How to inject new life into existing materials – musings

Command cards!

So often I hear children say, “Oh, I’ve done that before.” But the materials are never exhausted. There are endless possibilities. The unfortunate thing that often happens is that you present the material, they work on it once, exactly the way you show them and then, they say they are done. Of course, a lot of this is to do with how you present the material to the child and whether you have observed the child to see whether he/she is ready or interested in doing the work. Sometimes, it’s just to do with the “been there, done there” culture so prevalent today. Well, that’s where we, as parents or guides, come in.

Thanks to command cards, they get a renewed lease of life! The 6yo today had fun doing one exercise using the triangle box and thereafter, she and my 5yo decided to carry on making shapes and tracing them onto a white piece of paper and colouring them thereafter. There is a part of me that would have been so caught up with “Oh, is this Montessori? Is this what a child ‘should’ be doing?” I suppressed that part of me today and was therefore able to enjoy the moment, like the children do.


I like the fact that I’m not bound by any obligation to teach children things at specific moments. The other day, I tried to “get” the 8yo to do subtraction with the golden beads. Actually, she didn’t want to and I went ahead anyway (never ever a good idea – but sometimes the worry that she won’t be prepared for her exams gets to me). Well, when laying out the minuend, she decided to construct a cube made out of 8 thousands… and that made me remember how only 8000 is a cube but 800 isn’t and so on (she didn’t look like she really wanted to do subtraction). So I took the opportunity to explore those concepts with her. I asked a lot of “wonder questions” (something we do in CGS a lot) – I wonder if 800 makes a cube, I wonder if…. and finally, somehow – we got to constructing part of the framework for a 1,000,000 cube (I don’t have enough 1000 cubes to build the full thing) – and just sat with her and marvelled at the size a 1,000,000 cube….

I really really enjoy it when I’m doing stuff like that with the children, but I’m constantly worried whether they will be able to do their exams. I know that tonnes of real learning is occurring, but the fact is, they have to take those standardized tests that expect you to have covered specific topics at specific times. I guess it is a journey for me to find out how to entice the children to continue enjoying their explorations and yet “get” them to cover the topics that they need to….

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