I love the depth and breadth of the Montessori language curriculum!
Here's a quick overview of how our children learn & grow through the 4 layers of language learning:
spoken language --> phonemic awareness --> writing --> reading
1. Spoken language
The daily classroom learning environment is steeped with opportunities to enrich spoken language, including:
- frequent informal conversations with teachers and classmates,
- poems, songs, tongue twisters, stories
- read-aloud books
- many different spoken word games
- classroom materials that teach vocabulary
2. Phonemic AwarenessPhonemic awareness is the ability to isolate and identify the different sounds (phonemes) that make up words. Examples: c-a-t and sh-ee-p - both those words are made up of 3 phonemes.
We begin with sound games to practice identifying the beginning sounds of words (e.g. "mommy" starts with 'mmmm').
|Playing the "I Spy" sound game with objects (Teacher says, "I spy something that starts with d-d-d" ... and the child identifies the dog)|
|Matching pictures with the same beginning sound|
|Older students working together to decide if the two pictures on each card have the same or different middle vowel sounds - very challenging!|
|We begin with teaching the letter sound rather than the letter name, because the sound is what they need to know to write and read|
|We provide a variety of activities for practicing and reinforcing the letter sounds. In presenting new letter sounds, we often create experiential connections that help the children remember (here feeling the hhhhot air of the 'hhh' sound)|
|We also introduce some of the key phonograms (double letters that make one sound)|
3. WritingThere are two aspects to writing -
1) the cognitive task of identifying the sounds in a word and knowing the letter symbols to represent each sound
2) the mechanical/physical task of using a writing utensil to form the letters and words
In keeping with the Montessori principle of "isolation of difficulty," we work on each of these aspects separately, bringing them together when the child has mastered both components.
Many children have a grasp of letter sounds before they have the strength and coordination to write well with a pencil. The movable alphabet lets children practice the mental task of sounding out words.
|Once a child knows some of the phonograms, we incorporate a phonogram movable alphabet. In this photo, the children are seeing how many words they can think of that have the 'ar' sound in them|
We simultaneously prepare children for the physical task of writing both indirectly (through materials that build the strength and coordination needed to write), and directly through a variety of handwriting practice materials
|Indirect preparation - Cylinder blocks (picking up each knobbed cylinder uses the same fingers needed for writing)|
|Indirect preparation - metal insets|
|Indirect preparation - perforation work|
Direct preparation - handwriting extensions
We begin with phonetic reading - words that can be sounded out. First simple 3 letter words, then longer words that include blends (two consonants together - st, bl-, pl-, -nd) and phonograms (sh, ee, oy. ...)
|Phonetic 3-part reading cards|
|We have many sets of 3-part cards in the classroom to practice reading, as well as introduce new vocabulary and concepts (to pre-readers too). These are animals that live in the arctic, one of our winter themes.|
|Illustrated booklets to practice phonetic reading|
|Reading application - labeling components of the Backyard Biome mat|
Function of Words (Grammar!)
The Montessori language curriculum includes an innovative set of grammar activities - designed to give early readers more practice through fun, engaging materials that introduce the function of different types of words (article, adjective, noun, conjunction, prepositions, verbs, adverbs)
|Introducing definite and indefinite articles|
|After an interactive introduction to adjectives with a teacher, children are ready for the Logical Adjective game - finding adjective-noun pairs that make sense|
|After the Logical adjective game, a variation is the Adjective Chain game - how many of the adjectives can be used to describe one of the nouns? (We also introduce symbols to represent each part of speech)|
|Another activity with adjectives|
|The Detective Adjective Game - adjectives for color, size, angle, and sides let the child use their sleuthing skills to gradually narrow down the 63 possible triangles to one perfect match for the description|
|Verbs! So much fun to act out with a friend!|
Once a child has a strong foundation in phonetic reading, we start to introduce all the crazy words in English that don't follow the rules! "Sight words" (or "puzzle words") are frequently used words that must be memorized (learned by sight), because they usually don't follow the phonetic rules of our language.
If you want more details about the Montessori approach to Language development, I recommend Julia Volkman's thorough description of the Montessori Language Program on the Maitri Learning website.