MONTESSORI MONDAY 20 2014-15
<h3 normal;\\"="" !important;="" 96)="" 96,="" rgb(96,="" left;="">The Baric Tablets
One of the most popular areas of the Montessori classroom is the Sensorial area, in which materials allow children to develop and refine their ability to classify through their senses. We address six senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, sight and the kinesthetic sense, the ability to identify an object by feeling it, the way you can find your keys in a tote bag or the snooze button on your alarm clock without using your eyes.
Some of theses senses are easier to isolate than others, but all have degrees of precision to refine. The Baric Tablets support the child's developing awareness of differences in weight, essential to the kinesthetic sense. In this material, the child is presented with a series of rectangular wooden pairs. Each pair is made from a different kind of wood so, while the dimensions of the tablets in width and height are the same, their weight is different. As such, like all the Montessori materials, the Baric Tablets have an isolated concept... when you are feeling the tablets, the only distinction you'll feel among them is their weight.
With practice, children learn to match pairs of these tablets by weight. Initially, a child may explore the pairs with eyes opened, but the advanced discrimination includes a blindfold or eyes closed. Here, children explore with each other, with one child choosing a tablet to place on her friend's palm and the other child trying to determine whether it weighs the same as the tablet she balances in her other hand.
A few key qualities make this material particularly engaging. First, the child is guided to hold the tablets in his or her palm, resting near to the base of the hand. This is an effective way to compare weights, but an unusual experience for the child. The tablets feel odd, then, in the child's hand, because they are measured by a part of the hand the child is not familiar with using. The tablets can be distinguished by their stain, which allows the child to determine whether or not she has identified the small differences in weight accurately. What a wondrous experience, to realize that items can be exactly the same size and yet feel totally different in your hand! Finally, the Baric Tablets lend themselves to exploring with a friend, because someone else needs to choose the tablets.
Engaging, mysterious and delightful, the Baric Tablets are well-loved in our classrooms. The next time you visit, you might ask for a lesson yourself: it's much much harder than it looks!
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna