Learning to read is one of the most exciting things in the life of any child. As little ones gain access to the freedom of engaging first hand with stories and texts, a whole new imaginative world opens up for them.

When Maria Montessori began working with the children in the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), she gave them sandpaper letters to trace whilst annunciating the corresponding sound. She didn’t do any specific work in the area of reading but almost effortlessly, the children began to read. Italian is a phonetic language (words are spelled the way they sound), and once the children knew the sounds, they could read.

Although there are a lot more “phonemes” (groups of letters that create distinct sounds when combined) in the English language, Montessori schools in English speaking countries continue to apply this phonics based method of learning, combined with the traditional sensory approach developed by Maria Montessori. A great example of how children learn to read by blending phonetic sounds can be found in this tutorial by My Montessori Works:

As you will note, this lesson is for children already familiar with sounds, which are then blended into words. This particular lesson makes use of wooden Montessori letters (although any letter will work) with consonants and vowels distinguished by different colours (blue for consonants and red for vowels) to set sounds apart.

The lesson starts by encouraging the child to sound out the letters that will be used in the words you will be blending together; so in this example, the two letters ‘a’ and ‘n’ are sounded out separately by the child, who then blends the letters together to create the word ‘an’. After that, new letters are added to the root ‘an’ to create: ‘can’, ‘man’, ‘fan’, ‘pan’, ‘dan’ and so on. Once the child has read words, he/she is encouraged to create the words him/herself.

This is an initial lesson on the road to reading. If you’d like further information about this tutorial, feel free to contact us at info@saintandrewsmontessori.com. We’re happy to answer any questions.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash