Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Systems

In my AMS-certified Montessori training, I learned that the very young child begins his Sensorial work by concentrating on the “systems” shelf. The work on these shelves are sorted into three prominent systems (sorting, matching and grading). All of these systems are found throughout the different tenets of the classroom shelves, but show up prominently in the Sensorial area of the classroom.

The Button Box

The Button Box

In presenting book reviews of Sensorial topics, I realized that I had jumped right into colors without really discussing the primary Sensorial work of a very young child – sorting. This work would occur at the same time as the beginning work in colors, or for a very young child (2.5 – 3 years-old), this might be one of the first places that they are brought to within the classroom.

SORTING
Ages 4 and up
Reid, Margarette S. The Button Box. Illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, 1990.
When visiting his grandmother, a young boy gets to play with her special box of buttons. He enjoys swirling them around and sorting them by color, size, material and purpose. Although this book is not a primer on how to sort, the boy displays a number of ways that he sorts some of the buttons he finds in the box.  The text is short, but concise a,nd introduces a number of unusual buttons (i.e. shoe buttons from long ago) which should start a great discussion at circle time. Extensions could lead to a discussion of other places that the children have seen buttons or sorting exercises. In addition, this book might make a good transition for those children who are ready to learn how to sew a button, as it includes a brief history of how the use of buttons has evolved over the years.

Although I didn’t have a chance to review it, the book Sorting at the Market by Tracey Steffora seems to fit a reality-based criteria and it might just help your child notice new things at the supermarket!

The Button Box

The Button Box

MATCHING
Marzollo, Jean. I-SPY: A School Bus. Photographs by Walter Wick. Scholastic, Inc.: New York, 2003.
The I-Spy books are quite well-known and delight users of all ages. I can still remember clambering for the current Where’s Waldo book as an elementary and middle school student. Although, Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo’s traditional I-Spy books contain a riddle to be deciphered, Scholastic has produced a simpler version which is just perfect for helping a young, pre-reading child to match in an abstract way. Be sure to begin with physical matching and then move on to matching with pictures. Once object to object matching has been practiced, use this book in a small group or snuggle up with a wiggly preschooler and refine your visual discrimination skills.

Look for the "easy readers" for a young child.

Look for the “easy readers” for a young child.

Children can "match" the pictures from the left to the right. I've also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

Children can “match” the pictures from the left to the right. I’ve also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

GRADING
Ages 4 and up
Dillon, Jana. Sasha’s Matrioshka Dolls. Ills. by Deborah Nouse Lattimore. Farrar, Straus and Giroux : New York, 2003.

This lengthy tale features Sasha, an upper elementary-aged girl who lives and work with her grandfather, Boxer. He carves wooden boxes and Sasha paints them. As this is a story of peasants in late nineteenth century Russia, Sasha is not in school and the family is poor. This tale tells the story of how the Russian nesting dolls came to be. It all started because Sasha’s one and only toy (a straw doll) was ripped apart by mice. Her grandfather wanted to make her a replacement and carved her a wooden doll, whom Sasha named Matrioshka, little mother. But, it was too small and the mice carried it away into their den, so Boxer rescued it and decided to build another one to “protect” the little doll. And, the story continues until there are seven dolls and everyone in the neighborhood wants to buy one. A great way to introduce these dolls and the Russian culture. An author’s background note is included.