Poem Puzzles

It’s quite simple– write down or print a poem (I make these over at Worksheet Works–lined that way so that eventually it can be copywork), cut the stanzas into strips, mix the puzzle strips up, and build the poem–quite simple, but full of Montessori principles we can consider when designing our own work and materials.

Some Montessori principles at work:

Hand

It’s said that “the way to the brain goes through the hands”–and scientists now say that 70-80% of our brain cells are connected to the hands–and Maria Montessori said, “The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling.”

So with this work, we have puzzle strips of the poem’s stanzas or lines that the child can manipulate and put together to build the poem. Manipulating and experimenting with the strips helps with remembering the poem–but our aim is beyond that–beyond memorization. I think this work gives the child (and even us adults–I like working on this myself) the time to let the poem sit with us, speak to us–so the more we have the chance to get to know the poem more (its words and rhythm, its structure and pattern), the more we are able to think about the idea of the poem.

Increasing Levels of Difficulty or Challenge

When I first introduce a Poem Puzzle, we start with fewer strips. With this poem here, one of my favorites “Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson, we started with 4 pieces (1 for the title and poet, plus 1 strip for each stanza). So that means the child only needed to arrange 4 puzzle strips to build the poem. Then eventually I cut them up again–increasing the level of difficulty. The increasing, but sufficient challenge keeps the material interesting and encourages choice and repetition.

Control of Error

When the child is done arranging the puzzle strips to build the poem, she can check the control sheet (I printed another copy of the poem) to see if they are the same. This means she can do the work independently–which includes adjusting independently if she made a mistake.

Alternatively, you can also let the child build the poem as she refers to the control sheet first; then build from memory when ready.

Still and again, while this work has helped us memorize poems, the goal is beyond that–I invite you to read this post “Internalization vs Memorization” by Baan dek Montessori.

“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.” – Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential

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