Where has the time gone?! My daughter will be three in about a month and I could not be more excited for her to begin this next stage; a stage that has extended concentration, increased sense of order, a hunger for new information and love of work. She started showing me signs of this transition (asking a lot of questions, repeating information and an incessant hunger for books) a few weeks ago. I decided to take advantage of her curiosity and began some pre-reading lessons with her just to see if she had any interest. Did she ever!
Observing your children is something I encourage all parents to do. I know it can be tough with crazy schedules and little down time, but it’s so valuable. Familiarizing yourself with their actions will help you recognize even the smallest changes in their interests and behaviors. When was the last time you just sat and watched your child? Observation is one of the cornerstones in the Montessori method and takes practice. Sometime this week, sit down without any distractions and just watch for 5 straight minutes (or longer if you can). You might want a notepad to jot down what you see. Try your hardest to be a fly on the wall with little interaction and as a quiet observer, I bet you’ll be amazed at what you see!
In the Montessori environment, we don’t teach the ABCs or the names of the letters. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, allow me to explain why. What real benefit does knowing the names of the letters give a child when it comes to reading? If anything, it can be a hinderance and somewhat confusing. Consider this: the name for the letter “c” is pronounced see. So it’s easy to understand how a beginning reader would identify the letter “c” as making the “s” sound. Once children make a connection to the sounds the symbols (letters) represent, the names will come.
For a couple of weeks, I started exaggerating the beginning sounds of a few objects my daughter loves. Here are a couple of examples: Oh I see you’re playing with your pink pig today. Pig starts with “pa” (say the sound in an exaggerated, drawn out manner). Milly looks hungry, will you help me feed her? Milly starts with”Mmmm” (said exaggerated). Can you say mmmmmm with me?
The next step in this progression is the Sound Game. In a Montessori classroom, we use small objects (think dollhouse sized), but you can use any objects from around your house.
- Pick three objects with distinct beginning sounds (you wouldn’t want to use “g” and “j” together, for example)
- Pick up an object and pronounce its name clearly several times, exaggerating the beginning sound
- Isolate the beginning sound several times
- Give your child the information, “Apple starts with aaaaaa”
- Repeat these steps with the other two objects
- Transition into the game by saying, “I’m thinking about the object that begins with aaaaaa” or “Hand me the object that begins with aaaaaa”
- Continue with the other objects as long as there’s interest or even continue with three new objects if there is still interest
One day a week or two after starting the sound game, she came out of her room after rest time giddy with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy! Cloud starts with “ccccccc!!!” She’s been calling out beginning sounds ever since, just confirming her readiness for these lessons. Once a child is able to isolate the beginning sound, we introduce the symbol (letter) like this: Remember how Milly stars with mmmmmm? I want to show you what mmmmm looks like. Show them a lower case letter and repeat the sound again.
If your child isn’t quite ready for the sound game, here is a vocabulary lesson that introduces beginning sounds. Keep in mind, this is just an exposure, not a formal lesson so don’t ask the child to repeat sounds (although they might just do it on their own). This game can even be done with children under the age of one, it’s never too early to start!
- Get a basket with two everyday objects from home (a cup and fork).
- Take out one object at a time, name it and give it’s function , exaggerating the beginning sound and set on the table or rug (This is a fork, we use it to eat. FFFFFFork).
- Point to an object and name it, move it, name the other object, let the child hold it, name it again and repeat many times always emphasizing the beginning sound.
- Ask the child a combination of the following: Point to the fork. Hand me the cup. Pick up the fork. Hand me the fork. Put the cup on your head, etc. (Repeat this step as long as there is interest).
Remember, there is no magic age when a child is suddenly ready for reading and writing. Children are sensitive to this information at different times, which is why observing your child is so important!
“Follow the child, they will show you what they need to do, what they need to develop in themselves and what area they need to be challenged in.” -Maria Montessori