by Antonia Herberg
In our Montessori kindergarten, observations are written down and later entered into the child’s file. For my first IHVO homework I would like to look at the collected notes using the observation chart by Huser, according to points A and B (see below). It is therefore necessary to select the notes that can say something about these points.
My goal is to get a clearer perception of how Manuel behaves in different situations, which conditions are conducive to his development and whether my assumption is correct that he has a great talent potential.
A short description of the child
Manuel is now 5;0 years old and has been with us for one and a half years. His parents both have highly qualified professions, Manuel has two older and one younger sibling.
From the beginning Manuel appears as a child for whom the encounter with things is more important than the relationship with the adults and the other children. He makes an extremely serious impression, speaks very purposefully and emphatically. For a long time he used language with us only when he wanted to have something. From his side, communication was mainly limited to „yes“ and „no“. Now he also tells us about his experiences, feelings and likes to exchange ideas with us kindergarten teachers.
At first he had an exclusive relationship with a boy of the same age, who was cognitively inferior to him by far. His games with him became mostly within a short period of time exuberant jokes in which Manuel took on the role of clown.
Now he seeks contact with the pre-school children. One girl seems to be particularly important to him. He speaks much and lovingly with admiration of her, they also meet „privately“.
Furthermore, after a few days I noticed that he is able to devote himself completely to one activity and to carry it out in a concentrated way over long periods of time. If the situation is boring for him, he takes on the role of a clown and cannot stop this without help, even if the kindergarten teachers ask him to.
If he is then confronted with a challenging task, he is immediately back in the mental collection position. His facial expression becomes friendly and he acts turned towards the adult who gave him the task.
Remark of the course leader:
Here a close connection between challenge and mood becomes apparent.
The mother has reported in parent-teacher talks that Manuel behaves quite differently than his siblings. She finds him very difficult, has many conflicts with him and often knows no other way to help him than to isolate him from the family. In this situation Manuel loses his temper completely, rages and smashes things.
Arranging the written observations
A1 – General developmental advantage / interest in numbers and letters
Manuel (5;0) would like to calculate. He solves plus tasks exceeding ten with the help of the pearl steps (Montessori material). He carefully writes down the solved tasks in a booklet.
Two days later he wants to continue working in his arithmetic booklet. He does it on his own, for 1.5 hours and then shows me his work: „Look, I’ve done that much.“ He doesn’t look at the other children at all while doing his calculations.
A2 – Quick comprehension and curiosity
Manuel (4;8) got an introduction to numbers and chips. I showed him that there are even and odd numbers. Numbers that can be halved (divided by 2) and the odd numbers where it is not so easy.
He tries all the numbers from 1 to 10 and then says, „zero cannot be divided either.“
Then I ask him to rub through the even numbers using paper, wax crayons and sandpaper. He does this independently and carefully. He decides to make a book out of it. He says to me: „I also want the numbers that can’t be divided.“ I nod and he makes two books. He’s obviously doing well.
Manuel (4;9) is playing with the electric box every day at the moment and is very skilled, has a plan and tries to realize it (series connection, circuit connection). He checks if the connections are closed, discovers where cables come loose and fixes them again until it works. Then he leans back and looks at it with a smile.
Manuel (4;11) is busy with the electric box. He discovers that the front part of the screwdriver conducts electricity. Enthusiastically he calls me and shows it to me. I give him a wooden stick and ask him to hold it in place of the screwdriver. Manuel takes the stick and throws it scornfully on the table. With a defensive voice, he says, „Wood does not conduct.“ I ask, „How do you know that?“ He replies defensively, „I just know!“
Manuel (4;11) lights the candle and and plays carelessly with it. I take the matches away from him and give him a lighter instead, because I think he is underchallenged with the matches. After a short time he manages to light the candle with the lighter as well.
A 3 – Orientation towards older children and adults
Manuel (5;0) runs in the garden behind the big boys. Like them he calls out loud cheers. Several times he pushes one of the boys from behind. At first the boys ignore this. Then Manuel pushes harder, one falls down. The boy and his friends scold him and tell him to run away. Manuel stands still and listens; as soon as the boys start running, he runs after them again.
This process is repeated over a few days.
Manuel (5;2) has for some time now been looking for Luisa (6 years). She plays with him and he seems radiant and happy.
Remark of the course administration:
Could you observe how this contact came about? What are their common play contents?
A 5 – Long attention and strong self-motivation
Manuel (5;0) was not in the kindergarten for a few days. He comes right in and goes straight to his drawer. He says: „I have started something here. I want to continue it right away.“ (Copy dinosaurs.) He works on it for an hour and a half without paying attention to the surroundings.
The next day he comes in beaming and goes straight to work. He wants to paint more dinosaurs. He works on it for almost 2 hours and only interrupts for a short breakfast. He threads his book together. Because the holes are small and the thread is thick, he has some trouble. And when it’s done, he says to himself, „There you go.“
Manuel (4:6) plays with the NAEF stones. He recreates the shown patterns. He succeeds with all of them. Whenever he has made one, he beamingly invites me to look at his work. He often plays with these stones throughout the day and is very concentrated and persistent.
