Children begin learning the alphabet as part of the regular curriculum in a Montessori daycare, just as they do in a traditional daycare setting. The difference in Montessori is that the alphabet is taught differently, and children learn it in a progressive learning strategy that develops other language skills in the process. Here is a look at 4 ways children learn the alphabet in Montessori daycare, and why these methods are effective.
- Phonetics First
Maria Montessori believed that daycare children would grasp the alphabet more completely by learning the letter pronunciations before being circumvented by the letter names. For example, they would learn that “B” makes a “buh” sound instead of saying “bee.” Not only do the children learn about the letters of the alphabet, but they also become better prepared to recognize letter sounds when they hear them in speech.
- Language and Music
The ability to identify individual letters when they hear them in the spoken form helps children understand each letter more completely, and gives them a way to form semantic letter associations. This is often reinforced through group activities such as sing-alongs that use rhythm and repetitive sounds to help children build stronger vocabularies.
- Sandpaper Letters
Sandpaper letters are a Montessori-specific activity intended to help children learn to recognize cursive letters. Lowercase script letters are printed on sandpaper that is affixed to pieces of wood. Vowels in one color and consonants in another. Using sensory input helps children retain information and sandpaper letters are an excellent precursor to learning to write.
- Writing Before Reading
Another unusual approach used in the Montessori environment is that children begin learning to write before they begin learning to read. This reinforces what they have already learned through phonetics, music, and sandpaper letters, and shows them how letters interact to create different sounds. And because writing is a physical activity, it tends to provide better retention than simply repeating the alphabet song or similar alphabet learning games.
Learning the alphabet is one area where the Montessori Method takes a different approach than traditional public education, but it isn’t the only way. Where traditional schools put more focus on memorization and repetition, Montessori emphasizes physical activity and cognitive instruction. From daycare onward, children will learn a wide variety of academic, practical, and social skills through play-based, hands-on learning tools.