Maria Montessori understood language to be the central point in human society. Language is what makes the human species different from all other species and communication is the basis for today’s civilization (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind). Starting language skills at a young age sparks a young child’s curiosity in the world around them.
An infant listens with excitement and begins to attach meaning with words before they are even able to speak. The toddler aged child repeats phrases said by adults and starts to name things in their environment. In a 3-6 Montessori classroom the children have developed skills of decoding and expressing oral language. The curiosity and excitement children at this age have about language signified to Maria Montessori that the birth to age six child is at the sensitive period for language development. Montessori understood that spoken language developed first in children and that learning to read and write are interrelated processes that develop with oral language. It is now experts understanding that language processes of listening, speaking, reading and writing develop together and each informs and supports one another.
Beginning discovery occurs by providing common objects to name and match within the environment. The young toddler can begin making connections with matching objects in the classroom to their own personal experiences. The felt materials are perfect for children to start telling their own personal stories, “ I had a banana for breakfast.” Teachers can use this material for non-verbal students. Asking questions like what vegetable do you like best? The child can then choose, and the teacher can give the name of the vegetable. This activity builds vocabulary and supports following oral language directions.
Children use pictures and objects to start discussions and begin to relate things in their everyday lives to the experiences they have in the classroom. The 3-part card activities introduce children to picture identification, object to picture matching and written language. The young child is able to feel successful in matching the pictures or the pictures to objects then the child is able to use decoding and matching skills to connect the written language to the picture. The young child does not need to know how to read to complete this work, but rather begins to problem solve and recognize the initial letters to match the words to the correct pictures.
Learning to read and write requires active participation in activities that have meaning for the child’s daily life. The Monarch Readers are decodable phonics books written by Montessori teachers. Children will find the pictures and stories engaging, while also relative to their everyday experiences. The one story “My Birthday” even talks about the Montessori tradition of walking around the sun!
The final step for the young child is building the writing skills to then move toward retelling stories through drawing pictures and writing words. The teacher’s role is to encourage this process, to ask the student questions when they begin making connections, and to ask to tell them about their stories even if it is just squiggles on paper. Teachers can encourage proper letter formation and support hand coordination with the Sand Writing/ Drawing Tray and Cards. Each small step is a further discovery of language development. The children will then begin to build the skills to identify and decode symbols and sounds to start the reading process.
This week's worksheet children will use their decoding skills and letter knowledge to match the sound with the picture of the animal. Use this as a worksheet or cut it apart to make a matching work.