by Lisa Erber, Primary Guide in Upper Far West
There are four schemes in preparing the language area of the Montessori primary. Dr. Montessori believed that you must prepare the hand to manipulate ever more refined, to guide the tool of writing to create symbols. When using tweezers to transfer materials, or removing the Knobbed Cylinders the Montessori Guide demonstrates the three-finger grasp. Fine motor control of the hand by repetition of the three-finger grasp develops strength in the pincer grip. Secondly, taking into consideration how to prepare the child’s eyes and mind to notice attributes of objects and categorize them accordingly. Qualitative discrimination is abundantly prevalent in the sensorial area, the volume of the Pink Tower, the thickness of the Brown Stair, the length of the Red Rods, etc. The child already possesses the ability to create sounds; the Guide focuses the child’s awareness on the sounds of language. By associating the letter with it’s sound in a three period lesson using the sandpaper letters or discriminating between the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words with the I Spy game. The final scheme is to focus the child’s awareness on the meaning of language.
It is at this period the child expands his vocabulary, works on the linguistic construction for meaningful language, and self-expression through conversation. Transitioning into the key lessons, these are the “keys” the give the child access to writing and reading. The four main key lessons are I Spy, Sandpaper Letters, Large Moveable Alphabet, and Metal Insets. I Spy helps raise the child’s awareness of sounds and the way that words are made up of units, phonemes. The Sandpaper Letters help the child to recognize the symptoms that represent those sounds, and begin to develop the correct hand movement for writing letters. The Metal Insets are also used for the refinement of hand movement and developing control of the writing instrument with lightness of touch. The Moveable Alphabet helps the child to use symbols to express his or her thoughts in a written form without the ability of writing with an instrument. The Moveable Alphabet is the first bridge from writing to reading.
By meeting the needs of the child with a prepared language environment and an aware adult who is the link between the child and the environment, the acquisition of language skills will come naturally. Once a skill is mastered you are building a solid foundation in language, which leads to writing, and then learning to read will be spontaneous for the child.