The language progression in the Montessori preschool environment is hands on and great fun! It is a wonderful way to start to challenge children in their discovery of written language. First there are the sandpaper letters! These letters isolate one sound and give the child a sensory experience to associate with the visual sign, the audible sound the letter makes and a muscle memory of engaging the written letter. A child uses two fingers to trace the sandpaper letter while a teacher introduces the spoken sound the letter makes. The child is fascinated with the feeling of the sandpaper as she begins to discover the wonderful world of written language.
The curriculum continues with sandpaper letters, individual sounds and concrete objects that begin with the isolated letter. Small groupings of individual sounds are taught. Then the child displays his mastery of those sounds by choosing the correct object to correlate with the beginning written sound.
Sounding out words with the Movable Alphabet!
As soon as a number of sounds are mastered the child can begin to identify and pick out the sounds in words using the movable alphabet. As the teacher accentuates each sound in a given word, the child chooses the correct sound from the movable alphabet box until the word is completed. The look of excitement when a child realized he has sounded out his first word is one of the most rewarding moments of working with children!
This simple progression continues and is repeated in many different ways and forms with the movable alphabet and objects, word cards and objects and then words alone. Interesting objects, various kinds of cards, boxes, bags and treasure chests hold the wonderful implements the child uses to discover and practice written language. The tasks become increasingly more difficult until short phrases and sentences are being practiced…and the child is reading.
A fluid progression from Writing to Reading!
Writing is introduced simultaneously as the sandpaper letters are already training the child’s hand to form the letters. Tracing metal insets, using a stylus to trace letters, making playdough rope letters, using his fingers to write in sand all contribute to the child’s success in learning to write. Additionally, many areas in the classroom focus on fine motor skills and the development of the pincher grasp needed to hold a pencil. Eventually the child is ready to hold the pencil and begin writing letters and words, from which written language naturally flows. The Montessori environment is rich with language, vocabulary and all kinds of books to entice young learners to be intrinsically motivated to master the skills of reading and writing.