A 6 – High demands on himself
Manuel (4;11) takes part in the trainee’s knight project. They make a shield and paint it with a motif they have thought up themselves. After a while Manuel comes out of the room and looks very dissatisfied.
I squat down with him and ask him why he comes back. He sobs: „I don’t no longer want to take part.“
He lets me take him in my arms and tells me that he wants to paint a lion on his shield and that he can’t do that. „The B. (trainee) can’t do it either.“
I remind him of the coats of arms he has worked with before. We’ll pick one with a lion on it and copy it. He runs back happily and shouts, „I have a lion now!“ He processes the copy into a knight shield. The product is a success: A shield with a handle. He is the only child of the group who came up with this idea.
A 13 – Innovative use of materials, artistic originality
Manuel (4;7) spends days cutting stamp-sized pieces of paper and carefully painting them. I ask him if he wouldn’t like to have a bigger paper for painting. He rejects it with a narrow „no“. After several days he comes to me with the many painted snippets and says: „Now I want to make a book for my photos.“
A 14 – Sense of humour and puns
Manuel (5;2) says after a long search and with a happy face: „Now I know what I’m doing, he gets the Europe puzzle, puts it on the carpet. He looks at me and says: „I want to do the tracing outlines.“ Using the puzzle pieces as templates.
I help him get started and he sketches out piece by piece. He says: „Jetzt kommen die Dänen mit den Zähnen.“ (Now come the Danish with their teeth) – „Here come the Swedes with noise and racket“, etc. He looks for a saying for each country he draws and then laughs happily. When it gets tricky because the countries are so small, I say, „A tricky thing.“ He replies: „Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s fun. I want more of that.“
When he finished the map of Europe, he worked in the same way on the continental map.
Manuel (5;1) has been working on a crocodile for two days. He seems satisfied and proud. He sticks a leg on the crocodile, lifts it up, looks at it and sings: „Krokodil hat nur ein Bein und ist irgendwie ein Schwein.“ (Crocodile has only one leg and is somehow a pig.)
Two older children next to him demand in a rebuking voice that he should stop immediately. Manuel looks at them with astonished face and sings his rhyme again. He looks at the one child. The girl turns to me and says, „Manuel is singing bad words.“ I say, „Is that bad?“ Manuel with a raised voice: „This is not evil, this is funny. That’s right, funny!“ He sings it again and looks at me laughing. Then he tinkers on.
B 1 – Not concentrated in hard work
Manuel (5;2) paints the map of Europe, which he has sketched with great perseverance and care in the days before (see above). At first he transfers the original colours very precisely, later he takes any colour and finally he paints over the edge with bouncing movements.
He starts talking and fooling around with the children near him, spreading the paint on the paper without paying attention to the contours.
B 3 – Aggressive, demanding or clownish behaviour
After Manuel (5;0) has disturbed the other children of the group for a few days by fooling around, making a lot of noise and breaking the rules, I intercept him in the morning. I want to give him a task. He reacts defensively, shakes his head and makes a pouty face. I take him by the hand wordlessly, choose a game, spread it out on the carpet and formulate the task.
It is a game of association from the linguistic realm (putting nouns together to form new terms). He listens, we arrange two pairs together and then he continues alone.
Manuel is not distracted by anything and manages all the cards. Afterwards he goes on to other things in a balanced and busy way. There is no clash with other children this morning.
Manuel knows exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want: He has filled out the interest questionnaire and especially the last page clearly and energetically:
(play in a theatre
learn another language
draw and paint
care for plants
singing and making music
find out new things on the computer
inventing and telling stories
listen to music and stories
learn to cook and bake
deliberate over questions
solve a riddle)
I have partially achieved my goal. It is clear that Manuel has his own idea of what he wants to do. If we can afford to keep an eye on him with his interests, to hook into them and be on hand, he will move on to more advanced activities.
I have become very aware of how strongly his emotional state depends on what he can do and how beneficial it is for him to have an appropriate playing partner.
It would have been good to have more concrete observations available. This failed because I was very busy with other tasks in the kindergarten in the last few weeks (loss of personnel). I would like to continue this form of observation using the observation sheet.
In addition, an irritation in the evaluation of what has been perceived has arisen because Manuel´s father no longer lives with the family. Now it is necessary to take a very special look in order to be able to recognize which behaviors can be traced back to this break in Manuel’s life and which are „merely“ expressions of his „hunger for education“. In this way I want to avoid the mistake of always responding to emotional needs with cognitive challenge. This could possibly have fatal consequences for his development.
More on Manuel:
From Clown to Expert
Date of publication in German: April 2020
Translation: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. email@example.com)
Copyright © Antonia Herberg, see Imprint.