DR. MONTESSORI'S OWN HANDBOOK
AUTHOR OF "THE MONTESSORI METHOD" AND "PEDAGOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY"
WITH FORTY-THREE ILLUSTRATIONS
NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1914, by FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages
FASC May, 1914
TO MY DEAR FRIEND
DONNA MARIA MARAINI MARCHIONESS GUERRIERI-GONZAGA
WHO DEVOTEDLY AND WITH SACRIFICE HAS GENEROUSLY UPHELD THIS WORK OF EDUCATION BROUGHT TO BIRTH IN OUR BELOVED COUNTRY BUT OFFERED TO THE CHILDREN OF HUMANITY
NOTE BY THE AUTHOR
As a result of the widespread interest that has been taken in my method of child education, certain books have been issued, which may appear to the general reader to be authoritative expositions of the Montessori system. I wish to state definitely that the present work, the English translation of which has been authorised and approved by me, is the only authentic manual of the Montessori method, and that the only other authentic or authorised works of mine in the English language are "The Montessori Method," and "Pedagogical Anthropology."
[Signed: Maria Montessori]
If a preface is a light which should serve to illumine the contents of a volume, I choose, not words, but human figures to illustrate this little book intended to enter families where children are growing up. I therefore recall here, as an eloquent symbol, Helen Keller and Mrs. Anne Sullivan Macy, who are, by their example, both teachers to myself—and, before the world, living documents of the miracle in education.
In fact, Helen Keller is a marvelous example of the phenomenon common to all human beings: the possibility of the liberation of the imprisoned spirit of man by the education of the senses. Here lies the basis of the method of education of which the book gives a succinct idea.
If one only of the senses sufficed to make of Helen Keller a woman of exceptional culture and a writer, who better than she proves the potency of that method of education which builds on the senses? If Helen Keller attained through exquisite natural gifts to an elevated conception of the world, who better than she proves that in the inmost self of man lies the spirit ready to reveal itself?
Helen, clasp to your heart these little children, since they, above all others, will understand you. They are your younger brothers: when, with bandaged eyes and in silence, they touch with their little hands, profound impressions rise in their consciousness, and they exclaim with a new form of happiness: "I see with my hands." They alone, then, can fully understand the drama of the mysterious privilege your soul has known. When, in darkness and in silence, their spirit left free to expand, their intellectual energy redoubled, they become able to read and write without having learnt, almost as it were by intuition, they, only they, can understand in part the ecstasy which God granted you on the luminous path of learning.
PAGE PREFACE vii INTRODUCTORY REMARKS 1 A "CHILDREN'S HOUSE" 9 THE METHOD 17 Didactic Material for the Education of the Senses 18 Didactic Material for the Preparation of Writing and Arithmetic 19 MOTOR EDUCATION 20 SENSORY EDUCATION 29 LANGUAGE AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD 69 FREEDOM 77 WRITING 80 Exercises for the Management of the Instrument of Writing 86 Exercises for the Writing of Alphabetical Signs 92 THE READING OF MUSIC 98 ARITHMETIC 102 MORAL FACTORS 114
Dr. Maria Montessori Frontispiece
FIG. FACING PAGE 1. Cupboard with Apparatus 12 2. The Montessori Paedometer 13 3. Frames for Lacing and Buttoning 22 4. Child Buttoning On Frame 23 5. Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter only 30 6. Cylinders Decreasing in Diameter and Height 30 7. Cylinders Decreasing in Height only 30 8. Child using Case of Cylinders 31 9. The Tower 31 10. Child Playing with Tower 31 11. The Broad Stair 36 12. The Long Stair 36 13. Board with Rough and Smooth Surfaces 37 14. Board with Gummed Strips of Paper 37 15. Wood Tablets Differing in Weight 47 Color Spools 42 16. Cabinet with Drawers to hold Geometrical Insets 44 17. Set of Six Circles 44 18. Set of Six Rectangles 45 19. Set of Six Triangles 45 20. Set of Six Polygons 46 21. Set of Six Irregular Figures 46 22. Set of Four Blanks and Two Irregular Figures 47 23. Frame to hold Geometrical Insets 48 24. Child Touching the Insets 49 25. Series of Cards with Geometrical Forms 54 26. Sound Boxes 55 27. Musical Bells 60 28. Sloping Boards to Display Set of Metal Insets 90 29. Single Sandpaper Letter 90 30. Groups of Sandpaper Letters 91 31. Box of Movable Letters 94 32. The Musical Staff 98 33. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100 34. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100 35. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 100 36. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101 37. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101 38. Didactic Material for Musical Reading 101 39. Dumb Keyboard 102 40. Diagram Illustrating Use of Numerical Rods 107 41. Counting Boxes 110 42. Arithmetic Frame 110
DR. MONTESSORI'S OWN HANDBOOK
Recent years have seen a remarkable improvement in the conditions of child life. In all civilized countries, but especially in England, statistics show a decrease in infant mortality.
Related to this decrease in mortality a corresponding improvement is to be seen in the physical development of children; they are physically finer and more vigorous. It has been the diffusion, the popularization of science, which has brought about such notable advantages. Mothers have learned to welcome the dictates of modern hygiene and to put them into practice in bringing up their children. Many new social institutions have sprung up and have been perfected with the object of assisting children and protecting them during the period of physical growth.
In this way what is practically a new race is coming into being, a race more highly developed, finer and more robust; a race which will be capable of offering resistance to insidious disease.
What has science done to effect this? Science has suggested for us certain very simple rules by which the child has been restored as nearly as possible to conditions of a natural life, and an order and a guiding law have been given to the functions of the body. For example, it is science which suggested maternal feeding, the abolition of swaddling clothes, baths, life in the open air, exercise, simple short clothing, quiet and plenty of sleep. Rules were also laid down for the measurement of food adapting it rationally to the physiological needs of the child's life.
Yet with all this, science made no contribution that was entirely new. Mothers had always nursed their children, children had always been clothed, they had breathed and eaten before.
The point is, that the same physical acts which, performed blindly and without order, led to disease and death, when ordered rationally were the means of giving strength and life.
* * * * *
The great progress made may perhaps deceive us into thinking that everything possible has been done for children.
We have only to weigh the matter carefully, however, to reflect: Are our children only those healthy little bodies which to-day are growing and developing so vigorously under our eyes? Is their destiny fulfilled in the production of beautiful human bodies?
In that case there would be little difference between their lot and that of the animals which we raise that we may have good meat or beasts of burden.
Man's destiny is evidently other than this, and the care due to the child covers a field wider than that which is considered by physical hygiene. The mother who has given her child his bath and sent him in his perambulator to the park has not fulfilled the mission of the "mother of humanity." The hen which gathers her chickens together, and the cat which licks her kittens and lavishes on them such tender care, differ in no wise from the human mother in the services they render.
No, the human mother if reduced to such limits devotes herself in vain, feels that a higher aspiration has been stifled within her. She is yet the mother of man.
Children must grow not only in the body but in the spirit, and the mother longs to follow the mysterious spiritual journey of the beloved one who to-morrow will be the intelligent, divine creation, man.
Science evidently has not finished its progress. On the contrary, it has scarcely taken the first step in advance, for it has hitherto stopped at the welfare of the body. It must continue, however, to advance; on the same positive lines along which it has improved the health and saved the physical life of the children, it is bound in the future to benefit and to reenforce their inner life, which is the real human life. On the same positive lines science will proceed to direct the development of the intelligence, of character, and of those latent creative forces which lie hidden in the marvelous embryo of man's spirit.
* * * * *
As the child's body must draw nourishment and oxygen from its external environment, in order to accomplish a great physiological work, the work of growth, so also the spirit must take from its environment the nourishment which it needs to develop according to its own "laws of growth." It cannot be denied that the phenomena of development are a great work in themselves. The consolidation of the bones, the growth of the whole body, the completion of the minute construction of the brain, the formation of the teeth, all these are very real labors of the physiological organism, as is also the transformation which the organism undergoes during the period of puberty.
