After working with the metal insets and the sandpaper letters for some time, the child starts to realize that he is able to make words and numerals with a pencil. Montessori called this “explosion into writing.”
When this happens, the child is spared many tedious hours of forced effort. Writing becomes fun. The child has already learned control and the repetition necessary for developing neatness so the style gradually improves and does not tire him.
Children from three to five years of age have a true fascination for words, both written and spoken. This unique gift often enables the child to begin the possibility of reading and writing before the traditional age for teaching these skills. The construction of words with the movable alphabet nearly always precedes reading in a Montessori environment.
The Moveable Alphabet
After the child has learned the sandpaper letters, he is ready to make words with the Moveable Alphabet. The guide will introduce this activity by using a small bag of miniature objects representing three letter words with the short vowel sound, such as a cat, a pig, a fan, and a cup.
First, the child selects an object such as the pig and says the name of it very slowly so he can hear each sound—p…i...g. The child then selects the letters from the box that represents the first sound and places it beside the object on a mat. Next, the child selects the second sound and letter and then finally the third sound and letter. These activities are referred to as “word building.” The fact that the child is manipulating the materials at this stage is important because he still concentrates best on something he is doing with his hands.
The child usually continues the word-building process for a long period of time. The classroom offers a wide variety of small objects and pictures that can be used to build words. Gradually the difficulty of the nouns increases from three-letter words like pig, to four-letter words containing blend sounds, such as flag. The children even have opportunities to extend their work into writing lists of objects that are related to a theme such as ocean animals or a favorite activity of mine is the “imaginary trip” such as the candy store. In time, this type of writing can be transferred using a pencil and paper. The children love writing lists of words, notes, and messages to their friends, short stories, and even creating informational books about something they may have read about. It is very exciting to watch each child develop their love for writing in the classroom.