The Language Curriculum
The most important preparation of the environment for successful development of the spoken and written language in the child is the language environment of the home. The language of the caregivers in the first six years of life will iterally form the spoken language of the child.
For success in language a child needs confidence that what she has to say is important, a desire to relate or communicate to others.
We can listen and talk to the child with respect and with a rich vocabulary. We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language, providing a wealth of experience, because language is meaningless if it is not based on experience.
We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories we will greatly increase the child's love of language.
The language curriculum in a Montessori classroom includes nomenclature work, poems, stories, songs, finger-plays, word games, and the manipulation of materials that balance a strong phonics approach with a method that allows creative writing through dictation, invented spelling, and literary appreciation.
Pre-Reading and Writing:
There are three main areas where we can help children prepare for reading and writing. When a child is well prepared over the years before reading and writing is attempted, acquiring these skills is very enjoyable.
These are skills easily achieved through daily exposure and experiences in a teacher prepared environment.
Physical skills—balance, using the hands, coordination of eye-hand work, learning to concentrate and focus, recognizing sizes and shapes, working with knobbed puzzles, crayons and pencils, and practice in speaking.
Mental skills—absorbing and using language, learning the "sounds" that each letter makes (not the 'names' of the letter) and playing games to break up words into sounds—the "I spy" game.
Social skills—living in homes where people talk at the table, sit down and have conversations, and read, instead of watching television or "learning language" on a computer.
Children should be given tools to do so, when offered and their use shown, these tools prepare and inspire many children to read.
This is the sensitive period in a child's life for knowing the names of everything, including the sounds of letters, and for touching and feeling.
So we offer letters made of sandpaper to trace with their fingers while saying the sound. Children often spontaneously "explode" into writing, which naturally appears several months before reading.
Since 99% of written language is in lower case letters, you will be doing the child a favor to begin with these ("a" and "b," not "A" and "B"), and with the sounds instead of the names of the letters.
To meet the child's need to touch and feel, and to learn the names of objects in the environment, we use sandpaper letters. The child feels and says the sound, repeating many times.
For those who were not ready physically to write with a pencil, but who were mentally ready, Dr. Montessori prepared cutout movable letters for their work. Similar movable alphabets are still used in schools today.
Above all, this work must be offered in a spirit of enjoyment and not imposed. Adults really have to forget the tedious process they might have gone through to learn to read, and to approach it in a spirit of fun and ease.