These exertions are very different from those put forth by mankind in so-called external work, that is to say, in "social production," whether in the schools where man is taught, or in the world where, by the activity of his intelligence, he produces wealth and transforms his environment.
It is none the less true, however, that they are both "work." In fact, the organism during these periods of greatest physiological work is least capable of performing external tasks, and sometimes the work of growth is of such extent and difficulty that the individual is overburdened, as with an excessive strain, and for this reason alone becomes exhausted or even dies.
Man will always be able to avoid "external work" by making use of the labor of others, but there is no possibility of shirking that inner work. Together with birth and death it has been imposed by nature itself, and each man must accomplish it for himself. This difficult, inevitable labor, this is the "work of the child."
When we say then that little children should rest, we are referring to one side only of the question of work. We mean that they should rest from that external visible work to which the little child through his weakness and incapacity cannot make any contribution useful either to himself or to others.
Our assertion, therefore, is not absolute; the child in reality is not resting, he is performing the mysterious inner work of his autoformation. He is working to make a man, and to accomplish this it is not enough that the child's body should grow in actual size; the most intimate functions of the motor and nervous systems must also be established and the intelligence developed.
The functions to be established by the child fall into two groups: (1) the motor functions by which he is to secure his balance and learn to walk, and to coordinate his movements; (2) the sensory functions through which, receiving sensations from his environment, he lays the foundations of his intelligence by a continual exercise of observation, comparison and judgment. In this way he gradually comes to be acquainted with his environment and to develop his intelligence.
At the same time he is learning a language, and he is faced not only with the motor difficulties of articulation, sounds and words, but also with the difficulty of gaining an intelligent understanding of names and of the syntactical composition of the language.
If we think of an emigrant who goes to a new country ignorant of its products, ignorant of its natural appearance and social order, entirely ignorant of its language, we realize that there is an immense work of adaptation which he must perform before he can associate himself with the active life of the unknown people. No one will be able to do for him that work of adaptation. He himself must observe, understand, remember, form judgments, and learn the new language by laborious exercise and long experience.
What is to be said then of the child? What of this emigrant who comes into a new world, who, weak as he is and before his organism is completely developed, must in a short time adapt himself to a world so complex?
Up to the present day the little child has not received rational aid in the accomplishment of this laborious task. As regards the psychical development of the child we find ourselves in a period parallel to that in which the physical life was left to the mercy of chance and instinct—the period in which infant mortality was a scourge.
It is by scientific and rational means also that we must facilitate that inner work of psychical adaptation to be accomplished within the child, a work which is by no means the same thing as "any external work or production whatsoever."
This is the aim which underlies my method of infant education, and it is for this reason that certain principles which it enunciates, together with that part which deals with the technique of their practical application, are not of a general character, but have special reference to the particular case of the child from three to seven years of age, i.e., to the needs of a formative period of life.
My method is scientific, both in its substance and in its aim. It makes for the attainment of a more advanced stage of progress, in directions no longer only material and physiological. It is an endeavor to complete the course which hygiene has already taken, but in the treatment of the physical side alone.
If to-day we possessed statistics respecting the nervous debility, defects of speech, errors of perception and of reasoning, and lack of character in normal children, it would perhaps be interesting to compare them with statistics of the same nature, but compiled from the study of children who have had a number of years of rational education. In all probability we should find a striking resemblance between such statistics and those to-day available showing the decrease in mortality and the improvement in the physical development of children.
A "CHILDREN'S HOUSE"
The "Children's House" is the environment which is offered to the child that he may be given the opportunity of developing his activities. This kind of school is not of a fixed type, but may vary according to the financial resources at disposal and to the opportunities afforded by the environment. It ought to be a real house; that is to say, a set of rooms with a garden of which the children are the masters. A garden which contains shelters is ideal, because the children can play or sleep under them, and can also bring their tables out to work or dine. In this way they may live almost entirely in the open air, and are protected at the same time from rain and sun.
The central and principal room of the building, often also the only room at the disposal of the children, is the room for "intellectual work." To this central room can be added other smaller rooms according to the means and opportunities of the place: for example, a bathroom, a dining-room, a little parlor or common-room, a room for manual work, a gymnasium and rest-room.
The special characteristic of the equipment of these houses is that it is adapted for children and not adults. They contain not only didactic material specially fitted for the intellectual development of the child, but also a complete equipment for the management of the miniature family. The furniture is light so that the children can move it about, and it is painted in some light color so that the children can wash it with soap and water. There are low tables of various sizes and shapes—square, rectangular and round, large and small. The rectangular shape is the most common as two or more children can work at it together. The seats are small wooden chairs, but there are also small wicker armchairs and sofas.
In the working-room there are two indispensable pieces of furniture. One of these is a very long cupboard with large doors. (Fig. 1.) It is very low so that a small child can set on the top of it small objects such as mats, flowers, etc. Inside this cupboard is kept the didactic material which is the common property of all the children.
The other is a chest of drawers containing two or three columns of little drawers, each of which has a bright handle (or a handle of some color to contrast with the background), and a small card with a name upon it. Every child has his own drawer, in which to put things belonging to him.
Round the walls of the room are fixed blackboards at a low level, so that the children can write or draw on them, and pleasing, artistic pictures, which are changed from time to time as circumstances direct. The pictures represent children, families, landscapes, flowers and fruit, and more often Biblical and historical incidents. Ornamental plants and flowering plants ought always to be placed in the room where the children are at work.
Another part of the working-room's equipment is seen in the pieces of carpet of various colors—red, blue, pink, green and brown. The children spread these rugs upon the floor, sit upon them and work there with the didactic material. A room of this kind is larger than the customary class-rooms, not only because the little tables and separate chairs take up more space, but also because a large part of the floor must be free for the children to spread their rugs and work upon them.
In the sitting-room, or "club-room," a kind of parlor in which the children amuse themselves by conversation, games, or music, etc., the furnishings should be especially tasteful. Little tables of different sizes, little armchairs and sofas should be placed here and there. Many brackets of all kinds and sizes, upon which may be put statuettes, artistic vases or framed photographs, should adorn the walls; and, above all, each child should have a little flower-pot, in which he may sow the seed of some indoor plant, to tend and cultivate it as it grows. On the tables of this sitting-room should be placed large albums of colored pictures, and also games of patience, or various geometric solids, with which the children can play at pleasure, constructing figures, etc. A piano, or, better, other musical instruments, possibly harps of small dimensions, made especially for children, completes the equipment. In this "club-room" the teacher may sometimes entertain the children with stories, which will attract a circle of interested listeners.
The furniture of the dining-room consists, in addition to the tables, of low cupboards accessible to all the children, who can themselves put in their place and take away the crockery, spoons, knives and forks, table-cloth and napkins. The plates are always of china, and the tumblers and water-bottles of glass. Knives are always included in the table equipment.
The Dressing-room. Here each child has his own little cupboard or shelf. In the middle of the room there are very simple washstands, consisting of tables, on each of which stand a small basin, soap and nail-brush. Against the wall stand little sinks with water-taps. Here the children may draw and pour away their water. There is no limit to the equipment of the "Children's Houses" because the children themselves do everything. They sweep the rooms, dust and wash the furniture, polish the brasses, lay and clear away the table, wash up, sweep and roll up the rugs, wash a few little clothes, and cook eggs. As regards their personal toilet, the children know how to dress and undress themselves. They hang their clothes on little hooks, placed very low so as to be within reach of a little child, or else they fold up such articles of clothing, as their little serving-aprons, of which they take great care, and lay them inside a cupboard kept for the household linen.
