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Montessori Geometric Metal Insets Language Lesson -Steps Towards Literacy Intro (Square ◼️)

Geometric Metal Insets are traditionally part of Montessori language area. The purpose of this material is to prepare a child for future handwriting. The lesson also involves some artistic aspect since the child is creating patterns, using colored pencils of his/her choice. The insets are made of metal, and are thus heavy and sturdy for a child to use. They come with a frame and an inside (an inset). A child will be practicing tracing both: the frame and the inset.


We are using these metal insets (which come on two stands, total of ten insets).  Alternatively, you can purchase the entire Geometric Cabinet with 35 insets (here.) For the presentation, I use a regular wooden tray with handles (buy here), which is economical and serves the purpose, but if you can afford, here you can purchase a lovely Montessori metal insets tracing tray, which will hold your insets and pencils. Our metal insets have the following (10) shapes: a circle, a square, a triangle, a rectangle, a trapezoid (has four sides), a pentagon (has five sizes), an ellipse (has two points of symmetry), an oval (egg-shaped), a quatrefoil (like a flower), and a curvilinear triangle (curved triangle). You will also need paper about 5.5” x 5.5" size and colored pencils. Adrian loves Giotto Mega pencils made by Lyra, a German company (buy here), since pencils have a thick comfortable grooved core and are extremely vibrant.

There are few Steps Towards Literacy in a Montessori Language curriculum:

  1. Step 1: building vocabulary using a 3🅿️🌠 Three Period Lesson  (see here), or during formal or informal conversations, stories, and reading.
  2. Step 2: identifying sounds during Sound Games or I spy Game. (See our Letter Series post here.)
  3. Step 3: learning letters with sand-paper letters. (Also, in our Letter Series post here.)
  4. Step 4: is to prepare child's eyes to recognize letters, which is accomplished by recognizing geometry shapes, such as matching shapes' frames and inserts. As such, an eye will train to distinguish an oval vs. ellipse, or a letter “n” vs. “m”.
  5. Step 5: prepare child's hand to write, draw letters and shapes, which is again accomplished with the use of geometry insets. Initially, you would simply ask your child to trace with a second and third fingers around the outline of the shape (its frame) so that the hand does not lose contact with the frame, meaning applying just the right amount of pressure. Such practice prepares the hand for writing letters.

DSC_0167For steps (4) and (5) you would need a traditional Montessori material - Metal Insets. 

Instructions: When tracing the inset, a child should start tracing at the bottom left hand corner of the shape (if right is a dominant hand). Trace clockwise around the shape and meet up to the starting point at the bottom left hand corner - a child might have to pop up his/her left wrist slightly in order to see the starting point. Make sure that the child does not stop the tracing process, until he/she has completed the shape - it should be a smooth transition around the entire shape. When coloring the shape within the frame, a child should use small strokes that move top to bottom, left to right side. Remind the child not to lift the pencil up off the paper until the pencil is at the very right of the shape, and definitely, not to change the positioning of the stroke itself. Montessori Print Shop.

Presentation: A child would trace the frame first, holding it firmly with a non-dominant hand, while tracing continuously with a dominant hand using one of the colored pencils. Once finished, a child would put the frame to the side. Then, choosing a different colored pencil, a child would pick up the inset (the inside) and superimpose it on top of the shape just drawn. While holding the inset firmly with a non-dominant hand, a child would trace over the insert continuously using a dominant hand. A child will end up with a "double line". Thereafter, a child may use yet another color pencil to fill the insert with a particular pattern. 

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First step: tracing the frame.

In practicing tracing metal insets, a child acquires proficiency in using a writing instrument, including lightness of touch, evenness of pressure, continuity of line, and familiarity with the curves and angles found in letters.

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Second step: tracing over the superimposed inset.

As you can see, the second step is much harder. Adrain (at 37 months then), had difficulties tracing around corners, and keeping the pencil flash to the paper. However, practicing using metal insets will strengthen his three-finger grip, while coordinating the necessary wrist movements.

I purchased pattern presentations from Montessori Print Shop, and you may download them for your personal use here .

The main purpose in using metal insets is to prepare a child for writing. When a child traces the inset, s/he is replicating every movement the hand will make when writing the alphabet letters. Thus, the child is practicing making all the shapes s/he will be making while writing the alphabet, and at the same time, s/he is building hand strength and fine motor skill. As a result, a child gets a lot of practice holding a pencil, tracing, repeating patterns, and most importantly, s/he is having fun in a process of discovery since there are a lot choices involved with which shape and color pencil to use, while the child gets to create something beautiful.

Besides being a foundational Montessori Language materials, geometrical insets also introduce a child to a geometry plane, encouraging a child to recognize representation of shapes leading to an abstract conception of form.


To solidify the geometric representation of a square (or a cube in 3D), Adrian gathered objects around the house that were squares (or cuboids), and we discussed that a square is a polygon with four equal sides and angles


We then measured each side, to substantiate our conclusion.

DSC_0145Tracing a Circle - Presentation # 1 (read here).

DSC_0030Exploring a Triangle - Presentation # 1 (read here).

Stay tuned for more shapes.

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