Saturday, April 7, 2012

Montessori A to Z: D is for Demonstrations

When I was in training, lessons were known as "demonstrations." The school I work at now often refers to them as "presentations." Whatever you want to call them, they are how you give your lessons to children. And certain rules need to be followed. These are five of my favorite tips for giving a demonstration.

1. Practice before you present.

Always practice a lesson before you present it to a child. Especially if you have given it 100 times, you want to go back through it with a fine-toothed comb to be sure you are not accidentally leaving something out.

Check the work before you invite the child for the lesson. A material that you presented earlier in the morning could now be mixed up. The other day, I got out the Rectangle Box, only to find that somehow one of the shapes was completely missing. An exploring child had gotten confused and put it away in his friend's Large Hexagon Box, thinking it belonged there instead. Beads sometimes inadvertently roll under a shelf as a child is cleaning up the 45 Layout. You will detract from the lesson if you have to go searching for parts of the work.

2. Speak little.

Words are not highly necessary when giving a lesson. Yes, you need to name the activity and give proper vocabulary. But do not waste your breath talking all the way through. Let the child engage in observation of your demonstration. Using your voice will call attention to only the important details. Let the child figure out her own explanations of what is going on.

3. Slow your movements.

Even when you think you are moving slowly while giving a demonstration, slow yourself down more. Each movement must be precise. Slow movements emphasize the care of the materials and give the child a chance to internalize what you are doing.

Avoid wearing too much jewelry or flashy nail polish, as that can detract from the lesson at hand.

4. Know when the lesson is over.

If a child is paying more attention to the classroom behind him than to your lesson, it's time to put it away. If the child takes a turn and makes too many mistakes, present the lesson again on another day. If the child makes it through the lesson, remember to show her how to make the work ready for the next person and where it belongs on the shelf. Completion of task ends when the work is placed on the shelf in working order.

Avoid interruptions during the lesson, as well. Both children and adults must wait until your work is complete before engaging you in conversation.

5. Demonstrate active interest in the materials.

Showing an interest in the work does not mean gushing with excitement over every little nuance of the lesson. But a child can tell if you are bored with your work. Be engaged with the activity. Concentrate on what you are doing. A little smile never hurt anyone, either. If your mind goes elsewhere as your body goes through the motions, you are not showing interest. You are making it seem more like work. The child will pick up on this and have the same attitude.

What other tips do you have for giving a demonstration?


  1. Great instructional ideas.

    Here is Wisconsin, "demonstrations" have taken on another meaning altogether ...

    Happy A to Z.

  2. Great tips. I think it's a wonderful gift to be able to work with children. :-)

  3. Hi...I'm hopping over from the A to Z challenge. Lovely blog...good luck with the challenge!

    Donna L Martin

  4. wonderful tips for any teacher!
    Happy A-Zing!