Montessori mom extraordinaire.
She offers tip #4 in this teacher tip series, answering the question:
What is your favorite activity for strengthening students’ cognitive skills?
Maria Montessori firmly believed that cognitive skills must be purposefully developed before attempting to apply them to academic work. She developed an entire system of education with unique materials to accomplish this.
One such material is the metal insets. This is a set of ten blue shapes with a knob inside a pink frame, used for design work. Children use colored pencils to trace selected insets and frames onto their paper. They then learn to color in the design with diagonal strokes, within the lines.
Not only is this art, it is direct preparation for writing. Pencil control is improved with the tracing, and the filling in of the design is equivalent to the pages of stroke practice in handwriting books. It also develops spatial awareness as the child chooses which insets or frames to use, and reinforces geometry concepts that are initially taught with the geometry cabinet.
The insets can be purchased, pulled from the geometry cabinet if you have it, or even made from mat board or cardboard. This very engaging work begins in Primary, around age 4, and continues through the elementary years.
Ginger is a public-school educator turned homeschooler with a passion for enabling parents to educate their children in both Spanish and English. You can learn about Montessori theory and materials, get book recommendations, see her homeschool in action, and download free resources via her blog, School en casa.