Finding and building your voice
Learning to learn
Montessori language materials are designed primarily to teach children the intricacies of written and spoken language. A firm grasp of writing and speaking will allow students to progress with their learning. Students use language materials to explore letters, sounds, handwriting, and eventually spelling and writing.
The Montessori language materials develop along with these learners, to help them reach the final stages of writing on their own. There are a host of activities in the Early Childhood timeframe that build towards these language activities. The foundational skills of Early Childhood are already in place and developing when language-specific work is intertwined.
Below you'll find a collection of Montessori language-learning materials, with information on how each is used in the Montessori classroom.
From the earliest levels, students are introduced to letters and sounds, and begin differentiating between consonants, vowels, and key sounds that are not covered by single letters. Each letter of the alphabet is formed from sandpaper and mounted on a square tile. Consonants and vowels are mounted on different color tiles, and key sounds (that can't be conveyed with a single letter) are mounted on a third color. Students begin to internalize the shapes of the letters, the sounds, and the differences between the groups.
Metal insets are used to build the dexterity needed to write letters. The insets come in a number of different shapes, and are used to trace different shapes, building the hand strength needed to create those shapes. Students interact with the insets in a number of ways—tracing the interior, exterior, and using different shapes and writing utensils to create new designs.
Montessori vocabulary cards, sometimes referred to as three-part matching cards, are used during the early stages of "reading" in the Montessori classroom. After developing mastery with identifying letters and their sounds, students move on to matching pictures with the words that describe them. Three part matching cards consist of an image card, a matching word card, and a third card that shows the proper word/image combination for the student to check against.
Pre-selected Sound Boxes
The pre-selected sound boxes consist of objects (figurines) or pictures of objects, along with a set of movable letters. Students place the letters on their work station, and then select the objects that start with that letter and place them underneath. Students also progress to selecting the objects that end with a given letter. As students progress, they can begin to spell out entire words with their movable alphabets; and then practice writing those words out on their own.
The movable alphabet builds on the themes of the sandpaper letters and sound boxes. Multiple representations of each letter are stored for children to recognize from their earlier work, and piece together into words. The color coding of consonants and vowels remains, but the student is now required to combine the letters on their own to form words. The movable alphabet is commonly combined with other materials or props to give students new spelling challenges.
Rhyme cards are a good example of a wide set of Montessori materials that use words written on cards to explore the relationships between words. In the early stages, children use rhyme cards to arrange words into rhyming groups. As their skills increase, they move on to arranging words in new ways. Each set contains the exact number of each piece needed, so that students can self-correct, if they, for example, realize that one group is too large.
As students' skills increase, they move on to more complex matching cards. The sentence-building cards use color-coding to indicate different parts of speech (black represents a punctuation mark). Students arrange words into sentences, using a color-coded template by matching the colors on their word cards to the colors on the template. This way, students begin to understand the importance of sentence structure, syntax, and parts of speech.