How to use the Montessori Shape Insets to Enhance Handwriting
Confusion. If I could sum up the Montessori Shapes set from the ShillerLearning Language Arts Kit A with one word it would be confusion. “Why is there a math manipulative in my language arts set?” People often wonder. We promise it’s not a mistake. This key component of a Montessori education fits in quite well with language arts once one has a good understanding of what exactly their intended purpose is (hint, it’s not to help kids learn their shapes although that is an added bonus.)
The Montessori shape insets are blue shapes that fit into a pink frame. The ShillerLearning high-quality polymer Montessori insets will hold up to the wear and tear of lots of children. Our set includes 10 shapes, each with a knob on the back to help develop fine motor skills and muscle tone.
Shapes are generally kept out on a shelf, placed right next to one another so each individual shape can be seen. Many people keep white pieces of paper cut to the same size as the pink borders and colored pencils next to these shapes for convenient, self-directed work.
So what’s the point of these shapes, if not for geometry? They help with handwriting skills. Students practice tracing the shapes, both around the outside of the blue shape and the inside of the pink outline. While students get the added benefit of learning their shapes and how to form them, they’re also practicing pencil grip and pencil control. Students are instructed to begin tracing from the top to bottom and left to write, which helps with letter formation and sentence structure. Hand-eye coordination is increased while tracing these shapes, as well as practice making straight and curved lines. The tracing and drawing activities with the Montessori insets will have your students practicing every stroke for all 26 letters of the alphabet without even realizing it.
The Montessori insets are also a fantastic creative outlet. Students enjoy tracing with different colors, outlining in one color and filling in with a different color, practice color mixing and tracing with different pencil pressure. Using the shape insets helps children develop an artistic eye as well. While this might seem like a boring task for adults, young children absolutely love this work and will find many creative ways to complete it.
Incorporating shading, textures, and patterns is an additional way these materials can be used. This helps students learn about pencil angle, improves focus, teaches children about drawing lines, gives good practice with measurement and much more.
ShillerLearning includes these shapes in Language Arts Kit A. We begin by introducing the child to the shapes using the 3-period lesson. Next, each shape is inspected, traced, and interacted with. We also have students practice different strokes with each shape, and finally we have them work on making each shape independently. Tracing is done from top to bottom, left to right to train the child in proper eye-tracking for reading and the hand movements later used in writing letters. Tracing the frames and shapes also involves crossing the midline. Crossing the midline is important in early education as it promotes coordination and communication of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
While we incorporate these shapes in our Language Arts Kit A, school-aged children continue to enjoy these for art creations for years after their "official" use. At homeschool conventions, kids of all ages enjoy make and take art activities using the Montessori insets.
Need help incorporating the 3-period lesson into your homeschooling? Check out Shawna’s tips and inspiration in How the 3 Period Lesson Changed My Homeschool.
See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits
Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.