Enticing Children to Love Their Work
by Julia Damico, Pre-Primary Directress
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
~ Maria Montessori
I had a 4-year old boy who was progressing with his language in every way. He had strong phonemic awareness skills, was becoming a pro at using phonograms and could read at a high level for his age. I was, however, surprised to find that he “hated” reading and really did not want to do movable alphabet “because I sorta hate that too.” Being a polite young man, he never told me these things until I asked. Mind you he had never refused to do these works, but also never sought them out.
Our thoughts as Montessori teachers when we encounter situations like this are that we cannot allow this child to become unhappy in his work. How can we entice him to return to and enjoy this work? We tackled the movable alphabet. To make this appeal to him we incorporated movement by allowing him to choose items from the classroom to place on his mat and spell. The only rule was it had to fit on the mat. We also made some action word cards for charades with his friends so he could act out the words and then spell them. This added a social component that he enjoyed. We also chose categories of words, for example, “weapons” or “things you find in a creek,” or “superheroes,” incorporating his interests. Finally, when he expressed the fact that you had to stay inside to do the movable alphabet, we set a mat up outdoors and let him dig things out of the garden to spell.
At first, he would get the movable alphabet out if asked. After awhile he would ask for this work, and finally all his buddies got on board, and it became a daily group venture. It took close to 6 weeks to reach this point. Time well spent as it made for a much happier child, teacher, and community. There is no greater goal for a Montessori teacher than to have a child equate learning with happiness.