* * * * *
In short, where the manufacture of toys has been brought to such a point of complication and perfection that children have at their disposal entire dolls' houses, complete wardrobes for the dressing and undressing of dolls, kitchens where they can pretend to cook, toy animals as nearly lifelike as possible, this method seeks to give all this to the child in reality—making him an actor in a living scene.
* * * * *
My pedometer forms part of the equipment of a "Children's House." After various modifications I have now reduced this instrument to a very practical form. (Fig. 2.)
The purpose of the pedometer, as its name shows, is to measure the children. It consists of a wide rectangular board, forming the base, from the center of which rise two wooden posts held together at the top by a narrow flat piece of metal. To each post is connected a horizontal metal rod—the indicator—which runs up and down by means of a casing, also of metal. This metal casing is made in one piece with the indicator, to the end of which is fixed an india-rubber ball. On one side, that is to say, behind one of the two tall vertical wooden posts, there is a small seat, also of wood. The two tall wooden posts are graduated. The post to which the seat is fixed is graduated from the surface of the seat to the top, whilst the other is graduated from the wooden board at the base to the top, i.e. to a height of 1.5 meters. On the side containing the seat the height of the child seated is measured, on the other side the child's full stature. The practical value of this instrument lies in the possibility of measuring two children at the same time, and in the fact that the children themselves cooperate in taking the measurements. In fact, they learn to take off their shoes and to place themselves in the correct position on the pedometer. They find no difficulty in raising and lowering the metal indicators, which are held so firmly in place by means of the metal casing that they cannot deviate from their horizontal position even when used by inexpert hands. Moreover they run extremely easily, so that very little strength is required to move them. The little india-rubber balls prevent the children from hurting themselves should they inadvertently knock their heads against the metal indicator.
The children are very fond of the pedometer. "Shall we measure ourselves?" is one of the proposals which they make most willingly and with the greatest likelihood of finding many of their companions to join them. They also take great care of the pedometer, dusting it, and polishing its metal parts. All the surfaces of the pedometer are so smooth and well polished that they invite the care that is taken of them, and by their appearance when finished fully repay the trouble taken.
The pedometer represents the scientific part of the method, because it has reference to the anthropological and psychological study made of the children, each of whom has his own biographical record. This biographical record follows the history of the child's development according to the observations which it is possible to make by the application of my method. This subject is dealt with at length in my other books. A series of cinematograph pictures has been taken of the pedometer at a moment when the children are being measured. They are seen coming of their own accord, even the very smallest, to take their places at the instrument.
The technique of my method as it follows the guidance of the natural physiological and psychical development of the child, may be divided into three parts:
Motor education. Sensory education. Language.
The care and management of the environment itself afford the principal means of motor education, while sensory education and the education of language are provided for by my didactic material.
The didactic material for the education of the senses consists of:
(a) Three sets of solid insets. (b) Three sets of solids in graduated sizes, comprising: (1) Pink cubes. (2) Brown prisms. (3) Rods: (a) colored green; (b) colored alternately red and blue. (c) Various geometric solids (prism, pyramid, sphere, cylinder, cone, etc.). (d) Rectangular tablets with rough and smooth surfaces. (e) A collection of various stuffs. (f) Small wooden tablets of different weights. (g) Two boxes, each containing sixty-four colored tablets. (h) A chest of drawers containing plane insets. (i) Three series of cards on which are pasted geometrical forms in paper. (k) A collection of cylindrical closed boxes (sounds). (l) A double series of musical bells, wooden boards on which are painted the lines used in music, small wooden discs for the notes.
Didactic Material for the Preparation for Writing and Arithmetic
(m) Two sloping desks and various iron insets. (n) Cards on which are pasted sandpaper letters. (o) Two alphabets of colored cardboard and of different sizes. (p) A series of cards on which are pasted sandpaper figures (1, 2, 3, etc.). (q) A series of large cards bearing the same figures in smooth paper for the enumeration of numbers above ten. (r) Two boxes with small sticks for counting. (s) The volume of drawings belonging specially to the method, and colored pencils. (t) The frames for lacing, buttoning, etc., which are used for the education of the movements of the hand.
The education of the movements is very complex, as it must correspond to all the coordinated movements which the child has to establish in his physiological organism. The child, if left without guidance, is disorderly in his movements, and these disorderly movements are the special characteristic of the little child. In fact, he "never keeps still," and "touches everything." This is what forms the child's so-called "unruliness" and "naughtiness."
The adult would deal with him by checking these movements, with the monotonous and useless repetition "keep still." As a matter of fact, in these movements the little one is seeking the very exercise which will organize and coordinate the movements useful to man. We must, therefore, desist from the useless attempt to reduce the child to a state of immobility. We should rather give "order" to his movements, leading them to those actions towards which his efforts are actually tending. This is the aim of muscular education at this age. Once a direction is given to them, the child's movements are made towards a definite end, so that he himself grows quiet and contented, and becomes an active worker, a being calm and full of joy. This education of the movements is one of the principal factors in producing that outward appearance of "discipline" to be found in the "Children's Houses." I have already spoken at length on this subject in my other books.
Muscular education has reference to:
The primary movements of everyday life (walking, rising, sitting, handling objects). The care of the person. Management of the household. Gardening. Manual work. Gymnastic exercises. Rhythmic movements.
In the care of the person the first step is that of dressing and undressing. For this end there is in my didactic material a collection of frames to which are attached pieces of stuff, leather, etc. These can be buttoned, hooked, tied together—in fact, joined in all the different ways which our civilization has invented for fastening our clothing, shoes, etc. (Fig. 3.) The teacher, sitting by the child's side, performs the necessary movements of the fingers very slowly and deliberately, separating the movements themselves into their different parts, and letting them be seen clearly and minutely.
For example, one of the first actions will be the adjustment of the two pieces of stuff in such a way that the edges to be fastened together touch one another from top to bottom. Then, if it is a buttoning-frame, the teacher will show the child the different stages of the action. She will take hold of the button, set it opposite the buttonhole, make it enter the buttonhole completely, and adjust it carefully in its place above. In the same way, to teach a child to tie a bow, she will separate the stage in which he ties the ribbons together from that in which he makes the bows.
In the cinematograph film there is a picture which shows an entire lesson in the tying of the bows with the ribbons. These lessons are not necessary for all the children, as they learn from one another, and of their own accord come with great patience to analyze the movements, performing them separately very slowly and carefully. The child can sit in a comfortable position and hold his frame on the table. (Fig. 4.) As he fastens and unfastens the same frame many times over with great interest, he acquires an unusual deftness of hand, and becomes possessed with the desire to fasten real clothes whenever he has the opportunity. We see the smallest children wanting to dress themselves and their companions. They go in search of amusement of this kind, and defend themselves with all their might against the adult who would try to help them.
In the same way for the teaching of the other and larger movements, such as washing, setting the table, etc., the directress must at the beginning intervene, teaching the child with few or no words at all, but with very precise actions. She teaches all the movements: how to sit, to rise from one's seat, to take up and lay down objects, and to offer them gracefully to others. In the same way she teaches the children to set the plates one upon the other and lay them on the table without making any noise.
The children learn easily and show an interest and surprising care in the performance of these actions. In classes where there are many children it is necessary to arrange for the children to take turns in the various household duties, such as housework, serving at table, and washing dishes. The children readily respect such a system of turns. There is no need to ask them to do this work, for they come spontaneously—even little ones of two and a half years old—to offer to do their share, and it is frequently most touching to watch their efforts to imitate, to remember, and, finally, to conquer their difficulty. Professor Jacoby, of New York, was once much moved as he watched a child, who was little more than two years old and not at all intelligent in appearance, standing perplexed, because he could not remember whether the fork should be set at the right hand or the left. He remained a long while meditating and evidently using all the powers of his mind. The other children older than he watched him with admiration, marveling, like ourselves, at the life developing under our eyes.
