I posted before about pre-writing and pre-reading activities that have helped Tabitha to develop some of the skills she will eventually need for reading and writing. Over the last few months she has shown an interest in letters, so in this post I’d like to share how she is learning letter sounds and formation.
Here are Tabitha’s language shelves. On the top shelf are our grooved flashcards, sandpaper letters, salt tray and DIY movable alphabet. On the second shelf are four initial sound baskets. In Montessori, children are not taught the letters in alphabetical order. Instead they learn common letters that will enable them to write words as soon as possible. I am following the order suggested in “How to raise an amazing child the Montessori way” by Tim Seldin. Tabitha is currently working on the first set of letters: c, m, a and t.
Sandpaper letters promote tactile as well as visual learning. They are presented by their phonetic sounds rather than their names in a three-period lesson. Tabitha traces the letters with her index and middle fingers, which helps to develop muscle memory of letter formation.
After tracing a sandpaper letter several times, she then traces the letter in a tray of salt. I’ve noticed that she finds straight lines much easier than curves, so we may start doing some metal inset work after all.
We also do some other tracing activities to practise letter formation. Tracing over chalk letters with a wet paintbrush is one of Tabitha’s favourites.
Sometimes she enjoys using wipe-clean workbooks, which are widely available in bookshops and supermarkets.
Last week I let her use a letter tracing app on my tablet for the first time. This app is 123s ABCs Print Letters which seems to be one of the few android apps to use lower case letters, although it does use the letter names rather than sounds.
As well as learning how to form letters, she is also memorising their phonetic sounds. Our initial sound baskets contain a selection of objects that begin with that letter sound.
Sometimes we mix the objects from two or three baskets together. Tabitha sorts the objects and places them next to the correct letter.
Eventually she will be introduced to the movable alphabet and initial sound picture cards, which are more abstract than the objects. Montessori believed that learning should be as concrete and hands-on as possible when new concepts are introduced. There is a great overview of the Montessori language program here which also illustrates the gradual progression from concrete to abstract.
Edit August 2014: I get a lot of Pinterest hits looking for this post, but I’ve only just realised that the original post vanished into the ether when my blog was deleted. I have finally republished the content, sorry to all those who have been looking for it in the meantime!