In Part 1, I shared just a couple of the exercises we started with during the first week of our co-op. In Part 2, I will show you some other exercises we worked on that fall under the category of "Preliminary Exercises." To keep the descriptions brief, I will describe the work that the child does with each activity, but remember that before we expect the child to do it, the adult must model it clearly, slowly, sitting on the right side of the child, and without speaking.
(Please note: All photos, except for the first one, are copyright Julie Rings Photography. Also, this post contains affiliate links.)
This is an activity you can do with very young children. Our children were not very interested in this activity, but in my student teaching experience, I even noticed the older children doing this work between reading or math activities as something calming or relaxing after work that exerted a lot of energy. Hunter has been reaching for this work lately, and he stays pretty concentrated on what he's doing.
You simply prepare half sheets of newsprint, such as the supermarket ads that come in the mail, and set them in a napkin holder/stand. The children take one sheet at a time, place the sheet in an empty basket, take the basket to a work table, take the sheet, and tear from top to bottom, placing each strip in the basket. The child may get another sheet to tear or clean up. She places the torn strips (one by one) into the recycling or compost bin.
Squeezing a Sponge
Prepare a tray with two identical bowls, set side by side, and a small cloth. Inside the bowl on the left should be a natural sponge (sea sponge). In a traditional classroom, I'd have a table protector for this activity (like one of these vinyl mats). The child unrolls the protector and sets the bowls on it, then the cloth and sponge. For time purposes and limited space and resources, we just had the children work directly on the tray.
The child fills the bowl on the left with water from a pitcher. She places the sponge in the water and turns it several times, watching the water soak in. With one hand, lifting the sponge to let it drip a bit, she transfers the water to the empty bowl, all while cupping the sponge with the other hand. In this exercise, the child transfers the water back and forth between the two bowls as many times as the child would like. In a classroom, when finished, the child would dump the water into a recycling bucket, but we just had the children water dry patches of grass. The small cloth is for wiping up any spills on the table or protector.
Prepare a tray as shown in the photo. The child takes the spoon in his dominant hand, holds the bowl on the left with his other hand, and uses the spoon to scoop up the beans, transferring them to the bowl on the right. The child continues until all the beans are transferred.
Ideally you would do this activity with grains of rice or corn kernels, but we found that our young children were not very successful with such small grains, so we switched to pinto beans. If I were working with these children through the school year, I would change the grains every few weeks to offer them a new challenge.
The tray is set up with two identical transparent glass pitchers (we used these glass creamers), the one on the right filled with grains. The child pours the grains back and forth from pitcher to pitcher. (By the way, the other children are permitted to observe a child receiving a lesson, so long as they stand back and have their hands behind their back. On this particular day, I was struggling with my own child and decided not to battle with him. He observed from the sofa. Oh, well!)
Pouring Water from Pitcher to Pitcher
For this activity, you prepare a tray with two identical opaque pitchers (we used these porcelain mini-pitchers/creamers), the one on the right filled with water (about 3/4 full), and a sponge. The child pours the water back and forth from pitcher to pitcher, wiping the spout and any spots on the tray or table with the sponge. Like the sponging activity, in a traditional classroom I would offer a table protector to set the materials upon, but we left that out.
These exercises are easy to recreate at home for homeschooling or co-op purposes, but for children who attend Montessori school, I would hesitate to have these around without checking with your child's teacher.