Montessori programs use a blended approach to reading. We
start by emphasizing phonetic work but later introduce sight words and other
letter combinations for memorization. But before the child is introduced
to reading there are many pre-reading preparations that include working on the
vocabulary and precise pronunciation.
This is an area where parents can help the most! The young child has a natural
ability to absorb language and so it is best to avoid any "baby talk"
and teach children many descriptive words. Children can also easily absorb
other languages at this age (0-6 years).
awareness with sound games. It is so
important that children learn to hear and isolate individual letter sounds.
This can be achieved with games such as name all the words that start with
"b" sound - baby, bottle, blanket etc. Or line up some animals and
ask the child to pick out the one that starts with the "z" sound
(like zebra). (Ages 2 to 4 years)
Introduce Phonetic Alphabet work: This work begins with an
introduction to the phonetic sounds of the alphabet with cursive lowercase
Sandpaper Letters. These are given 3 at a time with the easiest to trace first.
The child learns to trace the letter in the same way it is written and to
associate the basic phonetic sound for each. Letters are introduced in small
batches at a time and not in alphabetical order. (Ages 3 to 4 years)
Phonetic Words - We use letters from the Moveable
Alphabet which are all in lowercase cursive. The child learns to form words
spoken by the teacher by listening, identifying the sounds heard and
laying them out in the correct sequence. Children are first given small
words like 3-letter and then 4-letter phonetic words. To succeed in this
work, the child needs to be able to hear and recognize the individual phonetic
letter sounds in simple words. This paves the way for reading. (Ages 4 to
After all this introductory preparation, many children begin
to spontaneously read small phonetic words on their own and show a readiness
for further work with reading.
Reading is all phonetic – We start
with 3 and 4-letter phonetic words in lowercase cursive. Activities include
matching to a picture, matching to environment and reading sets of word cards
with no picture cues, etc. (Ages 4 to 5 years)
words. Once children begin to be
comfortable reading small phonetic words then we introduce memorizing a few
basic sight words like "the, a, of, is, he, she" etc all in lowercase
cursive. (Ages 4.5 to 5 years)
phrases and sentences- Now the child begins to be able to
read a small string of words both phonetic with some introductory sight words
mixed in. These materials continue to be all in lowercase cursive. (Ages
4.5 to 5+ years)
· Phonograms. Since English is not phonetic and it would be cumbersome to memorize every single non-phonetic word, we introduce common letter combinations like "ee, oo, sh, th, ch" and long vowels. This work takes time and repetition to memorize these common combinations. Materials in this area are still all in lowercase cursive. (Ages 4.5 to 6 years)
first readers – Children are introduced to
beginning readers which are all in cursive with increasing levels of difficulty
like Rhonda's Readers and the Peacekeeper series (Ages 4.5 to 5+ years)
We introduce reading in print
only after the child has gained some comfort with reading in cursive. Once
children have gained a basic comfort level reading in cursive, the transition
to reading in print is usually easy.
Handwriting is parallel to this and is always in cursive.
Metal inset, tracing letters, writing first letters eee, iii, mmm, ccc as foundational forms for all the other letters is the prerequisite
for being able to write words. Children usually learn how to write their
own name as well.
Phonetic Vowel Sounds
a as in apple
e as in elephant
i as in igloo
o as in octopus
u as in umbrella
Marla Nargundkar, AMI Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School of Atlanta, Georgia USA