Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hammering - Practical Life

Here is the first elaboration on my Classroom Changes. (To see what my classroom was like, go to my older posts, in particular My Montessori Classroom and Materials.)

Above is what my classroom currently looks like. If you look just under the table on the far left you will see what looks like a brown rectangle. That is our newest practical life activity.

About a month ago, while browsing in Toys-R-Us, I spotted a craft activity that involved a small hammer, tacks (large tacks, like those used in upholstering), a thick piece of cork board and geometrically-shaped wooden tiles. I filed it away in my mind under "Things to Consider for School."

A couple weeks ago, Ella was given a little bit of money from a dear friend whom we met at the mall. She used one dollar to go on the pony carousel (typically we don't let her use her money - or ours - for those rides in the mall, but we often will make an exception for this one), and then went to the Dollarama where she got "funny water" (Sprite - another thing she doesn't get much of) and a little tool kit. Pretty much the only reason she got it was because of the hammer. She did like, and continues to play with the other tools, but for the most part, what we hear is the little "tap-tap-tapping" of her going around "fixing" things. She loved the hammer so much, she insisted on sleeping with it the first two nights!

So, after that I thought perhaps the time was right for some slightly-more-realistic hammering, and I bought the Bojeux PlayArt Hammer & Nails kit. (If you click on that link, you'll have to scroll down almost to the bottom to see it.) Here's what it looks like (in the box): It was an instant hit! I didn't do anything, she got it, opened it up, and began to make designs with the tiles, hammering carefully and remarkably accurately.

Initially she worked rather randomly, in that she would hammer any tile anywhere. But as she has become more used to it, she's now making designs, or sometimes trying to make designs, and when she wants to make more elaborate things, she asks me to help her. I make a house, for example, setting the tiles in that shape, then she does the hammering.

I have it set out with the other Montessori Materials, and though it is not "strictly" Montessori, it is certainly a practical life lesson, and it lends itself both to artistic design, geometry, and mathematical thought.

There are multiple products such as this one. I know that HABA puts out a similar toy in a variety of ways. They have the basic Geo Shape Tack Zap, the Large Geo Shape Tack Zap (presumably for littler fingers), to expand either of these two, they have the Geo Shape Tack Add-on Set, and for those who may wish for more excitement, they have the Figure Tack Game. My understanding is that the HABA version uses tacks that are more nail-like.

In the future, I'll try to get a picture up of the Hammer & Nails while in use. All of us has suffered some degree of illness during the last month, so photos of stuff in action have been harder to come by. Having school depends on whether or not Ella and I are well enough to go!

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