Can you imagine the response of a parent when a Montessori teacher enthusiastically shares, “Today, your child completed the the Stereognostic Progressive Exercise!”  “The what?!” a parent most likely thinks.  In an effort to quell this uncertainty, here is a brief explanation of this wonderful Sensorial lesson.

The Progressive Exercise is a unique lesson in the Sensorial area of the Montessori classroom which heightens awareness of the child’s sense of touch.  This lessons aids the child’s development of the haptic, or “blind man’s” sense.  The student is invited to feel with his fingertips one of four different objects in pairs and sort each one into sections of a tray or small dishes.  Then, he closes his eyes or covers them with a blindfold and proceeds to feel the remaining items from the pairs, one at time.  After one object is felt, the child compares it to the others and pairs the items by touch alone.

Montessori teachers are forever thinking of ways to vary lessons and materials without losing sight of the lesson’s intended purpose.  The Progressive Exercise is a fun way to include seasonal or thematic items and integrate classroom curriculum areas.  For example, shells would be ideal items to use in this lesson if the class is studying oceans.  Other objects can include beads, different types of uncooked pasta, buttons, seeds, etc.  I enjoy putting together different items for this lesson and change them periodically – the kids also look forward to these variations!  This month, I placed different types of flowers (beads and buttons) to go along with a Spring theme:

This is the lesson as it appears on the shelf.  All of the items are in one, central dish.
One item from each pair is slowly felt.  During the initial presentation, the teacher demonstrates how to hold the object in one hand and feel it with the fingertips of the other hand.  This is completed as slowly as possible, emphasizing how to feel the differences of each object.
Here, one object from each pair has been felt and placed into a dish.  Now, the student closes their eyes (or, as is the case in my classroom, puts on the ever-popular blindfold!) and takes one item from the central dish.  They feel it in their hand and then feel for the matching one in one of the dishes.  When a match is made, the child puts both objects together in the same dish, all while using only the sense of touch.
Lesson completed.

Such a simple lesson, yet full of critical opportunities for the child!  I often wonder where else, other than a Montessori classroom, can a child practice and refine their sense of touch with such care and enthusiasm?!  For me, it is one of the ” One Thousand Reasons to Love Montessori!”