The instructions of the teacher consist then merely in a hint, a touch—enough to give a start to the child. The rest develops of itself. The children learn from one another and throw themselves into the work with enthusiasm and delight. This atmosphere of quiet activity develops a fellow-feeling, an attitude of mutual aid, and, most wonderful of all, an intelligent interest on the part of the older children in the progress of their little companions. It is enough just to set a child in these peaceful surroundings for him to feel perfectly at home. In the cinematograph pictures the actual work in a "Children's House" may be seen. The children are moving about, each one fulfilling his own task, whilst the teacher is in a corner watching. Pictures were taken also of the children engaged in the care of the house, that is, in the care both of their persons and of their surroundings. They can be seen washing their faces, polishing their shoes, washing the furniture, polishing the metal indicators of the pedometer, brushing the carpets, etc. In the work of laying the table the children are seen quite by themselves, dividing the work among themselves, carrying the plates, spoons, knives and forks, etc., and, finally, sitting down at the tables where the little waitresses serve the hot soup.
Again, gardening and manual work are a great pleasure to our children. Gardening is already well known as a feature of infant education, and it is recognized by all that plants and animals attract the children's care and attention. The ideal of the "Children's Houses" in this respect is to imitate the best in the present usage of those schools which owe their inspiration more or less to Mrs. Latter.
For manual instruction we have chosen clay work, consisting of the construction of little tiles, vases and bricks. These may be made with the help of simple instruments, such as molds. The completion of the work should be the aim always kept in view, and, finally, all the little objects made by the children should be glazed and baked in the furnace. The children themselves learn to line a wall with shining white or colored tiles wrought in various designs, or, with the help of mortar and a trowel, to cover the floor with little bricks. They also dig out foundations and then use their bricks to build division walls, or entire little houses for the chickens.
Among the gymnastic exercises that which must be considered the most important is that of the "line." A line is described in chalk or paint upon a large space of floor. Instead of one line, there may also be two concentric lines, elliptical in form. The children are taught to walk upon these lines like tight-rope walkers, placing their feet one in front of the other. To keep their balance they make efforts exactly similar to those of real tight-rope walkers, except that they have no danger with which to reckon, as the lines are only drawn upon the floor. The teacher herself performs the exercise, showing clearly how she sets her feet, and the children imitate her without any necessity for her to speak. At first it is only certain children who follow her, and when she has shown them how to do it, she withdraws, leaving the phenomenon to develop of itself.
The children for the most part continue to walk, adapting their feet with great care to the movement they have seen, and making efforts to keep their balance so as not to fall. Gradually the other children draw near and watch and also make an attempt. Very little time elapses before the whole of the two ellipses or the one line is covered with children balancing themselves, and continuing to walk round, watching their feet with an expression of deep attention on their faces.
Music may then be used. It should be a very simple march, the rhythm of which is not obvious at first, but which accompanies and enlivens the spontaneous efforts of the children.
When they have learned in this way to master their balance the children have brought the act of walking to a remarkable standard of perfection, and have acquired, in addition to security and composure in their natural gait, an unusually graceful carriage of the body. The exercise on the line can afterwards be made more complicated in various ways. The first application is that of calling forth rhythmic exercise by the sound of a march upon the piano. When the same march is repeated during several days, the children end by feeling the rhythm and by following it with movements of their arms and feet. They also accompany the exercises on the line with songs.
Little by little the music is understood by the children. They finish, as in Miss George's school at Washington, by singing over their daily work with the didactic material. The "Children's House," then, resembles a hive of bees humming as they work.
As to the little gymnasium, of which I speak in my book on the "Method," one piece of apparatus is particularly practical. This is the "fence," from which the children hang by their arms, freeing their legs from the heavy weight of the body and strengthening the arms. This fence has also the advantage of being useful in a garden for the purpose of dividing one part from another, as, for example, the flower-beds from the garden walks, and it does not detract in any way from the appearance of the garden.
My didactic material offers to the child the means for what may be called "sensory education."
In the box of material the first three objects which are likely to attract the attention of a little child from two and a half to three years old are three solid pieces of wood, in each of which is inserted a row of ten small cylinders, or sometimes discs, all furnished with a button for a handle. In the first case there is a row of cylinders of the same height, but with a diameter which decreases from thick to thin. (Fig. 5.) In the second there are cylinders which decrease in all dimensions, and so are either larger or smaller, but always of the same shape. (Fig. 6.)
Lastly, in the third case, the cylinders have the same diameter but vary in height, so that, as the size decreases, the cylinder gradually becomes a little disc in form. (Fig. 7.)
The first cylinders vary in two dimensions (the section); the second in all three dimensions; the third in one dimension (height). The order which I have given refers to the degree of ease with which the child performs the exercises.
The exercise consists in taking out the cylinders, mixing them and putting them back in the right place. It is performed by the child as he sits in a comfortable position at a little table. He exercises his hands in the delicate act of taking hold of the button with the tips of one or two fingers, and in the little movements of the hand and arm as he mixes the cylinders, without letting them fall and without making too much noise and puts them back again each in its own place.
In these exercises the teacher may, in the first instance, intervene, merely taking out the cylinders, mixing them carefully on the table and then showing the child that he is to put them back, but without performing the action herself. Such intervention, however, is almost always found to be unnecessary, for the children see their companions at work, and thus are encouraged to imitate them.
They like to do it alone; in fact, sometimes almost in private for fear of inopportune help. (Fig. 8.)
But how is the child to find the right place for each of the little cylinders which lie mixed upon the table? He first makes trials; it often happens that he places a cylinder which is too large for the empty hole over which he puts it. Then, changing its place, he tries others until the cylinder goes in. Again, the contrary may happen; that is to say, the cylinder may slip too easily into a hole too big for it. In that case it has taken a place which does not belong to it at all, but to a larger cylinder. In this way one cylinder at the end will be left out without a place, and it will not be possible to find one that fits. Here the child cannot help seeing his mistake in concrete form. He is perplexed, his little mind is faced with a problem which interests him intensely. Before, all the cylinders fitted, now there is one that will not fit. The little one stops, frowning, deep in thought. He begins to feel the little buttons and finds that some cylinders have too much room. He thinks that perhaps they are out of their right place and tries to place them correctly. He repeats the process again and again, and finally he succeeds. Then it is that he breaks into a smile of triumph. The exercise arouses the intelligence of the child; he wants to repeat it right from the beginning and, having learned by experience, he makes another attempt. Little children from three to three and a half years old have repeated the exercise up to forty times without losing their interest in it.
If the second set of cylinders and then the third are presented, the change of shape strikes the child and reawakens his interest.
The material which I have described serves to educate the eye to distinguish difference in dimension, for the child ends by being able to recognize at a glance the larger or the smaller hole which exactly fits the cylinder which he holds in his hand. The educative process is based on this: that the control of the error lies in the material itself, and the child has concrete evidence of it.
The desire of the child to attain an end which he knows, leads him to correct himself. It is not a teacher who makes him notice his mistake and shows him how to correct it, but it is a complex work of the child's own intelligence which leads to such a result.
Hence at this point there begins the process of auto-education.
The aim is not an external one, that is to say, it is not the object that the child should learn how to place the cylinders, and that he should know how to perform an exercise.
The aim is an inner one, namely, that the child train himself to observe; that he be led to make comparisons between objects, to form judgments, to reason and to decide; and it is in the indefinite repetition of this exercise of attention and of intelligence that a real development ensues.
* * * * *
The series of objects to follow after the cylinders consists of three sets of geometrical solid forms:
(1) Ten wooden cubes colored pink. The sides of the cubes diminish from ten centimeters to one centimeter. (Fig. 9.)
With these cubes the child builds a tower, first laying on the ground (upon a carpet) the largest cube, and then placing on the top of it all the others in their order of size to the very smallest. (Fig. 10.) As soon as he has built the tower, the child, with a blow of his hand, knocks it down, so that the cubes are scattered on the carpet, and then he builds it up again.
