Im looking for some information on imaginative play in the montessori thinking.... where to start??? janet
What information, specifically, are you looking for?
Most of the activities (called "work," because M. Montessori thought that play is the work of children, and that should be linguistically respected) in the Montessori classroom are goal-oriented in some way, and many are based on adult activities. There is little imaginative play in the classroom itself, at least during the independent work period that is the main part of the day. A lot of people seem to think that this means that Montessori is against imagination, or it "forces kids to act like adults" because they're set to work polishing silver. Really it's based on two things, one developmental and one practical. The developmental reason is that the Montessori philosophy (and research backs this up) believes that children need a strong foundation in reality before they can create their own reality. For example, you can't play princess unless you know what a princess is and roughly what a princess does (and doesn't) do. The practical reason is as simple as the fact that in her original classrooms, M. Montessori had dolls and traditional imaginative toys, and the children never used them: they were drawn to the practical works. I can say that my children are pretty much the same: the house is overflowing with toys, but as soon as I pull out the broom or a bowl they're all over that, copying me and trying to help.
That's a general answer based on some of the questions (and accusations, sadly) that get asked here about imagination and Montessori. If you have more specific questions, I'll see what I can do :)
I can also add that the fear that imaginative play is somehow discouraged is not accurate. I think it's more accurate to say that imaginative play is not the focus of Montessori pedagogy, but if it occurs around the margins of whatever the kids are doing that isn't seen as a problem. For example I was at my daughter's school today and saw two girls working very hard on a number layout (this is a math "work" with very specific goals etc). They were very focused on their work--very into it, counting into the double digits, they were working their way up to 55 (these were 4 year olds). They were also pretending to be cats while they were doing this. The teacher (aka directress) did not come over and tell them to stop being cats or anything like that. It was a non-issue.
On this issue, I like to refer to this quote:
"There is no limit to the equipment of the “Children’s Houses” because the children themselves do everything. They sweep the rooms, dust and wash the furniture, polish the brasses, lay and clear away the table, wash up, sweep and roll up the rugs, wash a few little clothes, and cook eggs. As regards their personal toilet, the children know how to dress and undress themselves. They hang their clothes on little hooks, placed very low so as to be within reach of a little child, or else they fold up such articles of clothing, as their little serving-aprons, of which they take great care, and lay them inside a cupboard kept for the household linen. In short, where the manufacture of toys has been brought to such a point of complication and perfection that children have at their disposal entire dolls’ houses, complete wardrobes for the dressing and undressing of dolls, kitchens where they can pretend to cook, toy animals as nearly lifelike as possible, this method seeks to give all this to the child in reality – making him an actor in a living scene." Pg. 14-15 Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook
I feel that this quote illustrates Montessori's technique for engagement: her discovery was that many children at this age, do prefer real work to play. However, by the time the child reaches the age of 6, he is entering the "Age of Imagination" - she devotes an entire chapter, up to 100 pages, to this topic in her book "Spontaneous Activity in Education". Many of the lessons and the Great Stories in the Elementary Montessori classroom include imaginative storytelling and the children read myths and legends.
There is also a very interesting discussion on this topic in the book "Montessori: The Science behind the Genius" by Angeline Lillard.
I've posted in prior threads about this but I really believe a lot of what we call "Imaginative play" in the preschool years in our culture is really just adult-led. ("Let's all hop like bunnies!")
We perceive stories about fairies to be more imaginative than stories about butterflies, but the fact is that adults are the ones teaching about the wings in both cases. It always amuses me that Waldorf considers itself big on imagination - but teaches about the gnomes, etc. Where exactly is the child's imagination in that? (Not slamming Waldorf but it's the way it's compared to Montessori gets to me sometimes...what is the difference between that and the life cycle of the butterfly, where the child is concerned? Both are new to the child, and both are adult-presented.)
I love that Montessori starts with the natural world. As a fiction writer and a professional editor, I can say with some confidence that art and creativity are way, way more grounded in reality than fantasy. You cannot describe your elaborate fictional world unless you can describe shape, colour, texture, the names of flowers and the shapes of leaves; you probably can't even imagine wild life cycles of alien beings unless you have considered the life cycles of frogs (wild!! Tadpoles!!) and so on.
I think that Montessori gives one of the best groundings for imaginary play going, because it encourages close examination of what's right before the student at the age that that is appropriate. It respects the child's interest in things. It gives the tools to manipulate and express things. Little kids can have flights of imagination but they are very literal about them, if that makes sense. I love that they get the vocabulary and respectful space to express that.
In terms of social imaginary play (playing house, etc.) of course the practical life activities do that with a vengeance.
All that said, there probably are Montessori schools out there that are not nice about a child using a work for some imaginary flight, but that's not the case with ours. At ours, the adult focuses on reality. If something imaginary comes from the child, that is completely respected. My son is in his last year of casa and he is writing his own stories and they are really cute. :)
ok.. my assignment is as follows:to write a seminar paper focussing on an early years issue (it doesnt have to be a problem!) based on the role of the eyp in comparison to another early years pedagogical role and will create a supporting academic poster.)
for this issue i have chosen imaginative play...!
an exploration of the role of the eyp and how this may vary in setting in england
an analysis of another pedagogical role, selectef for comparison within a different educational framework
the implication of the selected framework in conjunction with the role of the adult relation got outcomes for children and based on relevant theory and research
thats where the montesorri bit comes in
a critique of the impact and influences of ongoing personal and professional development in relation to childrens learning and development within early years
consideration of national strategies and government policy which drive the early years sector
all of this linked to the 'issue' of imaginative play.... Im looking through books. journals, etc.... somehow i need to get 2500 words together and then produce an academic poster... where and how an academic poster is going to help my daily practice as a nursery nurse with 30 years experience is beyond me!!!
some people may find this kind of research interesting.... i find the whole thing a massive struggle! i some how dragged my way through a foundation degree,, but me and academic writing dont go... so any ideas would be great... thank you..,
my immediate understanding is that montesorri does not 'encourage' imaginative play... am i right ???
It's not entirely true to say that Montessori doesn't encourage imaginative play. She left the child free to explore, free to move, free to choose activity, free to associate, free to talk - this absolutely involves imagination. However, it is not of the "Disney" or Fairy variety of imagination. You are just starting to scratch the surface on this. Montessori had a complicated view of development and you really can't reduce it to an absolute statement like that.
You have a wonderful resource for Montessori info in the UK here: http://www.montessori-uk.org/
thanks.. i think for this paper i can only just touch the surface of the topic.. i will have a look at the link you gave .
if i am to compare the different frameworks i guess i will have to look at the approach to the imaginative play aspect I guess.
would you say that the adult has a different focussing on directing the imaginative play???? all my discussions have to be referenced if i am to quote them ofcourse.. thats a challenge in itself.
thats interesting to read thanks. wondering how I compare with the daily practice the theories behind the EYFS... ? I also need to put in references in my work so if you h ae any direct quotes I could use that would be great... Harvard referencing.,... author date place publisher or is it the other way round!! :)
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