“Many children who have not arrived at the point of recognizing a figure by looking at it, could recognize it by touching it, that is, by computing the movements necessary to the following of its contour…the association of the muscular-tactile sense with that of vision, aids in a most remarkable way the perception of forms and fixes them in memory.” -Dr. Maria Montessori, Ch 13. of The Montessori Method
During the training for my AMS teaching credential, I noticed a lot of emphasis was placed on the sensorial materials. If the ‘practical life’ area of the classroom was for deepening a child’s concentration, then the sensorial activities were the first foray into the original Montessori materials.
The sensorial materials train the senses, including the visual sense. Dr. Montessori used a child’s natural inclination to touch everything and turned that into a lesson that would train the eyes. These materials are the main preparation for the order that comes with mathematics. A year one student (3-year-old) would spend most of his time in the practical life and sensorial areas of the classroom. Their ‘work’ is their play. By manipulating objects, students are learning to concentrate and to observe. One of my instructors even mentioned that she could tell a Montessori-educated child over one who had a different type of schooling – just by the way they observed their daily lives. Indeed, one of the first questions a Montessori teacher asks is, “what do you notice?”
Our teacher training also mimicked this format. We started with the rigidness and strict adherence to the presentation of materials via ‘practical life’ and moved on to the sensorial area of the classroom. I think the intent was for us to be trained to “see.” As much as I thought it obnoxious at the time, years later I can appreciate the exaggerated focus on these materials. A Montessori primary classroom isn’t about teaching kids to read by the age of four, it’s about teaching them how to observe and concentrate so that they can teach themselves. They are learning how to learn.
Another good way to indirectly teach children is to read to them daily and for long periods of time. Let them follow their interests and pick out their own books, but also supplement these books with reality-based picture books that build vocabulary to accompany all of that observation. Help give them a name to the things they are seeing – without forcing the issue.
The following books have some sort of relevance to our senses. These books also follow Dr. Montessori’s dictate to help a child (birth to age six) to develop a concrete understanding of the world. Therefore, none of these books have talking animals. This differs from fantasy play between children, which is not the same as an adult presenting a fantastical element as reality.
These reviews are the result of years of note-taking and reading to my own children. While I was teaching in the classroom, I wanted to be able to support the Montessori lessons with some high-quality children’s literature. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time during my year of teaching to do the research. In the past seven years, I have attempted to correct that oversight. In the list below, I have provided some easily-accessible books that could be read aloud in a Montessori classroom. Of course, if you do not have time to read aloud, these books could be placed in an ever-rotating library for students and parents. For books that discuss practical life skills, head over to the page on reality-based books for Montessori practice life. Otherwise, read on for picture books that focus on the senses.
Books for Montessori Sensorial
Montessori Sensorial – Sense of Wonder
The following posts do not have book reviews associated with them – mostly because I think a sense of wonder is found outside. Or, perhaps, staring at the doorknob and trying to figure out how it works. For me, it’s the experience. It’s the joy that comes from observing and discovering. These posts were all written as I observed my own children and briefly captured what it meant to have a sense of wonder.
Sense of Wonder – Rachel Carson
Sense of Wonder – observing with a preschooler
Sense of Wonder – following their interests