“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
Within the Practical Life area of the Montessori curriculum we can find examples of the kind of work that fixes a child’s attention.
Single task: The youngest child fixes their attention on a sponge squeezing work. Two bowls, one with water and one without. The child must soak up the water with a sponge, hold it carefully till it is moved over the empty bowl, squeezing it to wring out every drop.
Broader task: As the child grows older wiping up after their lunch and cleaning the easel after painting are two ways they put their sponge skills to work. They are fixing their attention and readying the space for the next person. Their care is for their classroom and their classmate.
Broader still: The oldest students in our school care for their own clean up tasks, have daily classroom chores and attend to whole school tasks such as composting. They fix their attention on tasks and are satisfied to know they have an impact on their greater world.
Teacher or Student?
A teacher in our Children’s House program shared a story of the fluid roles in a Montessori classroom. The letter of the week is “c” and a young child of three was tracing it, pronouncing the short initial sound then asking “Can I do it again?”. This very engaging work had captured her complete attention. When she was satisfied with her work she moved on to pick up the set of cards with pictures of “c” words such as cat and cap. Here the roles shifted, she announced to the teacher “I will teach you” and proceeded to lead the lesson from here onward. Whether we are the student or teacher in any given moment the learning in a Montessori classroom is deep and true.