I find that most Montessori Language Albums (manuals) don’t provide enough information about the pre-literacy skills children need to develop before being introduced to the Sandpaper Letters. In my opinion, a lot of time should to be spent on oral language development and ear training before symbols are introduced.
Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that covers a variety of skills needed to hear the different chunks of sounds in speech. This ranges from the ability to distinguish individual words in a sentence, syllables in a word, rhymes, sounds in a word, as well as the ability to isolate the position of different sounds within a word. It also covers the ability to segment and blend these chunks of sounds. Learn more about phonological awareness on the Make, Take & Teach Blog
Here are some Phonological Awareness Activities with a “Holiday Treats” theme that you can enjoy with your children in December. All of these printables can be found in the Holiday Treats Phonological Awareness Pack in my shop.
Activity 1: December Poem
Skill: Isolating Words
Sing this song as a group many times until the children have learned it. Show them how to use a pointer (or their finger) to point to each word as they sing.
Extension 1: Sequence the cards (or bind the cards together to make into an early reader book)
Extension 2: Children can color, cut and sequence the cards to make their own booklet
Activity 2: December Rhyming Riddles
I absolutely love Rhyming Riddles as a beginning rhyming activity. Line up the picture cards and name each image to ensure that the child knows what it is. Read a riddle card and have the child complete the rhyme. If she can’t, offer a clue by saying the first sound (this is called the onset) and have her complete the word (the rest of the word is called the rime). If her ear is not ready for rhyming yet, you can provide the rhyming word. For example: “I rhyme with free. I am a tree. Free, tree. They rhyme.” Using this vocabulary is a simple way to introduce the concept of rhyming.
Activity 3: Matching Beginning Sounds: “Feed the Animals”
Skill: Isolating Initial Phonemes
Line up the animal cards at the top of the rug or table and name them. Line up the cookie cards in random order at the bottom of the rug or table and name them. As you name the words, emphasize the initial sound. Match the animal cards to the cookies that start with the same sound.
Variation: Use these cards in your I-Spy basket. Distribute the cards among a small group of children, naming each card and emphasizing the initial sound as you do so. Say “I spy something that starts with the sound….” and have child identify it.
Phoneme isolation is a more advanced skill than many people think. The child needs to be able to chunk the sounds in words quite well in order to hear an isolated phoneme (sound). An important note about this stage: we will be matching phonemes (sounds) only and not letters.
Activity 4: Matching Ending Sounds: Which One Doesn’t Belong?
Skill: Isolating Final Phonemes
To play, name each image and identify the final sounds. Cover up the picture that has a different final sound. You can use a variety of objects as covers. We use little stones. Pompoms and felt squares work well too.
The child needs to be quite adept at isolating initial sounds before she will be able to isolate the final sounds. I also recommend doing I-Spy variations with ending sounds multiple times with the child before introducing this particular activity.
Extension: Color the pictures with the same ending sound
Activity 5: Point and Slide Cards
Skill: Segmenting and Blending Phonemes
Say the name of the picture. Then, touch the dots as you say each sound in isolation. Slide your finger across the arrow and say the complete word again. Important note: Again, we are working with SOUNDS ONLY, not letters. Many of the words used have many letters but consist of only 3 sounds.
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.