Montessori Monday: The Red Rods
There are few materials that can claim to be as fully-engaging as the Red Rods. Prominent in the Sensorial area, the Rods are an immediate attraction to children because of their precise proportions, scale and vibrant color. After a careful presentation, the child can practice carefully carrying each rod from the shelf to a floor mat, placing each silently and with great attention on the mat and, when all ten rod have been placed, aligning them by length.
Like the other Sensorial materials, the Red Rods are designed to enhance the child's sensorial perception, in this case by developing his understanding of length. What better way to internalize the difference between 10 centimeters and 1 meter than to carrying those lengths in your open arms? Resting his fingertips on the far edges of the Rod, the child is able to experience the length of the Rods with his whole body. Meanwhile, he builds his ability to move carefully through the room by navigating the Rods (some which may be as tall as he is!) around chairs and tables. He develops his visual perception by discriminating between the rods. He ultimately will build his memory and concentration by enjoying distance games with the Rods or, if he's very interested, by completing the rod layout blindfolded.
And while the child is establishing these skills explicitly, he is absorbing the cognitive patterns of our number system through exposure to relationships in diminishing tenths and to the patterns in our language system by lining the rods from left to right and top to bottom on the mat, just as the order of our written and read language operates.
Most exciting, though, may be observing the returning child who discovers the changes in his or her own body, when the child is "suddenly" able to carry the longest rod from end to end, those tiny arms finally growing long enough to reach the entire length. This is the great joy of the three-year cycle, as children move through familiar materials, leave them to more challenging ones and cycle back to their comfort again. Year after year, these are the ways we measure our days.