The Metal Insets are a delightful way for the child to prepare for writing.
How does this material aid a child on their way to writing? Holding a colored pencil to carefully trace shapes helps a child develop the fine motor control needed to write small letters. Creating patterns and designs is a secondary goal, but also increases a child’s ability to manipulate a pencil!
Perhaps most importantly, this work has many variations and possibilities, and can capture any child’s interest for an extended period of time.
Let’s walk through, step by step, and see exactly why the Metal Insets are a valuable addition to the Language area of the Montessori classroom.
The Metal Insets are very appealing to the young child, both in their intricacy and how they are displayed in the classroom. The shapes a child could choose to work with include:
The shape itself is blue with a knob, and sits in a pink metal frame, all of which are equal in size.
Another appeal for the child is the colored pencils that line the top of the Metal Insets cabinet, arranged neatly and categorized by color. As you see in the photo above, these pencils have a special holder that is part of the process.
When the child decides to work with the Metal Insets, the first step is setting up their work tray, found typically on the bottom shelf. On this tray, they’ll place 1-3 colored pencils, a piece of white paper that’s been pre-cut by the classroom guides to fit the pink frame, and the shape they’d like to work with!
As many Montessori guides can attest to, choosing colored pencils and the shape they’d like to work with can be one of the most exciting things about this work for young children!
As we mentioned before, there are so many fun and interesting variations to the Metal Insets. Let’s look at making a Double Outline. First, the child will place the blue shape to the right of the paper, always holding it by the knob.
Next, they will choose a color to trace the inside of the pink frame, making sure to hit each corner and change the direction of the pencil each time.
Putting down the pencil, they will move the frame aside to observe the square they’ve created!
Next, it’s time to create the second outline using the blue shape and a different colored pencil. The child will place the blue shape within the frame outline, lining it up, and then trace the blue shape outline while securing it by the knob.
As a child becomes more comfortable with the Metal Insets, an extension they might enjoy is filling in the shape they’ve created in the Double Outline exercise. They may choose different patterns, for example, lines far apart, progressively closer together, or completely filled in.
During this activity, a natural control of error occurs when a child draws outside of the line. He or she can independently understand, without the word of a teacher, if they’ve accomplished filling the shape in ‘inside the lines.’
For grown-ups, this seems like a fairly simple and straightforward process, but think of the satisfaction the young child feels when accomplishing this task! It requires quite a bit of follow-through and precision, and preparing the hand to begin writing is no small achievement.