Otis has just come out of a period where he would bring home several pieces of Metal Inset work daily. The Metal Insets are used to help with pencil control, to refine hand movements in preparation for writing.
"When the child has begun these exercises, he is seized with a desire to continue them, and he never tires of drawing the outlines of the figures and then filling them in. Each child suddenly becomes the possessor of a considerable number of drawings, and he treasures them up in his own little drawer. In this way he organizes the movement of writing, which brings him to the management of the pen." - Maria Montessori, Dr Montessori's Own Handbook, A Short Guide on Her Ideas and Materials.
The Montessori Metal Insets consist of ten flat metal squares, in each of the squares is a metal shape cut-out. The shape cut-outs are the same as the shapes found in other Montessori materials such as the geometric cabinet. The Metal Insets are accompanied by colour pencils, white square paper, and a tray specifically designed to hold the paper and insets.
The child is free to select the shape/s they wish to use and the colour/s however, the child is presented with seven (or so) sequential lessons. The lessons begin with tracing the inside of the square frame, the outline of the shape with one colour, to two colours, to filling in the shape, shading the shape, using two shapes (one at a right angle), using more shapes and making their own designs. The exact lessons can be found in teaching manuals, for those interested in doing this work at home (homeschoolers perhaps) Montessori Print Shop has lessons on the Metal Insets.
The Metal Insets help to prepare the hand for writing but what does this really mean? Metal Inset work can help the child to;
- Grip and hold the pencil (and hold the pencil upright)
- Refine hand control to steady the pencil
- Develop movements of straight and curved lines, in preparation for letter formation or a continual line which can assist with cursive
- Develop hand-eye coordination, to make small coordinated movements
- Experience the result of pressure on the pencil (light and dark), experience graduation of colour
- Develop fine muscles in the hand but also the larger muscles required for sitting and maintaining posture for writing
- Focus the mind, develop and strengthen the child's concentration
- Make movements up and down and left to right (when filling in or shading), this is significant when reading and writing
- Practice order, repetition, and memory recall
- Develop geometric sense including the name of each shape, how it is constructed, how it looks when turned or moved, how it relates to other shapes
- Develop the ability to plan and carry out artistic designs.
Above Mountain View Montessori.
La Semaine Montessori (this post shows many wonderful designs and extension ideas!).
While Otis has enjoyed Metal Inset work at school, he has also enjoyed stencil work at home. Many of these lessons could apply to stencil work and this is a fun alternative to use in the home while not replicating the work presented at school.