Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Look at Language

One of the big areas in the Montessori Children's House curriculum is Language. By this we mean the whole realm of learning to express oneself and communicate with others, both orally and in the written form. When I came down to selecting the photos for this topic, I realized that absolutely everything in our room is related in some way to this all-important area of human development. Every parent is concerned that their children learn how to read and write. The Montessori program does that very well, and in such a natural, individualized way that the child barely knows he or she is working on it.

If you want to order any of the photos as prints, just go to the following link and click on "order prints" to get started.

(OOPS! I don't know how to make this link. Check back later while I will try to figure it out.)

Language development begins with simply having a conversation at the snack table or showing a teacher your work. The quiet environment encouraged in the Children's House allows for more meaningful conversations.
Look, I did it!
Here, two younger students are observing an older child read words and match them to the corresponding objects. Observation is one of the best ways of learning, and is lent the dignity of being called, "Observation Work".This child is doing "Vocabulary Cards". The cards show pictures of things in everyday life. The child learns the words for them and then can tell a story using the cards.
Naming the animals of Asia.

Here, students retell for themselves, the stories of the Good Shepherd and Creation.
Listening to a book on CD.
Grading colors by shade and using language to describe them.

Finding objects in the room that match specific colors.
Matching fabrics by textures and grading then from smoothest to roughest.

Development of the Hand Muscles in Preparation for Writing
Many activities serve as indirect prepartion for writing by developing in the muscles of the hand the strength and coordination needed for writing. Here, bead stringing serves this purpose.
Carefully balancing the Brown Stair prisms to make a design.
Sewing is excellent for the development of the fine muscles, also for left to right orientation and sequencing.

Even cleaning the easle is taught in a series of ordered steps from left to right. This serves as preparation for reading and writing.
Cutting bread. Yikes! You give children knifes and needles? Yes, we do, along with instructions for their proper use.

Polishing and cutting, and pouring.

Use of markers and pencils with stencils provide more direct preparation for writing.

Sandpaper letters and numbers provide direct practice with letter and number formation. First, we write in the sand (easy to erase).

Then, we write on a chalk board (also easy to erase, but uses a tool-chalk).

After chalk comes paper and pencil.
This child is tracing names of class members.

We have booklet to practice writing letters....
and numbers.

At the same time, the child is working on associating the written letter symbol with its sound. Once about half the letter sounds are mastered, there is a series of lessons leading to reading. (Important: it is the SOUND of the letter, not the NAME, that is emphasized.)
Here, the sandpaper letters are matched to corresponding objects that start with that sound.
Then the Sandpaper Letters are matched to the corresponding letters from
the Movable Alphabet.
Then the child can start sounding out words and "writing" them with the Movable Alphabet. At this point, finding the sounds that make up a word, encoding, usually comes before reading, or decoding.
The Movable Alphabet makes it possible to "write" words before one has the fine muscle coordination to write them with pencil and paper. Often the child, after doing this exercise, will choose to record the words on paper by copying them from their mat.
First time actually reading: This child is reading words and matching them to the corresponding objects. Then he writes each word on its own little ticket and puts them together to make a "book".
This student is working on recognizing "Puzzle Words", common words that do not follow the phonetic rules.
After lots more practice with reading phonetically spelled words, that is words that look the same way they sound, the child goes on to study some of the phonograms in the English language. Phonograms are letter combinations that make a new sound.
This student is writing words with the phonogram "kn".

Actually every area of the Montessori classroom contributes in some way to Language development. Let's look at just few more.
The Hundred Board, officially in the Math area, contributes to the skills of scanning and ordering, which are neccesary for reading.
An advanced Hundred Board work involving skip counting, helps with the skills of left to right orientation and scanning across a line.
The Thousand Chain works on the same skills in a popular variation.

Making a map of the continents helps with shape recognition and fine muscle develpoment.
Making constructions with the Brown Stair and Pink Tower helps develop the reading skill of noticing patterns and order.