Dr. Maria Montessori perceived language development as “a treasure prepared in the unconsciousness which is then handed over to consciousness”.
Words are labels for our experiences. A child who is given the labels for varied experiences will develop a well-rounded means of expression. As the child learns to express thoughts with an increased vocabulary, he/she will also be ready to understand and interpret the thoughts of others. The transition to reading and writing depends on a strong vocabulary.
In the classroom, our goal is to encourage a love of language. The curriculum concentrates on the development of communication and literacy knowledge and skills. During group activities, children are given opportunities which promote listening and speaking skills. They listen to stories and directions and respond to questions. They share news, take part in discussions and learn finger plays and songs. Vocabulary is enriched through matching and sorting activities using objects and picture cards. Additional readiness activities focus on visual discrimination, classifying, sequencing, and rhyming.
Our approach to teaching reading is phonetic. Children work with sandpaper letters to learn the letter sounds and blend them to form words. They eventually use the moveable alphabet with objects to compose words. They practice and refine their word building and decoding skills with various materials, such as the California Series. This program takes children through simple phonetic words to more complex words with phonograms and digraphs as well as sight words. When they are ready, we introduce them to phonetic readers. Children are always excited when they are able to read and love to share by reading to us or to the class. As they progress, reading becomes less mechanical and comprehension is more important.
The progress made in language aquisition during the first five years of life is extrordinary and the work that children do in a Montessori classroom provides a strong foundation for life.
Contributed by Westmont’s Early Childhood teacher, Pat Sandrue.