How To Present Montessori Sandpaper Letters
To learn the sound and shape of the letters of the alphabet. To gain muscle memory of the letter shape in preparation for writing
If you don’t have sandpaper letters yet, check THIS POST for a DIY tutorial on how to make them.
Some Background Info…
As you know, each letter has a sound otherwise known as phonics. We teach the child the phonics BEFORE the name of the letter so that the child can quickly grasp the concept of reading. Knowing the name of the letter doesn’t help when you are trying to read!
We also focus on lowercase letters, this is because 93% of what we read and write is written in lower case. It makes sense right!
Back in my teaching days, I never taught the kids uppercase but by the end of the year, they had figured it out and knew all the uppercase letters too.
So that’s where we start, the letter sounds (phonics) and lower case.
The Montessori approach is to teach in a multi-sensory way. The child will hear the sound, see the sound, feel the sound. As this is the introduction to writing it is very important that the child learns to trace the letter in the correct way.
Usually, a basic cursive font is used, the child learns to write the letters free-standing first but as they progress it is then easy for them to to ‘joined-up’ writing.
Before we go through the presentation I want to answer a question that I know will come up…
Which letter should I teach first?
I am sure if you google this, you will get a zillion hits, quite possibly telling you different things. I personally go for the common-sense route.
Use the most common letters first, so the vowels, letters such as m, s and t and I would also add in the letters in the child’s name. Your child will get a real kick and confidence boost when they have mastered their name. As for the rest, it doesn’t really matter, they are going to learn them all eventually.
Some hardcore Montessorians will be poo-pooing me saying that but after teaching hundreds of kids, I can confidently say, it doesn’t really matter. I recommend keeping a notebook handy though so you can make a note of which letters your child has mastered, which need more work and which have yet to be introduced.
With Montessori, presentations are given with a 3-period lesson. It doesn’t matter what the subject is and I was actually using this method when I was teaching ESL before I had discovered Montessori, so I knew it worked.
Before starting the Sandpaper letters you should have already introduced the phonic sounds using the sound pouches or similar.
The reason that sandpaper letters are used is that children are sensitive to touch and so the sandpaper letters become a multi-sensory learning tool, using touch, sound and sight.
How To Present The Lesson:
- Invite the child to sit with you
- Wash your fingertips to sensitize your fingers, invite the child to do the same
- Take out the first 3 letters you are going to work with
- Take them back to the table and sit with the child
- Introduce the first letter (child’s first initial). To the child, What’s your name? “Jack”
Your name starts with the “J” sound. This is what “j” looks like (show the letter)
- Now I am going to show you how to write it.
- Use the left hand to hold the letter tile steady, then trace the letter with the first two fingers of your right hand. As you trace the letter, say the sound of the letter.
Trace and sound out the letter 3 times. If your letter has the little stickers with start and endpoints, be sure to explain what they are for. (Not all sandpaper letters have these)
- Now pass the tile to the child and let them have a go
- Put the first tile to the top right of the table and repeat with the second letter
- Repeat with the third letter
- Once the child is finished, put the letters back on the shelf.
Repeat this exercise like you would in the Three Period Lesson until you are sure the child has got the hang of all three letters. Then you can introduce 3 more letters.
For extra practice or extensions with the sandpaper letters you can use the letters with the Phonics Miniatures and the salt tray.
When the child has mastered tracing the letters you can then introduce the pencil and paper. Remember that the child needs to have strengthened his or her pincer muscles adequately to be able to hold a pencil correctly and for any length of time. Check out the 50 Fine Motor Muscles Post for ideas to increase pincer muscle strength.
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