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June 03, 2021

The Power of A Montessori Presentation

The other day I was walking through our playroom and I noticed something unusual, a glass vase filled with dirt and a leaf stuck into it. I knew immediately this was the work of Gus. I made a mental note. A couple days went by and another one of these dirt filled vases showed up on our deck this time with a flower stuck in it. Again, I made a mental note. The third time I found a little vase, it had water and a flower but also the funnel. 

And, I knew it was time for another presentation on flower arranging. Something was lost in translation. As Montessori parents we often rely on the power of modeling for young children and expect that they will pick up how to do something by simply watching. While modeling is super important, we have another tool in our kit - the Montessori presentation. 

What is a Montessori Presentation? 

A presentation is basically the act of giving a lesson to a child. For Montessori work in a classroom there is generally a specific way that materials are presented. Guides learn these presentations in their training and then work to perfect their lesson giving skills. The same material is presented the same way (or virtually the same way) in all Montessori environments across the world. 

Here, I want to focus on presentations at home. Often we aren't talking about strictly Montessori materials or as formal of an atmosphere. Basically, we can be more flexible. But, the basic goals of the presentation stay the same no matter where you are - to show the child how to use the work correctly and to give the language necessary to understand the work. 

How to Give a Montessori Presentation? 

Everyone will have their own style when it comes to how to present a material or process in your home. But there are definitely a few things that you should keep in mind. These include: 

  • Timing - pick a time when your child is calm and interested in working. Avoid times when they are hungry, or tired. Avoid interrupting them from another work to give a presentation
  • Length - know your child, don't plan for long presentations if you know your child can't sit that long. Generally, the younger a child, the shorter it should be. 
  • Speed - go slowly, sometimes more slowly than you think you need. 
  • Language - watch the number of words you're using. The purpose of a presentation is to SHOW not tell a child how to use the material
  • Connection - always remember this is a moment of connection and relationship between you and your child, you can chit-chat, you can joke, you don't need to be a robot saying just the right words for it to work, 
  • Movement - allow for movement of your child during the presentation, stillness doesn't mean learning
  • Child's Level - get on your child's level, look into their eyes and show them.We aren't expecting them to come to us, we are coming to them.

When to Give a Montessori Presentation? 

This is a hard question to answer because the answer really depends on your observations of your child. You can give a presentation anytime you feel like it might benefit your child. But, there are generally two times that I make sure to give another presentation. One, when something is new. I always present new materials, even to babies. While exploration is super important, I always present it to a child. I don't want to leave them hanging not knowing how it could be used. 

Two, I present something when I notice that consistent mistakes are being made that show a lack of understanding about the work. Like, in Gus' case, when it's really clear that a child can't quite remember how to do something, or how something works, I give a quick presentation (even if they have had one before.) This could look like it did for Gus, where the work was just consistently done wrong, or it might look like they are avoiding the work altogether. 

I don't point out mistakes or tell them that I need to show them again because they don't understand. I simply invite them to another presentation. Now, this is very different from a child intentionally choosing to use a material in a way that's different than how it is intended. And, this is why observation is so important. Exploration is totally normal and expected.

In the end for Gus, I gave Gus another presentation on how to flower arrange in our home. This work is only out in the spring and summer months, so it had been a long time since he had done it. I assumed he would remember, and he didn't. A simple presentation later and it all has come back and our home is one again filled with the best little child arranged vases. 

Do you give Montessori presentations to your children?


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