Saturday, August 31, 2013

Montessori Primary Classroom Lesson on Using Spacers to Place Material Neatly on Shelves

This Montessori lesson used in our Primary classroom helps children to place material neatly on shelves by using a spacer, a technique that I have recently introduced to my students.

This year in our primary Montessori classroom (ages 3 through 6), I thought that block spacers would be a helpful tool to keep the shelves from looking too cluttered, especially in our abundant sensorial area.  Using spacers is a technique that not only can help with keeping things tidy, but can help students to be more mindful that the material on the shelves has a special place.  Further more, this makes for a great lesson that the kids can enjoy in order to help care for the environment. 

 A lesson will definitely be necessary, but I would recommend for teachers to prepare the shelves ahead of time with this technique in order to decide what type of spacer will work best.  The size of your spacer will depend on how far you want your material to be spaced out.  Try out different building blocks as spacers to figure out what works best on your shelves and how much space you actually have to work with...

Before the kids arrive to circle time, shift some of your material on a shelf so that it is not evenly laid out.  In the lesson below, I chose the cylinder boxes.

Lesson on using Block Spacers
Point out to the children how the cylinder boxes on the shelves are not evenly placed on the shelf.  You could also mention that they look cluttered and show how it will might be difficult to pick up the box if another one is up against it.  Take your block spacer and place it against the left end of the shelf that you are rearranging and make it flush with the edge of the shelf, like the image below.  Slide the 1st cylinder box up against the block and toward the edge of the shelf.  Carefully show the kids how you can place your fingers on either end and slide the block spacer out without moving the cylinder box.
Next, gently place the cylinder block on the other side of the 1st cylinder box.  Show how you can make the block spacer flush with the edge of the shelf and then slide the 2nd cylinder box very gently up against the spacer.   Making sure that the 2nd cylinder box is flush with the edge of the shelf and spacer, you show the children that the material is flush with each other by swiping your fingers across the box and block.  Use your fingers to carefully slide the block out from in between the two boxes.  Be sure to mention how careful and slow you must be so that you don’t bump the boxes out of place. 

Repeat the technique with the rest of the boxes until your shelf is in order.   Once each box is evenly placed on the shelf with plenty of space in between, you can share a sigh of relief and mention how nice and neat everything looks on the shelf.

We used a spacer for the cylinder boxes on the top shelf and another spacer on the bottom shelf. If you look closely, I just left the spacers available on the shelves for easy access.  

You can explain to the kids how this helps keep the material in order and that it also helps to grab each box carefully from the shelf without moving other material out of place.  As for how the material is displayed, I like I like to bring the material to the edge of the shelf, because it is much easier to see the material, and I usually explain this to the child with a visual:  I might push some material way to the back of a deep shelf to show them how it’s not as easy to see or notice the material when it is pushed so far back.  

I tell my students that spacers are completely optional and that they can also use their eyes to try to line material up.  So far the spacers have been a good way to start the year off to help children to get to know the order of the classroom.  I only use spacers in the sensorial area at the moment and do not find it necessary in areas such as practical life and art, so it all depends on what kind of material you are using and how you want items to appear on the shelves. 

I hope this was useful advice to other teachers out there looking for ways to keep their classrooms in order.

Thanks for reading along and please drop a line and share with me any comments or suggestions!


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