing in the classroom and talking with teachers and parents, we can tease out of the special area of concentration trouble.
Montessori education encourages both parents and teachers to implement the following measures that can help a child concentrate better, the measures are – Attend to their physiological needs – 9 hours of good sleep with reduced sugar intake, also increased protein levels. Removing distractions at home – preventing noise, fighting and un-necessary people. Creating a mood – Calming background music, placing a fish tank in a place of work and removal of distracting lights (neon/ fluorescent) Introduce sequencing and organization activities
Figure out activities that a child focuses on best – some kids concentrate better when they are involved in hands-on activities, while others focus better when there are plenty of visual cues to help them. Making it Automatic
Montessori education system strives to improve concentration in children and make it automatic. Anyone who has learned to drive a car will have had the experience of thinking, “How will I concentrate on all these things?” Extensive practice allows for the pathways of concentration. As mentioned earlier, the system pays close attention to a child’s pattern of concentration and identifies links between diet, their energy pattern, sleep and your own behavior. Based on which a child is assisted to concentrate better, he will be engaged in activities that he gets lost in; and those activities that he can literally spend hours in. These activities enhance children’s concentration levels. Giving value to Play
Play is a wonderful word, which conjures up a sense of freedom and joy with little sense of purpose or a goal. Montessorians consider that this demonstration of freedom and joy is just as evident whether a young child chooses to work or play. They value children’s engagement in any activity which leads the child to a deep level of engagement and concentration. This kind of play is serious and hard work for the child. It is the work of self-construction.
Children have their own agenda for development which reveals itself through every activity, whatever we call it. Offer a child a choice between ‘pretend’ cooking and ‘real’ cooking and we soon see the true nature of childhood revealed to us. Equally, all children will engage in family role-play, and gain enormous satisfaction in practicing and fulfilling the roles of their play scenarios. From the Montessori perspective, ‘play is work’ and ‘work is play’. The defining factors are freedom of choice, the exercise of will and deep engagement, which leads to concentration.
Legacy of Observation
All Montessorians appreciate the legacy of observation as manifested in Montessori’s Curve of Work. This is one of the observational methods used by Montessorians to follow Children’s levels of involvement and concentration. When the curves of work are mapped against the levels of involvement and engagement as identified by the Effective Early Learning project (Pascal and Bertram, 1997) we can really appreciate the true value of spontaneous learning available to children in Montessori settings and how it contributes to sustained periods of high levels of concentration.
Montessorians believe in adjusting interactions to better meet the child’s needs. For instance, talking or singing rapidly to a child with auditory-processing difficulties can cause him to tune out. Communicating slowly and calmly, in shorter segments, may help him to focus and attend. Since many children with auditory-processing difficulties are strong visually, try relating to them visually and verbally. Pick up a cup and point to it. Then point to the milk carton and say, “Milk?” At a Montessori school it is ensured that words along with actions and visual pictures are used as it works better for a child who is a strong auditory processor but weak in the visual area. Looking for an area of strength to aid in mastering the individual child’s developmental is the ultimate goal at these schools. “An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery.”
Ibid p.188, Chap 19 The above discussed methods have been devised over a course of time, Montessorians employ and implement these methods to help children build their concentration and in turn sharpen their social skills. Developing social skills is the big picture, because human beings as we all know are social animals – we socialize day to day, we need to interact in a certain way which is acceptable by the society and the world around us. Montessori at an institutional level endeavors and weaves a cohesive understanding of child development (from birth through adolescence), family systems, and social contexts to prepare culturally competent children of tomorrow. From the moment of birth, a child begins to develop his or her personality. All infants develop this way through social relationships and experiences. Montessorians help children become socially active by practicing some basic exercises – Providing a Society
Children are born with drives that urge them to relate to others and help others relate to them. According to Montessori’s plan, around the age of two and a half or three, children enter a Casa dei Bambini or Children’s House. The doctor told students in a 1946 teacher-training course that children “need the society of other children at this age.” Involvement in activities
The activities available to the children in a Montessori classroom are “purposive”—they are able to be performed by the children for both selfish and social ends. When children work in this way they increase their level of independence and come to realize that their actions benefit others. Sociable Classroom
In the social life of a Montessori classroom, children come to prefer one another’s company to dolls, and they prefer “real” utensils to toys. While working with objects such as real brushes for cleaning, and real carpets to sweep, children attain real skills that allow them to participate more fully in life at home as well as at school. Basic Etiquettes
Along with such practical lessons as cleaning and sweeping, the children in a Montessori class learn pro-social behaviors. The exercises of Grace and Courtesy, as the names imply, help children control their bodies and move more gracefully while giving them the courtesies of social life, the “pleases” and “thank you’s” that denote distinguished manners. “The child begins to practice with respect to himself the same forms of behavior that others formerly practiced with respect to him” Internet Solitary Behavior
A casual observer might not notice the richness of the social atmosphere in a Montessori classroom. From age three to six, little children tend to work side by side rather than together. Montessori pointed out that’s because the first essential of the child’s development is not really play at all! Instead, the first essential of the child’s development is concentration because it lays the basis for the development of an individual’s character and subsequent social behavior. Concentration is always solitary, even in the midst of a crowd, and there is no real achievement without it. Sense of Freedom
A Montessori primary classroom creates conditions that allow children the freedom to manifest their natural developmental propensities. With a prepared environment and freedom to act within it according to their inner needs, individual rhythm and tempo, children exhibit characteristics not generally attributed to them. “It is different from the discipline of a soldier, with his forced obedience, when we all have to do the same thing at the moment. This is a social discipline and it brings people into harmony with each other.” The Child, Society and the World, p 24, Chap III. To conclude, I would say that – unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, a child does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Child’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.
As Montessorians we continue to believe that education must concern itself with the development of individuality and allow the individual child to remain independent not only in the earliest years of childhood but through all the stages of his development. Dr. Montessori has termed the child as a “Spiritual Embryo”. As per a new born child is psychologically still in an embryonic state – his inner development is incomplete. It is the child task to create himself. He is born with the inner qualities like intelligence, Knowledge, self-realization. Through work only a child reveals his potential and his will help him to achieve the personality and his will help him in growth of his psychic development. He is responsible for his own self-construction.
Greenspan, Stanley I.
Early Childhood today, SCHOLASTIC
The Child, Society and the World
The Absorbent Mind
Vygotsky, Lev Semyonovich