Reading and Writing the Montessori Way

Over the past several months, we have taken an in-depth look at how the Montessori classroom prepares a child for the rigors of academia and life.  Much like math, language arts is the culmination of all the skills a child has learned through the other areas of the classroom, such as practical life and sensory learning.  Dr. Maria Montessori said, “To talk is in the nature of man.”  We need language in order to communicate and understand each other in both its written and oral forms.  Collaboration, cohesiveness and comprehension cannot occur without the ability to communicate effectively.

At Villa Montessori Preschool Leesburg, we follow the principles of Montessori and teach language arts following the methodology created by Dr. Montessori.  She asserted that children from birth to age six are in the age of the absorbent mind.  When a child arrives in the classroom, they have already absorbed their culture’s language simply by living around others who are using language.  In the preschool classroom at Villa Montessori, both spoken and written language are incorporated into the environment to further enrich this intrinsic early learning.  

The Montessori Method uses a blend of phonics and literature when preparing children to read and write. Through the other areas of the classroom, activities in practical life and sensorial learning help the child to read and write by strengthening the muscles of the hand, as well as developing the left-to-right movement necessary for writing and reading.  Children also learn to classify and recognize patterns in the sensorial area.

Children are taught to write before they are taught to read in a Montessori environment.    Below, you will find descriptions of some of the language learning materials used in our Primary classrooms:  

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Description automatically generatedSandpaper Letters

Children begin to learn letter sounds using sandpaper letters because it is the sounds of the letters that are most important when we read and write rather than the name of the letter.  For example, when a Montessori student learns to spell “cat,” they will learn to spell “cat” by saying “kuh-ah-tuh” rather than saying “cee-ay-tee.”  Sandpaper letters incorporate the sense of touch to further reinforce learning.  At this early level, children begin to differentiate between consonants, vowels, and key sounds that are represented by more than a single letter.  Consonants and vowels are presented on different color tiles, making it easier for students to identify which letters fall under which category.  Key sounds that are represented by more than one letter (i.e. – “ch”) are mounted on a third color.  This concrete hands-on material helps children to absorb the shape of the letters, the sounds, and the differences between the groups.  

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Description automatically generatedMoveable Alphabet

Once a child has mastered the sounds associated with each letter, the moveable alphabet is introduced by the teacher.  This allows the child to easily put letters together, sounding them out to spell simple words and eventually more complex words.  Children love to learn by doing things in a fun way – and the moveable alphabet is the perfect tool to enhance their spelling skills. It also allows children to begin writing before they even pick up a pencil!

Matching Sounds to Objects

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Description automatically generatedA fun activity for students is sorting objects by their starting sound.  With this activity, a child is set up with pre-selected baskets consisting of objects or pictures of objects, along with a set of moveable letters and/or sandpaper letters.  The child places the letters on their work station and then begins to sort the objects underneath their starting letter.  Progressions include sorting objects by their ending letter sound or by their vowel sound.  Students are also given spelling challenges by having them combine letters to form the word of the object.

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Description automatically generatedVocabulary Cards (Nomenclature Cards)

Montessori vocabulary cards, also referred to as “three-part matching cards” are used during the early stages of reading in our Montessori Primary classrooms.  Once a child has mastered identifying letters and their sounds, they will progress to matching pictures with the word that describes them.  Three-part matching cards consist of an image card, a matching word card, and a third card that shows the proper image/word combination for the child to check their work.  

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Description automatically generatedMetal Insets and Colored Pencils

As previously stated, other areas of the classroom help to develop hand strength.  Remember the cylinder blocks?  This material develops hand strength and encourages the use of the “pincer grip” which is the same hand position we use to hold a pencil.  Once these foundational principles are mastered, they are introduced to metal insets and the beautiful collection of colored pencils.  While the child is working on tracing shapes, drawing lines and making patterns, they are using their creative side by using colors and making “art” versus working through boring worksheets that might be required in a more traditional preschool environment.  The metal insets activity helps the child learn to use and control pencils, which will be useful when he is ready to write letters on paper.  

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Once a child has learned how to use letter sounds to construct words, he will progress to joining words into sentences.  It is incredible to see a child’s world blossom as their writing ability explodes.  Reading becomes a natural consequence of mastering the skills associated with writing letters and words.  Reading is very much an abstract concept as they learn to decode the words written in a book or on a piece of paper.  

When teaching early reading skills, we use a beginner series of books titled “Bob Books.”  This book series follows a child’s natural progression of learning sounds and simple three letter words in one sentence per page  – to more complex words and multiple sentences per page.  Because these books have multiple levels, they are designed to capture a child’s attention and help them stay motivated as they develop their reading and writing skills.

As always, at Villa Montessori Preschool Leesburg, our teachers follow your child through these and other steps, guiding them through a process scientifically developed by Dr. Montessori to produce a child who is curious and loves to learn.  We are proud to offer a very child-centric learning experience, understanding that every child is unique in how they learn and how quickly they learn.  We celebrate your child’s individuality and are eager to partner with you in supporting their learning and creating a foundation that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

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