(2) Ten wooden prisms, colored brown. The length of the prisms is twenty centimeters, and the square section diminishes from ten centimeters a side to the smallest, one centimeter a side. (Fig. 11.)
The child scatters the ten pieces over a light-colored carpet, and then beginning sometimes with the thickest, sometimes with the thinnest, he places them in their right order of gradation upon a table.
(3) Ten rods, colored green, or alternately red and blue, all of which have the same square section of four centimeters a side, but vary by ten centimeters in length from ten centimeters to one meter. (Fig. 12.)
The child scatters the ten rods on a large carpet and mixes them at random, and, by comparing rod with rod, he arranges them according to their order of length, so that they take the form of a set of organ pipes.
As usual, the teacher, by doing the exercises herself, first shows the child how the pieces of each set should be arranged, but it will often happen that the child learns, not directly from her, but by watching his companions. She will, however, always continue to watch the children, never losing sight of their efforts, and any correction of hers will be directed more towards preventing rough or disorderly use of the material than towards any error which the child may make in placing the rods in their order of gradation. The reason is that the mistakes which the child makes, by placing, for example, a small cube beneath one that is larger, are caused by his own lack of education, and it is the repetition of the exercise which, by refining his powers of observation, will lead him sooner or later to correct himself. Sometimes it happens that a child working with the long rods makes the most glaring mistakes. As the aim of the exercise, however, is not that the rods be arranged in the right order of gradation, but that the child should practise by himself, there is no need to intervene.
One day the child will arrange all the rods in their right order, and then, full of joy, he will call the teacher to come and admire them. The object of the exercise will thus be achieved.
These three sets, the cubes, the prisms, and the rods, cause the child to move about and to handle and carry objects which are difficult for him to grasp with his little hand. Again, by their use, he repeats the training of the eye to the recognition of differences of size between similar objects. The exercise would seem easier, from the sensory point of view, than the other with the cylinders described above.
As a matter of fact, it is more difficult, as there is no control of the error in the material itself. It is the child's eye alone which can furnish the control.
Hence the difference between the objects should strike the eye at once; for that reason larger objects are used, and the necessary visual power presupposes a previous preparation (provided for in the exercise with the solid insets).
* * * * *
During the same period the child can be doing other exercises. Among the material is to be found a small rectangular board, the surface of which is divided into two parts—rough and smooth. (Fig. 13.) The child knows already how to wash his hands with cold water and soap; he then dries them and dips the tips of his fingers for a few seconds in tepid water. Graduated exercises for the thermic sense may also have their place here, as has been explained in my book on the "Method."
After this, the child is taught to pass the soft cushioned tips of his fingers as lightly as possible over the two separate surfaces, that he may appreciate their difference. The delicate movement backwards and forwards of the suspended hand, as it is brought into light contact with the surface, is an excellent exercise in control. The little hand, which has just been cleansed and given its tepid bath, gains much in grace and beauty, and the whole exercise is the first step in the education of the "tactile sense," which holds such an important place in my method.
When initiating the child into the education of the sense of touch, the teacher must always take an active part the first time; not only must she show the child "how it is done," her interference is a little more definite still, for she takes hold of his hand and guides it to touch the surfaces with the finger-tips in the lightest possible way. She will make no explanations; her words will be rather to encourage the child with his hand to perceive the different sensations.
When he has perceived them, it is then that he repeats the act by himself in the delicate way which he has been taught.
After the board with the two contrasting surfaces, the child is offered another board on which are gummed strips of paper which are rough or smooth in different degrees. (Fig. 14.)
Graduated series of sandpaper cards are also given. The child perfects himself by exercises in touching these surfaces, not only refining his capacity for perceiving tactile differences which are always growing more similar, but also perfecting the movement of which he is ever gaining greater mastery.
Following these is a series of stuffs of every kind: velvets, satins, silks, woolens, cottons, coarse and fine linens. There are two similar pieces of each kind of stuff, and they are of bright and vivid colors.
The child is now taught a new movement. Where before he had to touch, he must now feel the stuffs, which, according to the degree of fineness or coarseness from coarse cotton to fine silk, are felt with movements correspondingly decisive or delicate. The child whose hand is already practised finds the greatest pleasure in feeling the stuffs, and, almost instinctively, in order to enhance his appreciation of the tactile sensation he closes his eyes. Then, to spare himself the exertion, he blindfolds himself with a clean handkerchief, and as he feels the stuffs, he arranges the similar pieces in pairs, one upon the other, then, taking off the handkerchief, he ascertains for himself whether he has made any mistake.
This exercise in touching and feeling is peculiarly attractive to the child, and induces him to seek similar experiences in his surroundings. A little one, attracted by the pretty stuff of a visitor's dress, will be seen to go and wash his hands, then to come and touch the stuff of the garment again and again with infinite delicacy, his face meanwhile expressing his pleasure and interest.
* * * * *
A little later we shall see the children interest themselves in a much more difficult exercise.
There are some little rectangular tablets which form part of the material. (Fig. 15.) The tablets, though of identical size, are made of wood of varying qualities, so that they differ in weight and, through the property of the wood, in color also.
The child has to take a tablet and rest it delicately on the inner surfaces of his four fingers, spreading them well out. This will be another opportunity of teaching delicate movements.
The hand must move up and down as though to weigh the object, but the movement must be as imperceptible as possible. These little movements should diminish as the capacity and attention for perceiving the weight of the object becomes more acute and the exercise will be perfectly performed when the child comes to perceive the weight almost without any movement of the hands. It is only by the repetition of the attempts that such a result can be obtained.
Once the children are initiated into it by the teacher, they blindfold their eyes and repeat by themselves these exercises of the baric sense. For example, they lay the heavier wooden tablets on the right and the lighter on the left.
When the child takes off the handkerchief, he can see by the color of the pieces of wood if he has made a mistake.
* * * * *
A long time before this difficult exercise, and during the period when the child is working with the three sorts of geometrical solids and with the rough and smooth tablets, he can be exercising himself with a material which is very attractive to him.
This is the set of tablets covered with bright silk of shaded colors. The set consists of two separate boxes each containing sixty-four colors; that is, eight different tints, each of which has eight shades carefully graded. The first exercise for the child is that of pairing the colors; that is, he selects from a mixed heap of colors the two tablets which are alike, and lays them out, one beside the other. The teacher naturally does not offer the child all the one hundred and twenty-eight tablets in a heap, but chooses only a few of the brighter colors, for example, red, blue and yellow, and prepares and mixes up three or four pairs. Then, taking one tablet—perhaps the red one—she indicates to the child that he is to choose its counterpart from the heap. This done, the teacher lays the pair together on the table. Then she takes perhaps the blue and the child selects the tablet to form another pair. The teacher then mixes the tablets again for the child to repeat the exercise by himself, i.e., to select the two red tablets, the two blue, the two yellow, etc., and to place the two members of each pair next to one another.
Then the couples will be increased to four or five, and little children of three years old end by pairing of their own accord ten or a dozen couples of mixed tablets.
When the child has given his eye sufficient practise in recognizing the identity of the pairs of colors, he is offered the shades of one color only, and he exercises himself in the perception of the slightest differences of shade in every color. Take, for example, the blue series. There are eight tablets in graduated shades. The teacher places them one beside another, beginning with the darkest, with the sole object of making the child understand "what is to be done."
She then leaves him alone to the interesting attempts which he spontaneously makes. It often happens that the child makes a mistake. If he has understood the idea and makes a mistake, it is a sign that he has not yet reached the stage of perceiving the differences between the graduations of one color. It is practise which perfects in the child that capacity for distinguishing the fine differences, and so we leave him alone to his attempts!
There are two suggestions that we can make to help him. The first is that he should always select the darkest color from the pile. This suggestion greatly facilitates his choice by giving it a constant direction.
