If you are a parent of a Primary student then you may have wondered about the square pieces of paper with tracings of geometric shapes that your child brings home in her work folder. When she tells you what it is, you may ask her to repeat herself because it sounds like she is calling them "metal insects." Secretly, you think to yourself, "funny, these don't look anything like insects." And you would be right!

These designs are made with a fundamental Montessori material known as the Metal Insets. 

The Metal Insets, predominantly found in the Primary and Lower Elementary classrooms, are used to develop a core set of skills that build upon one another in sequence.  In the Primary classroom, this material is the first direct preparation for handwriting. The introduction to the Metal Insets usually follows a lot of indirect preparation for handwriting that is developed through the use of the Practical Life materials and the Sensorial materials (e.g. the three finger pincer grasp used with the small tongs, eye dropper, and knobbed cylinders aids the child in correct pencil grip).

"In this way...children perfect themselves in writing without actually writing." - Dr. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

Becoming proficient in using a writing instrument is a long process. When children work with the Metal Insets, they engage and practice a host of fine motor skills including lightness of touch, evenness of pressure, continuity of line, and control of line.  Not to mention, this work also aids children in the development of concentration, memory and a sense of order (all necessary for executive function).

The physical material that is displayed on the shelf is both beautiful and organized in appearance. The Metal Inset materials consist of ten geometric shapes that each fit into a corresponding metal frame (like a puzzle piece). There are five straight-lined figures and five curve-lined figures:  square, triangle, rectangle, pentagon, trapezium, circle, oval, ellipse, curvilinear triangle, and quatrefoil. The shapes correspond directly to the curves and angles found in the letters of the alphabet.

Beyond preparing and strengthening the hand for handwriting, there are 7 different presentations of Metal Insets that increase with difficulty starting with the simple tracing of shapes to the gradation, design and superimposition of shapes and colors. Lower Elementary students often revel in making intricate patterns by combining the shapes and observing their geometric proportions and relationships to one another, laying the foundation for true work in geometry.

Click here to learn more about the Metal Insets on www.montessorium.com