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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

324               THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

employed in reproducing them with the movable alphabet. This
reveals the fact that during the sensitive period (from three to five
years) the child tends to accumulate words even when he does not
understand them.

In fact, all words will be new until the child has understood
them, and understanding them is just the conscious act which leads
to clarifying, determining and conserving.

If there exist then these two natural facts—the tendency to
accumulate words and the fact that the word may be acquired
apart from its signification—it follows as a consequence that we
may ask the question of why there should be given so many words
confusedly mixed together by a mistress depending on her memory,
and why, instead, there should not be utilized this period in the
life of the child, first of all to introduce order among the words,
and secondly to introduce some scientific terms.

This work, which has been full of surprises, has also been
undertaken methodically by Mario M. Montessori. Instead of
employing boxes of words of all kinds chosen by chance, we use
sets of names referring to one special group of things, e.g. the five
classes of vertebrates, animals placed in their groups, leaves,
flowers, roots, etc. Illustrative figures then become interesting,
because they give a meaning to new words. Not only pictures,
but living things, the children's research into Nature, and so on,
are utilized.

The success was so great that it has been possible to evolve
a form of scientific instruction suited to the intellectual level of
the children with unexpected success. It had to be consider-
ably extended beyond the limits which were planned at the begin-
ning of the exercise. The surprising result has been that the
children like and remember the classifications, which confirms the
idea that it is natural to collect words, and also the need for having
a mental order based on the sense of the words. Thus there are
two extremes in all these exercises; one is inward: grammar which
prepares the order in which words ought to be arranged in order
to express thought and therefore to construct language; the other