Material Spotlight: Polishing Glass

In each Casa classroom, there are four polishing activities: Polishing Glass (red), Polishing Wood (green), Polishing Silver (blue), and Polishing Brass (yellow).

These purposeful materials all fall under the curriculum area of Practical Life; each progress in number of steps and difficulty starting with Polishing Glass to Polishing Wood, Silver, and Brass. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Practical Life assists in a child’s total development – intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. Activities under practical life include utilizing practical tools, caring for their environment, caring for themselves, adapting to social situations, and developing an awareness of one’s own self and movements.


Polishing Glass

Polishing Glass is often seen as a milestone or turning point in a first year Casa child’s journey. To this point, he or she has mostly worked on preliminary Practical Life activities such as squeezing a sponge, using a screwdriver, folding cloths, and pouring.

A child working with polishing glass combines many of these practiced skills. The child’s focus and concentration develops as the duration of this activity from start to finish is longer than those prior. The child is engrossed as his or her memory is utilized to remember all the steps involved.

Polishing Glass, as with all materials, is self-contained and presented to a child in clear and logical sequential steps.

The child:

  1. brings the basket or tray to the table,
  2. unfolds and wears the apron,
  3. unrolls the mat,
  4. pours polish into the dish,
  5. places the sponge and the cloth on the mat,
  6. selects and retrieves an object to polish,
  7. uses the sponge to apply the polish,
  8. uses the cloth to dry the object,
  9. returns the object to its designated spot on the shelf.


Then, the child may choose to:

  1. tidy up, or
  2. polish another glass object from his or her Casa classroom or from one of the other classrooms in the school.


If the child chooses to tidy up, the child:

  1. rinses the dish in the sink,
  2. replaces the dish in the basket or tray,
  3. determines whether the polishing cloth is wet or dry,
    • if the cloth is wet, the child hangs the cloth on the drying rack and retrieves a new cloth from the shelf,
  4. replaces the cloth in the basket or tray,
  5. determines whether the mat is dirty or wet,
    • If the mat is dirty or wet, the child may use the classroom sponging up bucket for the table.
  6. rolls up the mat,
  7. places the mat in the basket or tray,
  8. determines if the table, chair, or floor is wet,
    • If so, the child may use the classroom sponging up buckets (for the table or floor) to clean his or her work area.
  9. removes and folds the apron,
  10. places the apron back in the basket or tray, and finally
  11. replaces the basket or tray on the appropriate spot on the shelves.


As listed above, there are numerous actions that the child must complete while working with Polishing Glass. With practice and experience, a child is able to complete all steps with little to no prompting from peers or teachers.



Aiding a Child’s Total Development


The child is challenged to combine a variety of skills and remember what he or she must do next in order to complete Polishing Glass. Additionally, a child determines whether items are made of glass so that it may be chosen to polish. The child demonstrates self-discipline and self-regulation. He or she carefully selects only one object to polish at a time and the child works only within the designated work mat/work space. Then, the child remembers where each object belongs, either on his or her own classroom shelves or in other classrooms throughout the school. The activity fosters a growth in concentration, memory and independent thought through the various choices posed along the way.


The child uses fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination when working with Polishing Glass (e.g. squeezing the sponge, pouring the polish into the dish, polishing the object, folding the apron). The child also demonstrates spatial awareness. The child selects a work area on a table spacious enough for the activity; then, he or she selects objects to polish, carefully carrying these items from shelves to his or her work space. Gross motor skills are activated; the opportunities for movement allow a child to refine walking through various spaces while carrying delicate objects. A child is physically engaged from head to hands to toes.


Polishing Glass falls under the Care of Environment section of Practical Life. The child is taking ownership of the classroom space, helping to care for objects within it; thereby, the child contributes to its aesthetics. This results in a child connecting to his or her classroom community on a deeper level, taking ownership of these tasks. Additionally, children commonly use polishing activities as a means to connect to other classrooms – borrowing objects from any available class and returning them after. As the child does so, he or she becomes familiarized with the other staff members, children, and spaces within the larger school community.


A child working with Polishing Glass demonstrates independent action and independent thought as the activity is completed. This child’s confidence builds and grows each time he or she selects the material. The child knows he or she can do it with no outside help. The child also gains a sense of familiarity and security as he or she visits various classrooms, meeting other staff members and students.


Next Steps

As mentioned previously, Polishing Glass is a wonderful milestone and stepping stone to even more complex work in the classroom.

Photographed below is a progression of some Practical Life activities:

Through these activities, we are helping the child develop intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. We provide time and opportunities so that the child is able to do not only more complex Practical Life activities, but so that he or she may be prepared to accomplish more complex tasks in future schooling and in life.

These first year children working with Polishing Glass become the second and third year children building words, writing, reading, building maps of various continents, completing projects, counting to 100, and so on.

Every aspect of our curriculum and every material on our shelves aim to educate the whole child. They are all interconnected and strive to help a child be the best that he or she can be, through experience, practice, and opportunities.


“Education should not limit itself to seeking new methods for a mostly arid transmission of knowledge: its aim must be to give the necessary aid to human development….” (Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 84)


Further Reading – Previous Curriculum / Material Spotlight Blog Posts

Marie Hui is the Vice Principal of Odyssey Montessori School. She began her tenure with Odyssey as the student teacher in Casa 1. Marie then went on to lead Casa 2 as the Directress for several years. With a love of children and a passion for Montessori, Marie strives to connect parents to the Montessori philosophy - hoping to bridge some gaps between home and school.

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