In Montessori, reading is taught in a thoughtful, systematic way. It may look quite different than what you’re used to. Here are a few key concepts used in Montessori literacy development:
Writing comes before reading. Montessori instruction teaches children to write first. The focus is on output, and input happens naturally when the time comes. Writing involves more choice and control on the child’s part, which motivates and engages him, naturally providing tasks just right for his current level.
Letter sounds come before letter names. Letter names are super confusing and don’t really have a point. Instead of wasting time and complicating things, Montessori starts with the sounds. Since English isn’t phonetic (like Italian), accommodations are made, but early literacy materials and media are specifically curated for isolating phonetic words in early literacy.
Lowercase letters come before capital letters. Think about it: We read and write using mostly lower case. Children who know their lower case letters will have more immediate access to the content in their books.
Letters are taught using the sense of touch. As each letter (sound that is) is introduced, sandpaper cutouts are used to add a tactile experience. Children trace these letters as preparation for writing them. When they begin writing, they draw in sand or salt to replicate the experience of tracing with their fingers.
Children have access to writing before they have the fine motor skills to hand write letters. Small muscle development takes a lot of time and practice. For this reason, Montessori emphasizes fine motor skill building in a plethora of early Childhood lessons. Even with all of this preparation, this development still holds young kids back from being able to form letters or sustain very much writing in one sitting. They become exhausted and frustrated, which is a poor state to learn in. Montessori uses a set of small letter cutouts that can be arranged to form words. In this way, children can focus their energy or word formation and feel successful and motivated/engaged in their learning. When their fingers are ready, they’ll be able to cognitively meet them and write.
When you think about it, this approach to literacy just makes sense!