Maria Montessori noticed the natural desire for children to learn and their ability to absorb languages, many times more than one, in the first six years of life. She found that when given a language-rich environment, children quickly developed the skills not just to speak languages, but also to read and write them. She also observed that children of this age were genuinely curious about language and loved to listen to the spoken work, which led to a rapidly increasing vocabulary and understanding of grammatical rules within the language. When given the materials to explore letters and the sounds that they made, children were eager to participate.
She discovered many skills that children must acquire before reading can take place, and developed materials to support that learning, found today throughout our Montessori classrooms. She also created three specialized materials with which children can discover reading and writing at this early age.
The first, the metal insets, are straight lined, and curved lined templates of shapes that children trace. This process strengthens the hand and pincer grasp, increases concentration, and teaches the hand the muscle movements necessary to create these different shapes.
Second, the sandpaper letters, provides the child an introduction to the sounds of letters but includes tactile sensation that not only teaches the correct way to form the letter when writing, but the additional sensory information helps form neuropathways in the brain that strengthen memory of the letter sound.
And the third essential material is the movable alphabet. The movable alphabet allows children to write, even before their hands may not be capable. Children can experiment with spelling words and can learn the spelling rules for rhyming objects by building the words with these movable letters.
We would love to share more about this exciting topic and invite you all to attend our Language Workshop on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 2:00 to discover more about the progression of lessons that lead to fluent reading and writing in the Montessori classroom, as well as ways you can support language growth in your child at home.