Many of the Montessori works in a Primary classroom are truly hands on, with no paperwork trail to reflect the effort required to do the work. This is especially true in many of the math jobs, sensorial, and in the practical life areas of the classroom. On the other hand, you may see small strips of paper with letters traced on it, pin punched papers, and even math papers referencing the color bead stair coming home, not knowing the source of this work.
Early letter recognition is practiced using the “blue stepboard.” A strip of four letters is placed in the board and the student is asked to match the letter from the board to the strip. When they are correct, the letter fits; when it is not the right match, the letter will not fit. The tracing paper is inserted into the board and the letters are copied.
As the child progresses in their recognition of letters, more demanding strips will be used and the student will be given the chance to fill in with the beginning sound of a word, then ending sounds of a word. Finally, a simple picture is found on the strip and the student spells the entire word.
Pin punching looks deceptively easy when the work is brought home, but the labor and fine motor skills required are noteworthy. Whether the child is pin punching a metal insert design (triangle or square), or they are pin punching a seasonal shape (pumpkin or turkey), the level of concentration is immense. The child is holding a push pin with the pincer grip (between the thumb and the first and second fingers) and is literally punching out consecutive holes around the perimeter of the shape. If a student is deliberate in their work, the shape is easily extracted from the page. If they have not sufficiently punched in enough holes, it is harder to remove it from its original page. Often, a teacher will hold up the pin punching work to the window to check the quantity of holes before they attempt to tear it out effectively. The child can then see if they have pin punched enough holes to tear it out easily.
Finally, you may have seen paperwork showing a progression of 1-10 where the numbers are traced and the corresponding beads are colored with their specific color. For instance, the one bead is always red, the two beads are green.
You are looking at a foundational Montessori math work. One of Dr. Montessori’s chief insights into educating children was to recognize that a child will likely learn better and retain the information longer, if they are taught from the concrete (holding a one bead in their hands) then introducing the abstract (this is the number one). The one to one correspondence begins to take hold, where the child realizes that they are holding “one” and that the name of that concept is the number one. You will see papers reflecting this work when bead stair papers are coming home.