This page offers information about some of the materials used in the Montessori classroom and the activities in which your child will be involved. Young children classify the input to their senses from the world around them every minute of the day. The Montessori language materials help them to gain a deeper understanding of these impressions. By manipulating the materials a child gains a deeper insight into the nature of the lesson. Be sure to click on the topic buttons below to see samples of the learning materials.
Maria Montessori calls these materials “Materialized Abstractions.”
Montessori Language/ Reading And Writing Materials
It is no accident that some children are good at reading and writing and others are not, that some find joy in this work and for others it is tedious. The preparation for enjoying the exploration of language in life begins before birth as the child responds to the voices he hears even in the womb.
For success in language a child needs confidence that what she has to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing. There are several things that we can do to help.
We can listen and talk to the child from birth on, not in baby talk, but with respect and with a rich vocabulary. We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language, providing a wealth of experience, because language is meaningless if it is not based on experience. We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories we will greatly increase the child’s love of language.
Before the child can begin actual reading activities she must develop visual and auditory abilities that will assist her in this endeavor. These activities vary from auditory games, the silence game and initial sound games such as “I Spy” ( I spy with my little eye something that begins with “b”) and matching of simple to more intricate pictures and shapes.
Children match pictures for visual acuity. Objects and images are used to begin the association between beginning sounds and names. The child learns that snake begins with a sssssss sound, that horse begins with an ” hhhh” sound, or that dog begins with a “ddd” sound and so on.
Once children are familiar with the basic sounds, they are ready to begin working with sandpaper letters. Tracing the sandpaper letter with her index and middle finger, this girl learns to draw the letter. As they become comfortable with the sandpaper letters they can practice their letter writing skills in a tray of sand. The tactile experience of drawing letters and then erasing them with a simple shake of the tray is really fun for small children.
This is a box containing all the letters of the alphabet. These letters are used after the child knows enough phonetic sounds to begin “writing words”. He can spell out cat, hat, mat with only 4 sounds in his repertoire. Many activities follow.
This is the first of the writing activities. Dr. Montessori analyzed the movements which are connected with writing and developed the Metal Insets to strengthen the three finger grip and coordinate the necessary wrist movements.
Phonetic Objects and Beginning Reading Activities
Children begin matching words to objects as well as writing those words with the moveable alphabet. Learning to read short words is introduced with small objects the child can hold in her hand, and is introduced once the child is comfortable with the beginning letter sounds. Later the word challenges become more abstract and include image cards of familiar objects.
In order to learn how the written language works, a child needs to learn common letter combinations that make certain sounds. The English language contains 96 of these phonograms. At some point in the process of learning the mechanics of writing letters, learning beginning letters sounds, practicing phonograms and other language activities, the child has what Montessori called a “magic moment.” Suddenly, the skills come together in the child’s mind and she begins to read words on her own. This is an exhilarating moment for the child as the world of reading suddenly seems within reach. Montessori students often tell people that they taught themselves to read. Indeed, they practiced and learned most of the necessary skills on their own.
As children build their vocabulary, they begin to sense that there are different functions that words play. Montessori developed grammar symbols to assist children in learning the parts of speech. Practicing creating sentences using grammar symbols helps children absorb the structure of language. A black triangle represents the solid concept of a noun. Adjectives are small dark blue triangles because an adjective is used to describe a noun. A red ball represents a verb. The color red and the ball shape were chosen to remind the child that a verb is a word that communicates action. A conjunction is a small pink rectangle to communicate a connection between words.
Young children have a natural ability to learn language skills that diminishes as they grow older. Emphasis is placed on learning the sounds each letter makes rather than the alphabet. Throughout the curriculum, children are developing the small motor skills they will need to be a successful writer and the auditory and visual tracking skills necessary for learning to read.
This material is used as a language resource tool. It provides a setting for activities of language enrichment, grammar and reading. Children at this point may begin to read sentences and phrases and write stories with the moveable alphabet
Progressively more difficult writing challenges are provided to each child as they become ready. The directress observes each child and introduces new activities when he is ready. First the child traces the sandpaper letter boards the repeats the letters in the sand tray and chalk board. Writing with chalk on an unlined chalkboard is followed by practice with writing on a lined chalkboard. Once that skill is mastered, writing with a pencil on paper is introduced. Pre-school Montessori students often learn to write sentences and even short stories.
In conclusion, the Montessori language approach provides a unique, engaging and multi-sensory method for children to acquire language skills. It allows them to independently explore and understand the world around them through language, fostering self-confidence and enhancing their love for learning.
The variety of materials and activities, such as sandpaper letters, the movable alphabet, and phonetic objects, along with a rich sensory environment, empower children to become confident communicators and learners. Dr. Maria Montessori's philosophy, embodied in the Montessori language program, emphasizes respect for the child's individual learning style, encouraging them to explore, understand, and create their own unique paths to literacy.
This results in children who are not just literate but also possess a profound love and understanding of language. As the children progress, they seamlessly transition from one activity to the next, making the process of learning to read and write not only natural but also enjoyable.