Thursday, March 27, 2014

Symposium Spotlight: Rebecca Katzenmeyer, Montessori Directress

Concluding the Growing Wisconsin Readers Early Literacy Symposium, Rebecca Katzenmeyer presented on easy and effective methods to enrich the literacy impact of any space.  A Montessori Directress, Ms. Katzenmeyer gave an overview of Montessori techniques and their intent. 

Having little familiarity with Montessorian style education, I quickly saw the direct connection this approach has to early literacy areas in libraries.  Montessorian style emphasizes independent discovery using educational materials.  Creating an environment that indirectly prepares students for literacy is the guiding principle behind the more than 100 year old Montessori tradition.  And best of all, the activities are very simply constructed, cost efficient, and easy to replace. 

Using the Montessori style as a guide, enriching an early literacy space couldn't be simpler.  Of particular interest to the audience was Ms. Katzenmeyer's suggestion of an I Spy basket.  With as few as 10 objects in it, a child can be guided to draw any number of conclusions.  How many things are in the basket?  Can you name them?  What rhymes?  What starts with a certain sound?  The interaction can be simple or complex.  Unwittingly, I have used a comparable item at my circulation desk:  an I Spy poster made from weeded magazines.  Creating something similar would be a great task to delegate to volunteers. 
I Spy poster created by Jody Hanneman


Additional Montessori practices that I found intriguing were sound cylinders and the emphasis placed upon developing writing skills before reading skills.  Sound cylinders are just what the name suggests:  cylinders that have a particular sound.  The child listens to one cylinder and tries to find its match.  This sensory toy emphasizes sound recognition, necessary for developing language.  Though sound cylinders can be purchased, they could just as easily be made with well-sealed containers that obscured the matching contents.  

The emphasis on acquiring writing skills before reading skills in Montessori education inspired me to consider putting more emphasis on activities that encourage movement and fine motor skills.  I was surprised at the connection Ms. Katzenmeyer made between the wrist motion made by a child scrubbing a floor and the indirect preparation for writing letters and numbers.  Though I will not be asking the janitorial help of my young patrons any time soon, I am rethinking the larger purpose of turning cranks, pulling zippers, lacing, and even putting coins in a bank. 


With the ideas and methodology I gained from Ms. Katzenmeyer’s presentation, I will be enriching my library’s early literacy space with a fresh perspective, drawing inspiration from the tried and true techniques of Montessori teachers, along with a few items reclaimed from recycling and the help of volunteers.  As I realized on my drive home from the symposium, the lives of children can be improved on any budget, so long as it is accompanied by intent.  

This post brought to you by Symposium attendee:
Jody Hanneman
Library Director

Ettrick Public Library