306 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
panions to leave their chairs, and to form in double file in the centre of the room, then have them march forward and back on tiptoe, making no noise." "Ask three of your oldest companions who sing nicely, if they will please come into the centre of the room. Arrange them in a nice row, and sing with them a song that you have selected," etc., etc. As soon as I finished writing, the children seized the cards, and taking them to their seats read them spontaneously with great intensity of attention, and all amid the most complete silence.
I asked then, " Do you understand ? " " Yes! Yes! " " Then do what the card tells you," said I, and was delighted to see the children rapidly and accurately follow the chosen action. A great activity, a movement of a new sort, was born in the room. There were those who closed the blinds, and then reopened them; others who made their companions run on tiptoe, or sing; others wrote upon the blackboard, or took certain objects from the cupboards. Surprise and curiosity produced a general silence, and the lesson developed amid the most intense interest. It seemed as if some magic force had gone forth from me stimulating an activity hitherto unknown. This magic was graphic language, the greatest conquest of civilisation.
And how deeply the children understood the importance of it! When I went out, they gathered about me with expressions of gratitude and affection, saying, " Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for the lesson ! "
This has become one of the favourite games: We first establish profound silence, then present a basket containing folded slips, upon each one of which is written a long phrase describing an action. All those children who know how to read may draw a slip, and read it mentally