Walking the Line



 Have you ever walked into a Montessori classroom and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder what that’s for? Was that there this morning?You’re certainly not alone and with good reason. Each job does serve its purpose, I promise. Only after I became a Montessori certified teacher, I understood it! 

Most Primary classrooms will have a strip of tape, ribbon or something similar on the floor that’s about three feet long. This lesson is called “Walking the Line” and it’s usually given during the beginning of the school year. The idea is for the child to successfully walk the line purposefully, gracefully and without disturbing others. The child is welcome to walk the line as he wishes.

The lesson starts with the teacher modeling how to walk on the line. She does this carefully and fully engaged. She will then ask the child to repeat her process. Sometimes the teacher will re-direct the child to this work if she recognizes that this is what the child needs at the moment.

There are many modifications to this activity and I will give some examples here. During one of my observations in a Montessori classroom, I watched as the teacher led the students to line up during her morning work cycle. The students lined up and walked the line together while calming classical music was being played in the background. Many teachers use this activity as a job on the shelf. A basket with a strip of ribbon would be available on the shelf. The child can then take the basket to a mat, unroll the ribbon on the floor and walk the line.

As the year progresses and the child shows mastery the teacher will then model increasingly challenging variations to “Walking the Line”. The teacher may introduce the following extensions to this job:

     -Walking the line holding a bell

     -Walking the line while balancing a bean bag on the child’s head

     -Walking the line balancing a wooden egg on a spoon

When observing students outdoors, walking the line would come up sometimes through experimenting and social activities. A child working on moping, might create a wet line on the sidewalk, and sometimes a friend will choose to walk that line. When using chalk to trace a friend’s body a child might alter the use of the chalk to create a line on the pavement, and sure enough, he’ll have a friend walk this line. 

You see, Maria Montessori observed children carefully and she studied what they needed. “The first thing to be done, therefore, is to discover the true nature of a child and then assist him in the true development” Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood.

Have you ever observed toddlers as they walk? They try to walk only on the sidewalk cracks, the basketball lines, the carpet’s patterns or they try to climb a low wall so they can balance on it. They need it, they can’t resist it. They are obsessed with following their intrinsic desire and sense of order. This job is not used because the teacher wants to use it, it is a tool that the student can use to help himself with his need for order, concentration, inner peace and mindfulness. And if we will not recognize their need, and allow them to practice it - they will find ways to make it happen, just watch them!

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