Introduction to Montessori’s Sensitive Periods
Video Length: 10:35
Think of something you have done or learned as an adult that required you to progress through these four stages of development (albeit much more quickly than a developing child!). Perhaps it was in learning a new skill, or in training for a new job, and so on.
Discuss with the group how the concrete, cosmic, cultural, and constructive stages each managed to play out in your learning process.
Segment One: An Overview of the Reasoning Mind
Video Length: 11:43
Reflect on your own experiences with children of this age. What sort of questions have they asked?
When they asked “Why? How do I do this? How does this work?”, how did you respond? Can you remember? Did you find yourself answering quickly or taking a step back and encouraging them to find the answer themselves?
Finally, are you able to perceive any effects that either of those responses have on the children and their level of interest and curiosity? Share your memories and your thoughts about these questions.
Segment Two: Imagination and Mystery
Video Length: 11:17
Reflect on Luke 7:36–50, a passage in which Jesus forgives a woman of her sins, for 5–10 minutes. To meditate on this passage, begin by asking the Holy Spirit to help you enter into the biblical scene. As you reflect on Jesus’ interaction with the woman, contemplate the following questions:
- Who are you in the scene? Are you the woman, the Pharisee hosting Jesus for dinner, or another bystander?
- What does it sound like? Are there sounds of people conversing and eating?
- What does the ointment that the woman uses to anoint Jesus smell like? Is it overpowering and fill the house, or is it subtle?
- What feelings does the scene evoke in you? Does it make you feel sorrow for your sin? Does it foster gratitude and awe in your heart for God’s unfailing mercy?
Share one thing that resonated with you from your meditation on Scripture.
Segment Three: Nurturing the Religious Imagination
Video Length: 9:53
Dr. O’Shea elaborates on the impact that poetry, art, and music have on a young imagination, their ability to utterly captivate a child and communicate a wonderful, mysterious something that can be difficult to pinpoint. This means that beauty is one of the easiest, most attractive ways we can teach truths — especially difficult, abstract truths.
Reflect on a particular truth that in your experience children either struggled to grasp or perhaps did not seem very interested in. Maybe this was the Trinity, the story of Creation found in the beginning of Genesis, the love of the Father, a particular virtue, or the sacramental life, for example.
Please reflect on what image, Scripture story, poem, short story, piece of music, and so on you could use to communicate that truth to those you teach.
Talk together about why you have selected that particular piece of art (literary, visual, or musical), and how you see it revealing truth. Discuss how you would hope to invite the children you teach into that encounter with truth through this piece of art. What would you invite them to look or listen for? What connections would you help them make?
Segment Four: Finding Order in the Child’s World
Video Length: 9:53
Children ages 6–9 grow from a need for physical order to an ability to mentally organize the world as they see it. One wonderful way to nurture that mental sense of order is through giving children of this age things to memorize and recite.
Choose a Scripture verse, a line from the Catechism, a prayer, or a brief propositional summary of a doctrine that the children you care for would be able to memorize and recite.
Then, remember that memorization should be sought when the broader context of that truth/doctrine is understood, in order to help children remember the broader truth. For example, if you asked children to memorize the Memorare prayer, you would want the children to have some understanding of who Mary is, why we pray to her, when it might be helpful for them to recite this prayer, and so on.
Having chosen a Scripture verse, Catechism passage, prayer, or propositional summary of doctrine, spend a few moments thinking about what the larger context of this truth is that you would want the children to understand, and how you would present it so that the thing being memorized would make sense. How would you help the child memorize that which you chose? Share your insights with the group.
Segment Five: The Relationship between Moral Agency and Love
Video Length: 10:03
It’s critical to teach children of this age is that they do not have to earn the love of their heavenly Father; in fact, they cannot. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of this as well. The Father simply asks them, and us, to rest in His love and to follow His Commandments — out of love for Him and because the Commandments help us live in love and freedom. This brings us to the story of the prodigal son/the forgiving father.
Read the parable (Luke 15:11–32). Working individually, rewrite it in no more than five sentences from the point of view of the son, starting at when he decides to return. Ask yourself: What is he thinking with every step he takes toward home? How quickly does he walk? Is he looking up or down during that journey? What is going through his mind when he actually sees his father?
Read your sentences and discuss with the group.
Segment Six: A Shift Toward Community
Video Length: 8:04
Consider the ways in which the children in your care interact with one another and the opportunities they’re given to do so while in school, using the following questions for guidance:
- What has been your experience with group learning with this age group?
- What has worked for you and what has, perhaps, not been as effective?
- In your educational environment, how do you choose the groups and the projects, so that the needs of both the outgoing child and the shyer child are met?
- Do you have anything in your educational space that creates a “coffee machine” effect, providing children with an opportunity to get up and have a brief interaction with a classmate while they do their work?
Segment Seven: Growing Toward Relationship
Video Length: 8:26
Children ages 6–12 (especially those ages 9–12) are enthralled by history and the marvelous characters that the past has to offer, and they also desire to work together more. Consider tying this sense of fascination with history into the class community is by assigning group projects. Dr. O’Shea mentioned having the children research the lives of saints — who they were, when they lived, how they interacted with those around them and with God, and so on.
Look at your curriculum (particularly the history curriculum, if you teach history, but any subject will do) and find a topic or particular historical period that sparks the most interest among you and the age group you teach. Conduct some research yourself to determine some of the saints that have a connection to the topic or historical period. What kind of an assignment or project might you assign the students that would help them learn about this saint (or saints) and their relation to the topic/period in history? Would you encourage them to work and even present in a group, and if so, what might that look like? Share your ideas with the group.