Montessori Approach to Learning to Write: Part 2 ~ DIY Shops Here I Come!

This is a follow-on post from the initial ‘Montessori’ stages in learning to write and read. See the first part here.

Once your littlie has grasped that there are sounds in words you can introduce the conceptual leap that these sounds actually have symbols that represent them.

Introducing Letter Shapes – A, B, C? Nope. m, s, a, t

I think there is some contention about when to introduce the letter shapes. We’ve been playing sound catching games for about a year and we are only just beginning to look at the shapes. I wanted her to have a firm handle on sounds before the concept became any wider. She can now play the traditional “Eye Spy” although her sounds are sometimes the initial sound of the word i.e “I spy something beginning with “sn” (snow) rather than (sss).

Letters are not introduced in the traditional A, B, C etc. Instead they are introduced in the order that the child would most use the letters thereby giving them greater expression. In addition the cursive script is first introduced as this is how they will write. There seems to be some difference of opinion about the sets of letters you introduce.  Check ‘Living Montessori Now‘ blog for an idea of the different introductions.

I went with the letter of her name (as that is just great fun for her!), and the letter ‘t’ as it sounds very different. Introducing letter shapes a year after playing lots of sound games meant that she  grasped the first two letters straightaway. A week after introducing the first two letters she asked me which letter was a ‘mmmm’ for mama. I then realised that she knew an ‘s’ shape was an ‘s’.

One day in the kitchen she started playing with the magnetic letters and wanted to know how to spell her name. I think I should have just asked her to spell it however, I showed her and we laughed as I sounded out her various spellings. She moved the game to the lounge using the wooden letters and wanted me to show her again how to spell her name. She had grasped there was a ‘right’ way so it took me some coaxing to say that she could spell it herself, her way. She spelt her name: “an” and mama: “mm”. She is spelling the predominant sounds she can hear. She has been thrilled by the realisation that all these sounds can be “hunted” out there in the world. As we drive along she will shout out that she has ‘sound hunted’ an “m”. She is asking me to read each sign and shop front as she has recognised these are letters and words (I admit this can get a little tedious whilst driving up the Peckham high street!) But I Love it. For me this is Montessori at its best. She is instigating her own learning and exploration. She is excited that she can spot the letters of our names as letters are now real for her, in her world.

We may now move onto ‘p’ and ‘c’. Introduce one or two letters at a time. Always remember this is fun and exploratory. If your littlie does not seem interested, leave it and re-introduce in a couple of months (a little like potty training).

Thanks to "The Accidental Crafter" for letting me use her beautiful image. Find her wares on FB.

Thanks to “The Accidental Crafter” for letting me use her beautiful image. Find her wares on FB.

Sandpaper Letters

These are exactly the same as the sandpaper numbers except that they are letters, quelle surprise!

The purpose of these is to learn through another sense, touch, and it introduces the way the letter is written without needing specific fine motor skills and a pincer grip.

To make these you will need:

– a trip to your DIY shop or raid the shed

– scissors

– cardboard or foam boards (red/pink and blue). In Montessori learning the vowels are blue and the consonants are red or pink. This is to visually introduce the difference between the two.

– patience as you cut out those letters and glue them down in a true labour of love (tip: watch a good film whilst you do this!)

Alternatively blow their Christmas, birthday, Trust fund and college money on a proper set of Montessori sandpaper letters.

Wooden Letters

I spent one evening colouring all these wooden letters blue and red.  Alternatively, buy a lovely, gorgeous set. At the moment I’ve only introduced the letters she knows. We haven’t played any games with these yet. We may build up our ‘bedtime games’ box with a variation of the ‘Number Hunt Grab‘ i.e sound/letter hunt with these.

Letter Loto

I did splash out on this game as my tolerance for making and colouring letters can only be stretched so far and it seems to offer a few alterative ways of playing.

Sound Tables

What you will need:

– small table and chair

– sandpaper letters

– two bowls

– items beginning with the letters you are introducing


– paper

– pen

– chalkboard

– chalk

I like to have all these on her table but you may wish to have less. I show her all the items and how to use them. I will demonstrate running my fingers over the sandpaper letter, I will draw a letter in the sand. I then leave it to her. Sometimes she immediately explores, other times she comes back to it later and plays with each in her own time. That is what Montessori is all about, exploration at their own pace.

If you have any questions I cannot promise to know the answer but as I say to my daughter I’ll endeavour to find it out. I’d love to hear from you if you home school or use Montessori games at home.

naomi x

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