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Montessori Metal Insets: Purpose and Presentation

Montessori language materials and activities are set apart from other early language arts learning systems due to their unique sensorial focus, specifically, incorporating the use of the child’s hands. The Montessori Metal Insets material is a great example of this.

Since learning tends to be stronger when a child is able to incorporate writing along with it, proper handwriting technique is quite important. This makes the Metal Insets an extremely important classroom material.

In this article, you will learn about the purpose of the Metal Insets and how to introduce this material to a child. You will also get activity extension ideas.

image of the Montessori metal insets.

What are tha Montessori Metal Insets

The Montessori Metal Insets material is a set of 10 pink metal frames and their corresponding knobbed insets. The set of Metal Insets is divided into 2 stands; one containing 5 straight-lined shapes and one with 5 curved-line shapes.

Metal Inset shapes

  • rectangle
  • square
  • triangle
  • trapezoid
  • pentagon
  • ellipse
  • oval
  • circle
  • quatrefoil
  • curvlinear triangle

The color scheme of this material is consistent with other Montessori language arts materials like the Sandpaper Letters and the Small Moveable Alphabet.

The purpose of the Metal Insets is to prepare a child for handwriting, as this is the first material they will work with that has them use pencils to place controlled marks on paper.

The Metal Insets are introduced to a child toward the end of their first year in a Montessori primary program for many children. Other children will be ready to use this material much later, and that is ok.

Prior to working with this material, a child will have worked with many other materials that help them practice the skills needed for the Metal Insets.

The Geometric Cabinet (a somewhat similar-looking material) helps develop many of the skills needed for the Metal Insets. Other sensorial activities such as the Sound Cylinders help ready a child’s hands and wrists for this material, as well.

Many Practical Life activities, like pouring water and spooning beans, ready a child for working this material by helping them develop better control of movement.

Materials needed for Metal Insets activity

Purpose of the Metal Insets in Montessori

  • preparation for handwriting
  • develop control of movement

Indirect aims

  • introduction of geometry
  • improved hand-eye coordination
  • development of esthetic sense

Control of error

  • visual

Points of interest

  • adding details with the colored pencils
  • keeping the pencil on the paper while tracing the whole shape

The Montessori Metal Insets lesson

Note: When this material is first introduced, both Metal Insets stands should be set on the table, near the top of the workspace, for the child.

After the initial presentation, it is ok for them to choose a single inset from the shelf and work with it.

The tray on the language arts shelf should contain the writing tray, 3 colored pencils, and the Metal Insets paper.

During the lesson, you should model correct posture (both feet on the floor and back against the chair) and a proper pencil grip.

  • Ask the child to carry the tray with the activity supplies to the table and remove them from the tray, placing the colored pencils in the grooves of the writing tray. (grooves should be at the top of the tray)
  • Show the child how to put a piece of inset paper into the left side of the writing tray.
  • Remove an inset and its frame from the stand and put it on top of the paper.
  • Take the inset from its frame and put it in the center of the right side of the writing tray.
  • Remove one of the colored pencils from the grooves and show the child how you are holding it. (See link above for proper pencil grip.)
  • Hold the frame down with your non-dominant hand and trace it in a counter-clockwise direction starting at the highest point of the shape. (Top left point, if it is a cornered shape.)
  • Put the pencil back it the groove and place the frame on the shape in the right side of the writing tray.
  • Slowly pick up the Metal Inset by its knob and place it over the shape you have just drawn.
  • Pick a different colored pencil and trace the entirety of the shape in the same fashion as with the frame.
  • Put the pencil back in the groove and the inset back with its frame on the right side of the writing tray.
  • Take a moment and allow the child to make observations about the shape you have drawn.
  • Pick the unused colored pencil and slowly draw several straight horizontal lines across and within the shape.
  • Put the pencil back in the groove, turn the paper over, and invite the child to try the activity.

Metal Insets activity extensions

  • Drawing zig-zag, wavy, horizontal, ect. line within the shape.
  • Shading and coloring the shape.
  • Use colored paper.
  • Cutting out the shapes.
  • Rotating the insets to create designs.
  • Creating collages with cut-out shapes.

The Metal Insets is a crucial material for Montessori classrooms and a great asset for Montessori homeschool settings.

Though it’s an investment to purchase the Montessori Metal Insets, the material is incredibly sturdy and typically holds up well for resale or donation.

It’s a fantastic way to introduce proper handwriting techniques to a child.

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