This post is written by my friend Cathie Perolman, a long time Montessorian with over 3 decades of experience! Today she is sharing her language program with us. I have been very inspired by Cathie’s work and have used it as a basis for the organization of my own language shelves. I’m sure you will get a ton of ideas that you can use in your classroom!
A Guest Post by Cathie Perolman
Maria Montessori invented the sandpaper letters as part of the language curriculum and they are a cornerstone of the Montessori Method and a fabulous material! But in order to progress through the sandpaper letters, a child needs the attention and focus of an adult or an older child. Sometimes a child wants to work with letter sounds but an adult is not available. How can we meet these needs and reinforce these skills?
I decided early in my career that 26 sounds are way too many to consider offering to a child. That quantity looks and feels overwhelming- even scary! Children need subsets to feel success and progress. In that spirit, I have grouped my sand paper letters into six groups. Each group (except the last one) consists of a vowel sound and three consonants. Each group is color coded and the colors follow the spectrum sequence allowing for the incidental learning of this sequence as well. This color coding sequence lets children, teachers and parents know where in the sequence a child is working and lets children see and celebrate their progress.
Red- s, m, a, t
Orange- c, r, i, p
Yellow- b,f,o, g
I have created a series of activities that support the learning of each group of sounds. Each kind of activity or game exists for all colors of sounds. That way the children learn the process of how to play the game or use the activity and extend that knowledge to a different set of letters.
Some of the activities are for use by one child and others lend themselves to partner or group work. I wanted children of all learning styles have support materials that entice them and enhance their learning.
I devote an entire shelving unit to the learning of sounds. Here is a picture of the set up in my classroom.
The sound baskets came from Wal-Mart (in the automotive department) and the colored baskets from Really Good Stuff. You can also use the white ones available at dollar stores and weave a piece of colored ribbon through the slats to color code them. The extra shelves for each color are clear plastic stacking shelves from Staples turned upside down. (This is a great way to make the most of your space!) The colors under each section are non-slip shelf liner.
Get all the printables and watch the full instructional video here. All of the clipart in the printables has been updated with real photos!
A Closer Look at the Activities
I place a colored ¾” dot on the back of each sandpaper letter and then cover that dot with a circle of clear contact paper cut a bit larger. I use the smallest circle from the geometric cabinet for that size. Children just look on the back to know in which basket each letter belongs.
Sorting Strips into Cups
Children sort strips with a single letter on each strip into a cup. As they sort the strips, they say the sound of each letter. This is great work for the very youngest children in the class.
I created a bingo game with only nine squares that focuses on the letter sounds in the color group. In the first color group (red) each letter appears twice as there are only four letters and the middle space is a “free space.” In the second color group (orange,) the orange letters appear and the red letters appear. This provides a review for the red letter group and practice for the orange letter groups. The “calling child” picks up a calling card and says the sound of the letter. Then each child covers that sound on their card with a colored chip. The game is designed so all the children “finish” at the same time.
Children sort small objects onto a card for each sound. There are three objects for each sound.
Children lay out the header cards containing the letters and then sort the pictures below them. There are five pictures for each sound. I placed dots on the back for a “control of error.”
X Out Game
Each letter has its own card. There are four pictures. Three start with the targeted sound and one does not! Children look at the target letter, say its sound and cover the letter that does not start with the targeted letter with an “x.”
This is another game to reinforce beginning sounds. Each child gets a card with four pictures on it. They roll the dice and say the sound that comes up. Then they cover the picture that begins with that sound. Each card is different. The red set has only four pictures but the other sets have five pictures and contain a review of two letters in the previous set. I made the dice myself by painting wooden cubes with acrylic paint and then writing the letters on in Sharpie marker.
Building Words with the Movable Alphabet
I have created a set of pictures that use only the sounds that the children have mastered. This makes word building successful for beginning writers. The first set of cards has only three in the set as it uses only the four letters in that first set. As the sets cumulate, subsequent sets have more letters and more picture cards!
Once children begin to blend sounds to actually “read”, I have a set of “Blending Cards” for each color. Each set focuses on the sounds for the color group but uses the ones from the subsequent groups as well. I made the ones in the picture by tracing and coloring the letters using the movable alphabet. But you can hand write them or make them on the computer if you’d like. Using the movable alphabet allows youngest children to “map” the letters onto the cards. Another fun activity is for one child to “read” the card and another child to build the word using the movable alphabet. Then the blending card becomes a control card for the built word.
Those are the activities I have on my shelf. I hope they gave you some ideas!
About Cathie Perolman
Cathie Perolman has been involved in Montessori education for over three decades. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education and a M.Ed in Elementary Education with a concentration in Reading. She has spent time working as a reading specialist as well as teaching students preschool through college.
She began her Montessori journey as a classroom assistant, and worked as a classroom directress, 3-6 team leader, teacher trainer and college professor.
Cathie is the author of Practical Special Needs For the Montessori Method: A Handbook for 3-6 Teachers and Homeschoolers and the creator of Hands on Phonics : a phonics based system of teaching reading to young children. She is a regular contributor to Tomorrow’s Child and Tomorrow’s Leadership magazines.
Cathie currently conducts workshops for teachers and administrators, works as a teacher trainer for various training centers across the country and as a school consultant. She currently co-teaches a Primary class at Nurturing Nest Montessori School in Columbia, MD. Cathie has been married to Gary for 34 years and they have two adult children and an adorable granddaughter!
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Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. Seemi is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.