So to continue with the analogy of Montessori’s story of writing, we could apply this simple principle to introducing the basic elements of classical guitar playing to the beginner as is demonstrated in my little book The Montessori Guitar Method which introduces:
1) playing a melody on the three highest strings (treble strings)
2) playing a melody with a bass line
3) playing patterns with the fingers of the right hand (arpeggios)
4) playing chords on three strings
5) reading rhythmic notation
…and doing all of the above on all six strings of the guitar.
Each of these basic elements is broken down into separate presentations. For example with playing a melody on three strings we have:
1) plucking the string with the thumb
2) recognising the different strings
3) playing open strings or closed strings
4) plucking the strings with the index and middle fingers (i and m)
These separate elements are not presented as a step by step progression, but are rather points of entry, any of which could be primary, depending on the student’s preference. Similarly each could be taught as a lesson using:
1) ear and eye
3) staff notation (my book introducing this is on the way)
4) tablature and chord diagrams (as in the Montessor Guitar Method)
Neither is better. They are simply points of entry. Because, as we know, the map is not the territory. Maps simply provide different points of entry and different perspectives on a larger territory. Each map is valuable as a new perspective, and each map has the potential to shine a light which will touch different students in different ways. It is the teacher’s task to endeavour to discover which map suits which student and to use that map as a point of entry for all further maps.
There is a lot of concern in music education that allowing a certain activity will limit future activities. For example allowing a child to pick out a melody with one finger at the piano keyboard will stop them being able to play with all fingers later. Or teaching guitar using tablature will stop reading. Or or or…
But these concerns arise because of a linear teaching method where one thing leads to the next. Montessori, on the contrary, emphasises a cyclical progression or learning with multiple points of entry. This approach immediately frees up both the teacher and the student in quite remarkable ways. And this brings us back to the “one thing at a time” principle.
So we analyse the skill into its constituent parts. And we teach these parts separately in any order and then allow them to become larger skills spontaneously, just as they did when that first child wrote “hand” on the roof of the Casa dei Bambini.