Language in Montessori

4 April 2017

The Montessori classroom uses the phonics approach to teach reading. Outline the graded phonics sequence and state the reading skills required at each stage. “Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization. ” (source 3) Language is the ability to understand speech and a desire to convey one’s feelings and thoughts. It is through communication that human beings are able to cooperate with each other to solve common problems. It is through communication based on written and oral language in particular that each generation has passed on its accumulating wisdom to the next. Language, we may say, grow with human thought”. (source 4). Language is the ability to understand speech and a desire to convey one’s feelings and thoughts. It is part of the human tendencies to want to communicate with others.

Montessori said, ‘To talk is the nature of man’. Humans needed language in order to communicate, and soon, the powers that come with the language revealed.

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The evolution of the human language began when communication was done through pictograms and drawings. By reading I mean the interpretation of an idea by means of graphics or a symbol…A child does not read until he receives ideas from the written word” ( source 5 ) It then developed into ideograms when pictures began to turn into symbols. Later, these symbols became words, words involved letters, vowels emerged, and one symbol came to represent one sound. Language differentiates a community from one another but at time it also unites and binds human beings of different races together through a common language. The sensitive period for language occurs from birth to six years old.

This sensibility is transitory and once gone it will never return. The language explosive happenings and eruptions in his powers of expressions continue in the child well after the age of two. After two and a half years old, which marks the borderline of man’s mental formation, begins a new period in organizing the language and this continues to develop without explosion, learn many new words and perfects his sentence formation. At six years old, a child has learnt to speak correctly according to the rules of his mother tongue. Reading and writing go hand in hand.

Montessori observed that young children often have “an explosion into writing” and because of their early sensorial awareness, writing comes before actual reading. Through the sensorial exercises the child has preparation to handle the pencil and the sensitivity of touch develops through the tactile exercises and the eye is trained for developing eye-hand coordination . This indirect preparation for writing is achieved by the development and refinement of the senses of touch, sight and sound. (Source1) Language skills are encouraged through a phonics curriculum.

Children learn the sounds of letters then match objects to the letters and eventually use a movable alphabet to form simple words. This is the beginning of the reading stage. It is an important tool of culture, and as such, children need to be given the correct introduction to all aspects of language from a very early age. It is important for the child to read with comprehension and write with correct grammar, spelling and vocabulary. There are exercises that prepare the child’s hand to use writing tools, while his mind is being given information he may record.

Language is an empowering skill in the Montessori setting. The role of the directress is pivotal and she can induce the child to reach high levels of verbal and written expression. “In every exercise when the child has recognized the differences between the qualities of the objects, the teacher fixes the idea of this quality with a word. ” ( source 5) Language is spread through the Montessori curriculum . It is used in Sensorial, Practical life and Math lessons. The sensitive period for language is the longest because we are never finished learning new vocabulary.

The social graces are taught through the use of language: the child learns to be polite and communicate through verbal expression. Language gives the child a sense of meaningful existence. “The mind and the hand are prepared separately for written language and follow different roads to the same goal”. ( source 5 ) Phonics based materials lead children through a natural progression of writing and reading skills. The development of language is an umbrella for the entire Montessori curriculum. Language is divided into three areas: Speaking, Writing and Reading.

Speech develops naturally in a child . From 2 to 6 years of age ,the child is at his sensitive period for language and is said to have an “absorbent mind”. While the child retains many of the sounds he/ she hear, the information is stored randomly in different places in the mind. Typically around the age of 2 ? , an explosion of actual speech and language in the child’s mother tongue takes place. “Phonetic “means by sound and the Montessori reading program is based on the sounds associated with the letters of the alphabet. The child moves progressively from single sound of single letters (e. “s”) to more complicated sound of a group or combination of letters which are called “phonograms” . A phonetic word is a word that the child can read by pronouncing the sound of each letter the way he was taught using the sandpaper letters. Dr Montessori on sandpaper letters : “ This process forms the first preparation ,not only for writing ,but also for reading ,because it is evident that when the child touches the letters he performs movement corresponding to the writing of them,and,at the same time, when he recognizes them by sight he is reading the alphabet. (Source 2) The sandpaper letters provides the child a three –fold impression by seeing, touching and hearing the sound of the letters. The repetition of this exercise fixes the path of each of the letters in the child’s muscular memory, which prepares the child for hand writing at a later stage. After the letter sounds and shapes with the sandpaper letter, the Movable Alphabets is the next exercise for the child to learn about words. The set contains 155 movable alphabets, 10 pieces of each vowel in blue and 5 pieces of each consonant in red. It enables the child to build words and simple sentences.

The Movable Alphabets will work together with the pink, blue and green schemes. Objects and toys represent three letter words, such as bed, lid, pan. The teacher sounds out the words slowly so the child can hear the sound- b…e…d. The child selects the letter for the first sound. Then the child selects the letter for the second and then the third sound. When the child is confident at word building, the child is introduced to the pink boxes. The first box has objects and corresponding three letter phonic word cards. They progress to pictures and word cards.

The child can move on to longer words and sentences. The first level in the reading scheme is called the “Pink Scheme”, representing reading of phonetic words with three letters or less. The next level is “Blue Scheme”, representing reading of phonetic words with four or more letters. The last level is “Green Scheme”, representing reading of words with phonograms. Pink Scheme: A child will learn the basic sounds of the 26 alphabets through the sandpaper letters. After which, he/ she will learn how to blend 2 to 3 lettered phonetically sounded words together , e. . ‘cat’, ‘mat’, ‘dog’, ‘pup’…. The child will also be introduced to sight words like ‘the’ , ‘a’, . Upon mastering the above type of words ,he/she will proceed on to reading sentences and booklets consisting 3 lettered phonetic words. The Large Movable Alphabets (LMA) will be used to build words through blending individual sounds together. This will help a child in his/her spelling skills. Blue Scheme: Children having mastered the words in the pink scheme will move on to this stage whereby they will blend 4, 5 and 6 lettered phonetically sounded words together.

Words like ‘rock’ will be introduced. Upon mastering the above type of words , children will proceed on to reading sentences and booklets consisting 4 , 5 ,or 6 lettered phonetically sounded words. They will continue to work with the LMA as they continue to build words through blending individual sounds together . Simple grammar like “Singular ‘ and “Plural’ are also introduced at the end of the blue scheme. Green Scheme: This is the final stage of the Montessori English curriculum. Children at this stage are introduced to phonograms, e. g ‘oo’, ’ee’, ‘ie’ etc….

Phonograms are words formed by 2 vowels. Words like ‘rain’ , ‘train’, ’book’ etc are words that a child will get to learn . Upon mastering the above type of words ,the child will proceed on to reading sentences and booklets consisting phonograms. They will now work with the Small Movable Alphabet (SMA) as they build words through blending phonograms with other phonetically sounded letters together. Comprehension, composition, grammar and vocabulary will be introduced at the end of this scheme. The insets are the first direct preparation for handwriting in a Montessori classroom.

They are the most important materials for establishing basic habits in handwriting that the child will retain for the rest of his life. “Metal insets teach the child how to organize the movement of writing, which brings him to the management of the pen” (source 2) Prior to introducing the insets, extensive indirect preparation for handwriting is done through practical life materials and sensorial materials to establish order, concentration, coordination and independence in a child. In particular, the fine motor muscles developed through the three-finger grasp exercises, prepare the child for success in handwriting.

The left to right, and top to bottom sequencing of materials patterned the writing directionality. Other than indirectly prepare for handwriting, the sensorial materials like knobbed cylinders and knobs on geometric cabinets insets also reinforced the three –finger grasp required for grasping the pencil. The lightness of touch and the relaxed movement of the wrist is introduced with the tactile boards and the tactile tablets. An indirect preparation for writing begins with Practical Life Exercises, which are presented to the children when they enter the Montessori classroom ideally at age three.

The purpose of these exercises is not to learn the particular skill involved, although this accomplishment undoubtedly will aid the self confidence and independence of the children. The direct preparation of writing begins with the use of sandpaper letters as a form of kinesthetic practice. At the same time, the muscular movement needed for writing is refined by the use of thumb and index finger to grasp tiny knobs . Control of a pencil is developed by tracing of frames with the insets. The children’s introduction to the phonemic awareness is through the “I Spy” game. A few miniature objects are placed in front of the children .

The teacher will say,’I spy with my little brown eye something that begins with the sound ‘b’. This game allows us to determine that the child can isolate initial sounds indicating a developmental readiness for learning letters. The sounds of the alphabet are introduced to the child using the sandpaper letters. The child feels the shape of the letter sees it and hears the sound simultaneously. The first set includes the letters s, b, n, t, c, and a. The teacher selects three letters for the first lesson. We give what we call a three period lesson that reflects different levels of understanding.

First period: ‘This letter makes the sound ‘buh’-child traces and repeats the sound. The teacher follows the same for the rest of the letters. Second period: All three letters are placed in front of the child . Which letter says the sound ‘buh’? When the child can successfully recognize each letter, the teacher will move to the next step. Third period: The three letters are placed in front of the child. The teacher asks “What sound does this make”? and the child produces the corresponding letter sound. The three period lessons are used in the review and the introduction of a new material.

The Montessori reading material is classified into the Pink scheme, the Blue scheme, and the Green scheme. The aim of the Pink scheme is to give the child a variety of work of the same style to maintain her interest. The Blue scheme is the same format of materials that give the child lots of practice reading phonetic words. While the Green scheme is where reading fluency really begins. It includes silent letters. “In brief, writing helps a child’s physiologically and reading helps him socially” (source5) The activities in the language area help us understand and appreciate the world.

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