reading

The Path to Writing

 
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Young children are often cognitively ready to express themselves through the written word, but have not yet developed their fine motor skills enough to write beautifully themselves. But how do we isolate the cognitive from the physical when it comes to written expression?

Dr Montessori’s insight was that by using printed “movable alphabets”, we can allow children to express themselves with the written word without yet engaging in the physical act of writing! Children as young as 3 can start constructing words phonetically, without worrying about the shape or form of the letters just yet.

This provides the cognitive & expressive practice the child needs, without overwhelming their hands with the physical effort they are not yet ready for. As with other materials, the movable alphabets illuminate a key Montessori principle: to isolate a single, specific concept for the child to thoroughly master — in the case, the skill of word-building.

Muscle Memory In Writing

 
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Maria Montessori famously said, “What the hand does, the mind remembers”. The hand reports to the brain; the brain guides the hand; the cycle continues, resulting in the development of the intellect.

Thus, while learning to write, it is important to not jump too quickly into pen-paper work before building and refining the child’s muscle memory using their hands. The “sandpaper” letters give the child a concrete, tactile experience that helps imprint alphabet patterns in the brain.

In this case, this child is working towards mastering his understanding the letter “v” by tracing the corresponding sandpaper letter. This is critically important preparation before the child physically engages in writing the letter on paper or slates (and the coarse sandpaper is very enjoyable to run their fingers through!).

Command Cards In Early Reading

 
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Montessori offers several mechanisms to help early readers; one of our favorites is the "command cards". Children who have recently begun reading small words love the mystery of opening folded command cards. Command cards usually contain action words ("Jog", "Sit") that the child reads, processes and then proceeds to act out. Once the child becomes a more fluent reader, the command cards contain short sentences, and later, even simple recipes for the child to read and execute.

If your child has begun reading, this is also a great activity to try out at home, and a wonderful way to practice reading in short 5-10 minute sprints.