Spring is here in NW Arkansas. Unsure of what happened to winter, but being able to get outside and play for most of it was fantastic. The children are riding the spring wave as well. This time of year in a primary Montessori classroom we really begin to notice the growth and development of the children. Each child has greatly matured in his or her own way since the first day of school in August.
The third year children are showing signs of reading readiness, and some are truly reading. This is an exciting time for children, and parents alike, not to mention teachers! The Moveable Alphabet is used almost daily as they begin to spell words and write out thoughts. Each letter is carefully placed on a striped rug to convey a thought, and we get the honor of reading those thoughts and words. No, the spelling in not perfect, but it is the beginning of reading and sharing thoughts. Though we really want to correct what we see, we absolutely do not touch their hard work out of respect, and knowing that spelling will come later. Trusting the process is a big request for parents who have not had a child go through the Montessori methodology. We have to try really hard as adults to not correct the process of learning. No one starts out doing something perfectly.
Playing I Spy, using sounds as the clues, children of all ages are learning to hear initial sounds, ending sounds and middle sounds of words. This is the beginning of the reading process, and cannot be emphasized enough how important speaking and hearing sounds lays the foundation for reading. Along with I Spy, the Sandpaper Letters are introduced in a separate lesson, marrying the sounds and symbols. Children love games and spending time with their loved ones, so make a point to practice daily the I Spy game.
Children who have acquired about 75 percent recognition of their sounds – beginning, middle and ending, and who have been using the Sandpaper Letters, are ready and excited for the Moveable Alphabet. This process typically happens for the second year students, or beginning of the third year. Until then, I Spy is practiced often in a Montessori classroom.
Language is also rich in our environment showing up in places like the botany or zoology cards learning different parts of animals and plants, or the Geometric Cabinet where acute and obtuse angles are part of the vocabulary, even for 3-year- olds. Knowing a right-angled scalene triangle, or a sphere, is not uncommon in our environment. Using the proper terminology for things in an environment, on the body, or on a car, is not too much to teach a child. They will absorb language, which is why it is a great time to introduce another language. The brain of a primary age child is like a sponge during which time they are absorbing, sometimes without realizing it, their environment – all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of their space.
This spring when you are outside with your child, give the gift of vocabulary words. Actual names of birds, flowers and animals is a good start to their world. Don’t just say, “There’s a bird.” Say, “There’s a robin.” Your child will understand. We wish you a joyful spring!