Do you know much about the Montessori method of education? Maria Montessori actually began her methodology for special needs students and struggling readers and since then it has been used for all students as a great, hands-on way of learning. This article will focus on how to use some of her strategies in your home for early phonics and reading instruction, particularly for Kindergarten and 1st grade students.
It is always good to start with beginning sounds. As a previous Montessori teacher, we use what we call object boxes for this. We have boxes with little objects in them associated with different letters. This gives children a tactile experience of letters by feeling an object in their hand and associating it with a given letter. It is a more meaningful way to learn letters than simply tracing letters on a workbook page.
Here is an example of an Alphabet box:
Each compartment has little objects that begin with that particular letter. This is more for pre-readers to learn their letters, at the Preschool level usually. This can be made for your own home.
As the child progresses the child will focus on matching beginning sounds to their given letter. Having an object box with a few letters and a few objects for each letter is a great tactile way for them to learn beginning sounds and begin to sort objects according to their beginning letter, like the example below.
You can even have an object box with each letter and one object per letter once they are getting close to mastering the whole alphabet. These can be made for your home and used again and again. They enjoy picking out the pieces one by one and then finding which slot they should be assigned to.
Once the child knows the sounds of letters it is time to begin blending. Word building in the Montessori classroom is done with the Movable Alphabet (seen below). You can see the vowels are differentiated from the consonants with a different color. There are often multiples of each letter for building multiple words.
Using this box, with objects as the guide, the children begin through a series of levels to build words on their own. From here they also begin to write them down too. In the example below, the child is working on the short “a” words that are all CVC or Consonant- Vowel- Consonant words.
By touching the letters and building them with their hands, reading becomes tactile and fun. Younger children in my class would see other classmates at the level of word building with the Movable Alphabet and were excited to begin this too when the time came. The same rings true in the homeschool environment; they want to copy a big brother or sister! Readers produce more readers, or in this case, word-builders!