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Added Nov 20, 2017

Montessori Monday: The Zoology Puzzles

Children in Early Childhood are learning about the world around them, in an insatiable curiosity to understand how the world works and who we share it with. We can think of the ages between three and six as a time when children are building a cognitive filing cabinet, building their vocabulary and expanding their ability to label and name new concepts. We know that this is a time for expansive vocabulary development, and the Montessori classroom responds by providing accurate, precise language across the curriculum. 

But how do you make vocabulary concrete? Consider the Zoology puzzles, a set of puzzles representing each of the five classes in the Phylum Chordata in the Animal kingdom. Separate puzzles represent birds, fish, reptiles, mammals (represented through horses) and amphibians (represented through frogs.) Each puzzle identifies the prominent parts of the body, with proper names to learn and matching cards to continue to practice. 

The child can explore the puzzle as a simple puzzle, removing the pieces using the small pegs that help to refine his or her fine motor control, constructing them again on a guide card and rebuilding the puzzle within the self-correcting wooden frame. The child can also learn the name for each part of the animal through three-period lessons with a classroom teacher or match the parts of the body to nomenclature cards. With practice, the child may explore two or three animals at a time, and eventually will enjoy working with all five puzzles, as he or she masters the vocabulary that distinguishes one class from another. 

Children are delighted to learn about animals around them. While we may not be able to bring a horse into the classroom, the Zoology puzzles nonetheless respond to the chid's intrinsic interests as they support the child's developing vocabulary, fine motor skills, classification ability and sense of order and mastery. 

Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna

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