Using a Montessori open ended toy to enhance kid communication skill – Written by Nashella Zarek, primary school teacher with Masters’ in Reading/Language Arts
Recently, I have been looking for new ways to elevate the level of discussion in my classroom. I have been thinking about different ways to get my students talking about their work with each other and with me. I know that there is a trend emerging in which students will be asked to do solve more open ended tasks, and then explain the rationale behind their thinking. For older students, this will take the form of more written explanations, but since I teach younger students, it will need to take the form of oral explanations. I found a wonderful Montessori open ended toy that I decided to try out in my classroom. I decided to use it to experiment with how to enhance kid communication skill by using wooden toys.
The toy I used is called a Spielgaben, and I found that it provides wonderful benefits to students in both math and language arts. It served the exact purpose that I was looking for. The toy was designed to allow children to experiment with building principals, as well as geometric properties, all in an atmosphere of play. I used this Montessori open ended toy with small groups of children, and just sat back to watch the outcomes. I was absolutely astounded with the results.
First of all, the kids were immediately taken with the Spielgaben. The toy consists of various sets, which are designed to be introduced one at a time. I simply introduced them to the children, and I engaged them in a little conversation about how they thought they could work together as a group to use it. The children came up with wonderful ideas about sharing and cooperation with almost no input from me. They even decided upon how to best work together to clean up when they were done with the activity. This exercise alone showed me how to enhance kid communication skill by using wooden toys. They were so excited to use the toy that they did not want the activity to end with petty bickering so they decided early on that the best way to extend their play time was to cooperate with each other, take turns and share. I was hooked!
The next thing I wanted to work on with the kids was explaining their thought process with me and with each other. As they built, I used guiding questions to gently probe them and encourage them to make their thinking visible. Again, they not only rose to the occasion, they exceeded my expectations. The boys and girls were eager to share their ideas about why they chose certain pieces to fit into certain spots and to explain the discoveries they were making about the relationships between the pieces. Soon, they were adding onto each other’s sentences and making suggestions about what to try next. New allegiances were being formed, and the children were learning to respect each other’s ideas and contributions. Although I do not teach in a Montessori setting, I am glad that I decided to give this Montessori open ended toy a trial in my classroom. It truly made a difference with enhancing my students’ communication skills.