Isolation of quality is a brilliant concept in Montessori education – a principle that can help you in both making and choosing materials. And isolation of quality is a concept you won’t find very often in preschool materials that aren’t Montessori-style materials.
You’ll especially notice isolation of quality in the Montessori sensorial materials – where each material isolates one specific quality, such as size, weight, shape, texture, color, sound, or smell.
The pink tower in the photo varies only in size with all other qualities remaining constant. By eliminating elements that could be confusing or distracting, the child will focus on the quality being isolated.
The Montessori inset shapes only vary in shape, not color or size. That makes it so much easier for a young child to learn the names of the shapes. Thanks to isolation of quality, my granddaughter, Zoey, clearly understood what each Montessori inset shape was at age two. (Note: you can read my review of Alison’s Montessori plastic insets here.)
You’ll find more about Montessori sensorial materials in these posts: Montessori Sensorial Activities (my post with links to many of the Montessori sensorial articles and albums online) and Montessori Sensorial Overview – Scope and Sequence from Montessori Print Shop.
You’ll also find many examples of sensorial materials with isolation of quality in Lauren’s Montessori Sensorial Shelves at Trillium Montessori blog.
Isolation of quality makes it much easier for a child to learn a new concept in any area. For example, when the child is using sandpaper numerals to learn the number symbols, the numerals don’t vary in color or size. (Photo from Just Watching at Dirigo Montessori School)
Isolation of Quality in DIY Materials
It’s very helpful if you can isolate the quality in DIY materials. Many homeschoolers, for example, make their own Montessori color tablets. You can follow the Montessori concept of isolating the quality by creating color tablets that vary in color only while keeping size and shape the same. (DIY Color Tablets – Photo from More Home/Teacher Made Manipulatives at Teacher Weena)
Similarly, the concept of number is clearest to the child in DIY numbers and counters in which the numerals vary only in numerical symbol and the counters vary only in quantity. You can do this with even the simplest version of cards and counters, such as outdoor numbers and counters using chalk-drawn numerals and objects such as pinecones or rocks or numbers and counters at the beach using numerals drawn in the sand and seashell counters.
There may be times when you create DIY materials where you don’t choose to isolate the quality, such as when you want to add interest by using a number of different colored eggs for an Easter activity or a number of different colored flowers for a spring activity. But with a child who’s just being introduced to a concept or a child who has difficulty with a concept, it’s especially helpful to remember to isolate one quality.
My gift guide for Montessori homeschoolers has resources for some of the essential Montessori materials with isolation of quality.
More on Montessori Principles
Top 10 Principles for Natural Learning gives an overview of some important Montessori principles to use at home. Become a More Successful Homeschooler by Using Montessori Principles tells about basic Montessori principles found in the materials. I also published a post on control of error, another Montessori principle that you’ll find especially helpful when creating your own materials.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with materials that had or didn’t have isolation of quality.
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