Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Montessori: Literacy and the Alphabet

Early reading seems to be a priority for most parents of young children. So here are a few tips to help your child gain familiarity with the alphabet and how it translates into reading.

1). Focus on SOUNDS (In other words, skip the alphabet books!)
Most alphabet books focus on the names of the letters instead of the sounds they represent as visual symbols. We have a book called "I Spy in the Ocean" which is written, "I spy with my little eye, something that begins with the letter O." Then there is an octopus on the next page. Instead, I read it as, "I spy with my little eye, something that begins with 'ahhhhhh'" and I make the ahhhhh sound like o makes in octopus. See the difference? Which is more helpful when sounding out a word - the letter's name or the sound it makes? Obviously the sound. :) But most alphabet books aren't written with sounds in mind. So, don't bother buying them, and if you're given some, try to adapt them.

2). Keep it Lowercase
In the English language, 98% of letters are lowercase, and yet most books, games and reading kits for young children are all in uppercase. Why do they do that? If your child can recognize lowercase letters, he or she will be a lot better off.

3). It's a long road to books
When beginning reading with your child, realize it's a long way from learning to read to books. Start with the sounds. Print out on card stock each letter of the alphabet (1/2 page per letter) and teach your child to recognize them as sounds. In Montessori, we use sandpaper letters that the children trace, creating a visual, tactile and auditory experience all at once. At home, visual recognition is enough. And don't buy sandpaper letters to have at home. That is just overkill!

Once your child remembers the sounds, play games with them. Put 8 or so on the table and sit on the other side of the room. Have your child bring you the 'aaaaaa' (say the sound! a as in apple), then have your child bring you the 'ttt' (right against the back of your teeth. t as in top) and so on and so forth. 

4). Write first, read later
In Montessori, once a child knows about 8 or 10 sounds reliably, they move on to making or building words with the moveable alphabet. In the classroom, this has been supported by playing games with the teacher to cultivate the recognition of sounds and their placement in words. Then, once the understanding of words and how they're constructed is confirmed, they go on to reading phonetic words. 

5). Only go as far as your child goes happily
If your child is genuinely interested in pursuing reading at home, go for it! If they're resistant, stop immediately. It's not worth butting heads over, or worse, creating negativity toward reading in your child's mind. So once they've had enough, let it go. 

6). Keep it real
Don't be too tempted by iPad apps and computer programs that will help your child learn to read. Anything involving a screen means the child is not genuinely engaged, but rather responding to external stimuli. They don't have to use their own motivation or creativity because the app keeps the ball rolling for them. That's not how great learning and discovery take place. 

Do you have a preschool aged child? Is early reading a priority for you? 

4 comments:

  1. I love your montessori posts! We're looking into schools and montessori is at the top of our list. X Joan

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    1. YAY! A friend of mine just enrolled her son in a Montessori toddler program. I'm so happy for him. :)

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  2. that info about the sounds versus the letters is SO cool!! I love anything to do with language learning/acquisition (mother tongues and foreign) and that is one little tidbit I've never heard before!

    p.s.I think I saw on your instagram you are doing couch to 5k?! I just signed up for a 5k in brooklyn this summer and I'm thinking I should do that (since I don't run, I just do yoga and pilates). Let us know how you like it!
    p.p.s So sad to hear about Coco's stomach flu :( that is so awful! I'm glad she's better :)

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    1. I'm glad this was a good one for you. :) The Couch to 5k is awesome so far. I will post about it once I'm done with week 1 (tomorrow!!) Yippee! xo

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