Secondly, we can lead him to observe from time to time any two colors that stand next to each other in order to compare them directly and apart from the others. In this way the child does not place a tablet without a particular and careful comparison with its neighbor.
Finally, the child himself will love to mix the sixty-four colors and then to arrange them in eight rows of pretty shades of color with really surprising skill. In this exercise also the child's hand is educated to perform fine and delicate movements and his mind is afforded special training in attention. He must not take hold of the tablets anyhow, he must avoid touching the colored silk, and must handle the tablets instead by the pieces of wood at the top and bottom. To arrange the tablets next to one another in a straight line at exactly the same level, so that the series looks like a beautiful shaded ribbon, is an act which demands a manual skill only obtained after considerable practise.
* * * * *
These exercises of the chromatic sense lead, in the case of the older children, to the development of the "color memory." A child having looked carefully at a color, is then invited to look for its companion in a mixed group of colors, without, of course, keeping the color he has observed under his eye to guide him. It is, therefore, by his memory that he recognizes the color, which he no longer compares with a reality but with an image impressed upon his mind.
The children are very fond of this exercise in "color memory"; it makes a lively digression for them, as they run with the image of a color in their minds and look for its corresponding reality in their surroundings. It is a real triumph for them to identify the idea with the corresponding reality and to hold in their hands the proof of the mental power they have acquired.
* * * * *
Another interesting piece of material is a little cabinet containing six drawers placed one above another. When they are opened they display six square wooden "frames" in each. (Fig. 16.)
Almost all the frames have a large geometrical figure inserted in the center, each colored blue and provided with a small button for a handle. Each drawer is lined with blue paper, and when the geometrical figure is removed, the bottom is seen to reproduce exactly the same form.
The geometrical figures are arranged in the drawers according to analogy of form.
(1) In one drawer there are six circles decreasing in diameter. (Fig. 17.)
(2) In another there is a square, together with five rectangles in which the length is always equal to the side of the square while the breadth gradually decreases. (Fig. 18.)
(3) Another drawer contains six triangles, which vary either according to their sides or according to their angles (the equilateral, isosceles, scalene, right angled, obtuse angled, and acute angled). (Fig. 19.)
(4) In another drawer there are six regular polygons containing from five to ten sides, i.e., the pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, and decagon. (Fig. 20.)
(5) Another drawer contains various figures: an oval, an ellipse, a rhombus, and a trapezoid. (Fig. 21.)
(6) Finally, there are four plain wooden tablets, i.e., without any geometrical inset, which should have no button fixed to them; also two other irregular geometrical figures. (Fig. 22.)
Connected with this material there is a wooden frame furnished with a kind of rack which opens like a lid, and serves, when shut, to keep firmly in place six of the insets which may be arranged on the bottom of the frame itself, entirely covering it. (Fig. 23.)
This frame is used for the preparation of the first presentation to the child of the plane geometrical forms.
The teacher may select according to her own judgment certain forms from among the whole series at her disposal.
At first it is advisable to show the child only a few figures which differ very widely from one another in form. The next step is to present a larger number of figures, and after this to present consecutively figures more and more similar in form.
The first figures to be arranged in the frame will be, for example, the circle and the equilateral triangle, or the circle, the triangle and the square. The spaces which are left should be covered with the tablets of plain wood. Gradually the frame is completely filled with figures; first, with very dissimilar figures, as, for example, a square, a very narrow rectangle, a triangle, a circle, an ellipse and a hexagon, or with other figures in combination.
Afterwards the teacher's object will be to arrange figures similar to one another in the frame, as, for example, the set of six rectangles, six triangles, six circles, varying in size, etc.
This exercise resembles that of the cylinders. The insets are held by the buttons and taken from their places. They are then mixed on the table and the child is invited to put them back in their places. Here also the control of the error is in the material, for the figure cannot be inserted perfectly except when it is put in its own place. Hence a series of "experiments," of "attempts" which end in victory. The child is led to compare the various forms; to realize in a concrete way the differences between them when an inset wrongly placed will not go into the aperture. In this way he educates his eye to the recognition of forms.
The new movement of the hand which the child must coordinate is of particular importance. He is taught to touch the outline of the geometrical figures with the soft tips of the index and middle finger of the right hand, or of the left as well, if one believes in ambidexterity. (Fig. 24.) The child is made to touch the outline, not only of the inset, but also of the corresponding aperture, and, only after having touched them, is he to put back the inset into its place.
The recognition of the form is rendered much easier in this way. Children who evidently do not recognize the identities of form by the eye and who make absurd attempts to place the most diverse figures one within the other, do recognize the forms after having touched their outlines, and arrange them very quickly in their right places.
The child's hand during this exercise of touching the outlines of the geometrical figures has a concrete guide in the object. This is especially true when he touches the frames, for his two fingers have only to follow the edge of the frame, which acts as an obstacle and is a very clear guide. The teacher must always intervene at the start to teach accurately this movement, which will have such an importance in the future. She must, therefore, show the child how to touch, not only by performing the movement herself slowly and clearly, but also by guiding the child's hand itself during his first attempts, so that he is sure to touch all the details—angles and sides. When his hand has learned to perform these movements with precision and accuracy, he will be really capable of following the outline of a geometrical figure, and through many repetitions of the exercise he will come to coordinate the movement necessary for the exact delineation of its form.
This exercise could be called an indirect but very real preparation for drawing. It is certainly the preparation of the hand to trace an enclosed form. The little hand which touches, feels, and knows how to follow a determined outline is preparing itself, without knowing it, for writing.
The children make a special point of touching the outlines of the plane insets with accuracy. They themselves have invented the exercise of blindfolding their eyes so as to recognize the forms by touch only, taking out and putting back the insets without seeing them.
* * * * *
Corresponding to every form reproduced in the plane insets there are three white cards square in shape and of exactly the same size as the wooden frames of the insets. These cards are kept in three special cardboard boxes, almost cubic in form. (Fig. 25.)
On the cards are repeated, in three series, the same geometrical forms as those of the plane insets. The same measurements of the figures also are exactly reproduced.
In the first series the forms are filled in, i.e., they are cut out in blue paper and gummed on to the card; in the second series there is only an outline about half a centimeter in width, which is cut out in the same blue paper and gummed to the card; in the third series, however, the geometrical figures are instead outlined only in black ink.
By the use of this second piece of the material, the exercise of the eye is gradually brought to perfection in the recognition of "plane forms." In fact, there is no longer the concrete control of error in the material as there was in the wooden insets, but the child, by his eye alone, must judge of identities of form when, instead of fitting the wooden forms into their corresponding apertures, he simply rests them on the cardboard figure.
Again, the refinement of the eye's power of discrimination increases every time the child passes from one series of cards to the next, and by the time that he has reached the third series, he can see the relation between a wooden object, which he holds in his hand, and an outline drawing; that is, he can connect the concrete reality with an abstraction. The line now assumes in his eyes a very definite meaning; and he accustoms himself to recognize, to interpret and to judge of forms contained by a simple outline.
The exercises are various; the children themselves invent them. Some love to spread out a number of the figures of the geometric insets before their eyes, and then, taking a handful of the cards and mixing them like playing cards, deal them out as quickly as possible, choosing the figures corresponding to the pieces. Then as a test of their choice, they place the wooden pieces upon the forms on the cards. At this exercise they often cover whole tables, putting the wooden figures above, and beneath each one in a vertical line, the three corresponding forms of the cardboard series.
Another game invented by the children consists in putting out and mixing all the cards of the three series on two or three adjoining tables. The child then takes a wooden geometrical form and places it, as quickly as possible, on the corresponding cards which he has recognized at a glance among all the rest.
Four or five children play this game together, and as soon as one of them has found, for example, the filled-in figure corresponding to the wooden piece, and has placed the piece carefully and precisely upon it, another child takes away the piece in order to place it on the same form in outline. The game is somewhat suggestive of chess.
Many children, without any suggestion from any one, touch with the finger the outline of the figures in the three series of cards, doing it with seriousness of purpose, interest and perseverance.
We teach the children to name all the forms of the plane insets.
At first I had intended to limit my teaching to the most important names, such as square, rectangle, circle. But the children wanted to know all the names, taking pleasure in learning even the most difficult, such as trapezium, and decagon. They also show great pleasure in listening to the exact pronunciation of new words and in their repetition. Early childhood is, in fact, the age in which language is formed, and in which the sounds of a foreign language can be perfectly learned.
When the child has had long practise with the plane insets, he begins to make "discoveries" in his environment, recognizing forms, colors, and qualities already known to him—a result which, in general, follows after all the sensory exercises. Then it is that a great enthusiasm is aroused in him, and the world becomes for him a source of pleasure. A little boy, walking one day alone on the roof terrace, repeated to himself with a thoughtful expression on his face, "The sky is blue! the sky is blue!" Once a cardinal, an admirer of the children of the school in Via Guisti, wished himself to bring them some biscuits and to enjoy the sight of a little greediness among the children. When he had finished his distribution, instead of seeing the children put the food hastily into their mouths, to his great surprise he heard them call out, "A triangle! a circle! a rectangle!" In fact, these biscuits were made in geometrical shapes.
In one of the people's dwellings at Milan, a mother, preparing the dinner in the kitchen, took from a packet a slice of bread and butter. Her little four-year-old boy who was with her said, "Rectangle." The woman going on with her work cut off a large corner of the slice of bread, and the child cried out, "Triangle." She put this bit into the saucepan, and the child, looking at the piece that was left, called out more loudly than before, "And now it is a trapezium."
The father, a working man, who was present, was much impressed with the incident. He went straight to look for the teacher and asked for an explanation. Much moved, he said, "If I had been educated in that way I should not be now just an ordinary workman."
It was he who later on arranged for a demonstration to induce all the workmen of the dwellings to take an interest in the school. They ended by presenting the teacher with a parchment they had painted themselves, and on it, between the pictures of little children, they had introduced every kind of geometrical form.
As regards the touching of objects for the realization of their form, there is an infinite field of discovery open to the child in his environment. Children have been seen to stand opposite a beautiful pillar or a statue and, after having admired it, to close their eyes in a state of beatitude and pass their hands many times over the forms. One of our teachers met one day in a church two little brothers from the school in Via Guisti. They were standing looking at the small columns supporting the altar. Little by little the elder boy edged nearer the columns and began to touch them, then, as if he desired his little brother to share his pleasure, he drew him nearer and, taking his hand very gently, made him pass it round the smooth and beautiful shape of the column. But a sacristan came up at that moment and sent away "those tiresome children who were touching everything."
The great pleasure which the children derive from the recognition of objects by touching their form corresponds in itself to a sensory exercise.
Many psychologists have spoken of the stereognostic sense, that is, the capacity of recognizing forms by the movement of the muscles of the hand as it follows the outlines of solid objects. This sense does not consist only of the sense of touch, because the tactile sensation is only that by which we perceive the differences in quality of surfaces, rough or smooth. Perception of form comes from the combination of two sensations, tactile and muscular, muscular sensations being sensations of movement. What we call in the blind the tactile sense is in reality more often the stereognostic sense. That is, they perceive by means of their hands the form of bodies.
It is the special muscular sensibility of the child from three to six years of age who is forming his own muscular activity which stimulates him to use the stereognostic sense. When the child spontaneously blindfolds his eyes in order to recognize various objects, such as the plane and solid insets, he is exercising this sense.
There are many exercises which he can do to enable him to recognize with closed eyes objects of well defined shapes, as, for example, the little bricks and cubes of Froebel, marbles, coins, beans, peas, etc. From a selection of different objects mixed together he can pick out those that are alike, and arrange them in separate heaps.
In the didactic material there are also geometrical solids—pale blue in color—a sphere, a prism, a pyramid, a cone, a cylinder. The most attractive way of teaching a child to recognize these forms is for him to touch them with closed eyes and guess their names, the latter learned in a way which I will describe later. After an exercise of this kind the child when his eyes are open observes the forms with a much more lively interest. Another way of interesting him in the solid geometrical forms is to make them move. The sphere rolls in every direction; the cylinder rolls in one direction only; the cone rolls round itself; the prism and the pyramid, however, stand still, but the prism falls over more easily than the pyramid.
* * * * *
Little more remains of the didactic material for the education of the senses. There is, however, a series of six cardboard cylinders, either closed entirely or with wooden covers. (Fig. 26.)
When these cases are shaken they produce sounds varying in intensity from loud to almost imperceptible sounds, according to the nature of the objects inside the cylinder.
There is a double act of these, and the exercise consists, first, in the recognition of sounds of equal intensity, arranging the cylinders in pairs. The next exercise consists in the comparison of one sound with another; that is, the child arranges the six cylinders in a series according to the loudness of sound which they produce. The exercise is analogous to that with the color spools, which also are paired and then arranged in gradation. In this case also the child performs the exercise seated comfortably at a table. After a preliminary explanation from the teacher he repeats the exercise by himself, his eyes being blindfolded that he may better concentrate his attention.
We may conclude with a general rule for the direction of the education of the senses. The order of procedure should be:
(1) Recognition of identities (the pairing of similar objects and the insertion of solid forms into places which fit them).
(2) Recognition of contrasts (the presentation of the extremes of a series of objects).
(3) Discrimination between objects very similar to one another.
To concentrate the attention of the child upon the sensory stimulus which is acting upon him at a particular moment, it is well, as far as possible, to isolate the sense; for instance, to obtain silence in the room for all the exercises and to blindfold the eyes for those particular exercises which do not relate to the education of the sense of sight.
The cinematograph pictures give a general idea of all the sense exercises which the children can do with the material, and any one who has been initiated into the theory on which these are based will be able gradually to recognize them as they are seen practically carried out.
It is very advisable for those who wish to guide the children in these sensory exercises to begin themselves by working with the didactic material. The experience will give them some idea of what the children must feel, of the difficulties which they must overcome, etc., and, up to a certain point, it will give them some conception of the interest which these exercises can arouse in them. Whoever makes such experiments himself will be most struck by the fact that, when blindfolded, he finds that all the sensations of touch and hearing really appear more acute and more easily recognized. On account of this alone no small interest will be aroused in the experimenter.
* * * * *
For the beginning of the education of the musical sense, we use in Rome a material which does not form part of the didactic apparatus as it is sold at present. It consists of a double series of bells forming an octave with tones and semitones. These metal bells, which stand upon a wooden rectangular base, are all alike in appearance, but, when struck with a little wooden hammer, give out sounds corresponding to the notes doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh, doh [sharp], re [sharp], fah [sharp], soh [sharp], lah [sharp].
One series of bells is arranged in chromatic order upon a long board, upon which are painted rectangular spaces which are black and white and of the same size as the bases which support the bells. As on a pianoforte keyboard, the white spaces correspond to the tones, and the black to the semitones. (Fig. 27.)
At first the only bells to be arranged upon the board are those which correspond to the tones; these are set upon the white spaces in the order of the musical notes, doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh.
To perform the first exercise the child strikes with a small hammer the first note of the series already arranged (doh). Then among a second series of corresponding bells which, arranged without the semitones, are mixed together upon the table, he tries, by striking the bells one after the other, to find the sound which is the same as the first one he has struck (doh). When he has succeeded in finding the corresponding sound, he puts the bell thus chosen opposite the first one (doh) upon the board. Then he strikes the second bell, re, once or twice; then from among the mixed group of bells he makes experiments until he recognizes re, which he places opposite the second bell of the series already arranged. He continues in the same way right to the end, looking for the identity of the sounds and performing an exercise of pairing similar to that already done in the case of the sound-boxes, the colors, etc.
