My daughter has just turned 4 years old and has attended a Montessori school since she was 2 ½. She has not yet been introduced to the sand paper letters and I am concerned that she will fall behind her peers. I have other friends at traditional schools where their children are learning how to read and write at a much earlier age. The teacher assures me not to worry, but how can I not? How do I know when my child is ready to start learning to read and write?
One of the core Montessori principles is the concept of indirect preparation. Essentially, in the classroom, this means helping your daughter indirectly to prepare for what is next to come. Let’s take for example the simple activity of singing. By singing simple but exquisitely worded songs, poems and rhymes, we are introducing her to new language that she can use later on when she comes, for example, to writing a story for example. Sound games like I Spy and naming games and reading books aloud and verbal stories as well as work with the sensorial materials such as the geometry cabinet and sound boxes, all in their own way give her the necessary tools. More specifically, these games give her practice with the sounds of the letters, extends her vocabulary, gives examples of sentence and story structures, and help with the sensorial discrimination of shape and sound, which all come together to help her to decipher the letters, words and phrases she will meet later on. Indirect preparation in a Montessori classroom forms the solid grounding necessary for future learning.
Her interest in words, which was nurtured by songs, stories and naming games, will set off a desire to learn the letters that make up the words. Her ease with identifying the letters is helped by the Sensorial materials which give her practice in discriminating different shapes and sounds. Her ability to blend sounds together, helped in turn by the sound games and enriched vocabulary, will help her find the meaning of the sounds as she says them. When she is ready for writing and reading, it will be a joyful experience that will truly last a lifetime because she has been prepared for it.