Later, he learns in order the sounds of the musical scale, striking in rapid succession the bells arranged in order, and also accompanying his action with his voice—doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti, doh. When he is able to recognize and remember the series of sounds, the child takes the eight bells and, after mixing them up, he tries by striking them with the hammer, to find doh, then re, etc. Every time that he takes a new note, he strikes from the beginning all the bells already recognized and arranged in order—doh, re, doh, re, mi; doh, re, mi, fah; doh, re, mi, fah, soh, etc. In this way he succeeds in arranging all the bells in the order of the scale, guided only by his ear, and having succeeded, he strikes all the notes one after the other up and down the scale. This exercise fascinates children from five years old upwards.
If the objects which have been described constitute the didactic material for the beginnings of a methodical education of the auditory sense, I have no desire to limit to them an educational process which is so important and already so complex in its practise, whether in the long established methods of treatment for the deaf, or in modern physiological musical education. In fact, I also use resonant metal tubes, small bars of wood which emit musical notes, and strings (little harps), upon which the children seek to recognize the tones they have already learned with the exercise of the bells. The pianoforte may also be used for the same purpose. In this way the difference in timbre comes to be perceived together with the differences in tone. At the same time various exercises, already mentioned, such as the marches played on the piano for rhythmic exercises, and the simple songs sung by the children themselves, offer extensive means for the development of the musical sense.
* * * * *
To quicken the child's attention in special relation to sounds there is a most important exercise which, contrary to all attempts made up to this time in the practise of education, consists not in producing but in eliminating, as far as possible, all sounds from the environment. My "lesson of silence" has been very widely applied, even in schools where the rest of my method has not found its way, for the sake of its practical effect upon the discipline of the children.
The children are taught "not to move"; to inhibit all those motor impulses which may arise from any cause whatsoever, and in order to induce in them real "immobility," it is necessary to initiate them in the control of all their movements. The teacher, then, does not limit herself to saying, "Sit still," but she gives them the example herself, showing them how to sit absolutely still; that is, with feet still, body still, arms still, head still. The respiratory movements should also be performed in such a way as to produce no sound.
The children must be taught how to succeed in this exercise. The fundamental condition is that of finding a comfortable position, i.e., a position of equilibrium. As they are seated for this exercise, they must therefore make themselves comfortable either in their little chairs or on the ground. When immobility is obtained, the room is half-darkened, or else the children close their eyes, or cover them with their hands.
It is quite plain to see that the children take a great interest in the "Silence"; they seem to give themselves up to a kind of spell: they might be said to be wrapped in meditation. Little by little, as each child, watching himself, becomes more and more still, the silence deepens till it becomes absolute and can be felt, just as the twilight gradually deepens whilst the sun is setting.
Then it is that slight sounds, unnoticed before, are heard; the ticking of the clock, the chirp of a sparrow in the garden, the flight of a butterfly. The world becomes full of imperceptible sounds which invade that deep silence without disturbing it, just as the stars shine out in the dark sky without banishing the darkness of the night. It is almost the discovery of a new world where there is rest. It is, as it were, the twilight of the world of loud noises and of the uproar that oppresses the spirit. At such a time the spirit is set free and opens out like the corolla of the convolvulus.
And leaving metaphor for the reality of facts, can we not all recall feelings that have possessed us at sunset, when all the vivid impressions of the day, the brightness and clamor, are silenced? It is not that we miss the day, but that our spirit expands. It becomes more sensitive to the inner play of emotions, strong and persistent, or changeful and serene.
"It was that hour when mariners feel longing, And hearts grow tender."
(Dante, trans. Longfellow.)
The lesson of silence ends with a general calling of the children's names. The teacher, or one of the children, takes her place behind the class or in an adjoining room, and "calls" the motionless children, one by one, by name; the call is made in a whisper, that is, without vocal sound. This demands a close attention on the part of the child, if he is to hear his name. When his name is called he must rise and find his way to the voice which called him; his movements must be light and vigilant, and so controlled as to make no noise.
When the children have become acquainted with silence, their hearing is in a manner refined for the perception of sounds. Those sounds which are too loud become gradually displeasing to the ear of one who has known the pleasure of silence, and has discovered the world of delicate sounds. From this point the children gradually go on to perfect themselves; they walk lightly, take care not to knock against the furniture, move their chairs without noise, and place things upon the table with great care. The result of this is seen in the grace of carriage and of movement, which is especially delightful on account of the way in which it has been brought about. It is not a grace taught externally for the sake of beauty or regard for the world, but one which is born of the pleasure felt by the spirit in immobility and silence. The soul of the child wishes to free itself from the irksomeness of sounds that are too loud, from obstacles to its peace during work. These children, with the grace of pages to a noble lord, are serving their spirits.
This exercise develops very definitely the social spirit. No other lesson, no other "situation," could do the same. A profound silence can be obtained even when more than fifty children are crowded together in a small space, provided that all the children know how to keep still and want to do it; but one disturber is enough to take away the charm.
Here is demonstration of the cooperation of all the members of a community to achieve a common end. The children gradually show increased power of inhibition; many of them, rather than disturb the silence, refrain from brushing a fly off the nose, or suppress a cough or sneeze. The same exhibition of collective action is seen in the care with which the children move to avoid making a noise during their work. The lightness with which they run on tiptoe, the grace with which they shut a cupboard, or lay an object on the table, these are qualities that must be acquired by all, if the environment is to become tranquil and free from disturbance. One rebel is sufficient to mar this achievement; one noisy child, walking on his heels or banging the door, can disturb the peaceful atmosphere of the small community.
LANGUAGE AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD
The special importance of the sense of hearing comes from the fact that it is the sense organ connected with speech. Therefore, to train the child's attention to follow sounds and noises which are produced in the environment, to recognize them and to discriminate between them, is to prepare his attention to follow more accurately the sounds of articulate language. The teacher must be careful to pronounce clearly and completely the sounds of the word when she speaks to a child, even though she may be speaking in a low voice, almost as if telling him a secret. The children's songs are also a good means for obtaining exact pronunciation. The teacher, when she teaches them, pronounces slowly, separating the component sounds of the word pronounced.
But a special opportunity for training in clear and exact speech occurs when the lessons are given in the nomenclature relating to the sensory exercises. In every exercise, when the child has recognized the differences between the qualities of the objects, the teacher fixes the idea of this quality with a word. Thus, when the child has many times built and rebuilt the tower of the pink cubes, at an opportune moment the teacher draws near him, and taking the two extreme cubes, the largest and the smallest, and showing them to him, says, "This is large"; "This is small." The two words only, large and small, are pronounced several times in succession with strong emphasis and with a very clear pronunciation, "This is large, large, large"; after which there is a moment's pause. Then the teacher, to see if the child has understood, verifies with the following tests: "Give me the large one. Give me the small one." Again, "The large one." "Now the small one." "Give me the large one." Then there is another pause. Finally, the teacher, pointing to the objects in turn asks, "What is this?" The child, if he has learned, replies rightly, "Large," "Small." The teacher then urges the child to repeat the words always more clearly and as accurately as possible. "What is it?" "Large." "What?" "Large." "Tell me nicely, what is it?" "Large."
Large and small objects are those which differ only in size and not in form; that is, all three dimensions change more or less proportionally. We should say that a house is "large" and a hut is "small." When two pictures represent the same objects in different dimensions one can be said to be an enlargement of the other.
When, however, only the dimensions referring to the section of the object change, while the length remains the same, the objects are respectively "thick" and "thin." We should say of two posts of equal height, but different cross-section, that one is "thick" and the other is "thin." The teacher, therefore, gives a lesson on the brown prisms similar to that with the cubes in the three "periods" which I have described: