Maria Montessori on Writing
Maria Montessori was a big advocate of teaching writing before reading. In her Montessori Method (Heinemann, 1912), she says, “What I understand by reading is the interpretations of an idea from the written signs.” (p. 296) She believes that all of the activities up to this point have been preparing the child’s hand for writing, so he instinctively knows how to do so, without necessarily requiring direct handwriting instruction. Montessori education does still include those formal lessons, but they tend to be repetitive of what was already taught. Here are some of the preschool handwriting activities being referred to.
Writing with the Moveable Alphabet
Often the Montessori child’s first experiences with writing words occurs with the moveable alphabet. When she is spelling out words with the letters, she is essentially writing them. Indeed, many of the children will then seek out a piece of paper, or their journals, and subsequently copy the letters
Part of Montessori language instruction includes learning the proper names for objects and their parts. This is done through three-part matching cards and vocabulary booklets. The child often traces or copies the names of the objects and their parts, while also drawing or coloring in pictures.
Some Montessori classrooms use environmental print. Activities and objects are labeled throughout the classroom. Cards depicting items in the classroom, with their names printed on them, may be available as well. Often children can be found doing little “scavenger hunts”, contentedly moving around the room collecting as many words as possible by copying them down.
A favorite preschool writing activity is that of story writing. Young children have boundless imagination and enjoy having their stories recorded. Really young children simply dictate their stories to older children or to an adult. If the stories are written in yellow marker, the child can then trace his own story. Older children use invented spelling and their present arsenal of words, to write their own tall tales. Some may spontaneously create shopping lists to take home to parents, menus for a pretend restaurant activity or to illustrate healthy meal choices.
Another favorite preschool writing activity is writing letters to friends and making cards for people. Again, children use their creativity when penning words of friendship and thanks. They show great pride when being allowed to deliver their letters and cards to others in the school. Some even develop pen pals, either within their class or within their school, frequently exchanging letters written at home or in school.
Even the youngest child in the classroom is often given a notebook of her very own to use as a journal. Children are encouraged to “write” their thoughts and feelings on a daily basis. While the younger students tend to simply draw and make impressions of letters, older children will fill page after page with thoughtful expressions. Journals can also be used for any of the aforementioned writing activities.
Writing Opportunities in the Montessori Classroom
Writing opportunities abound in the Montessori classroom. Even before the child is able to read, he can perform writing tasks, through the moveable alphabet, nomenclature, environmental print, story writing, letter writing, and journal writing. These preschool writing activities are the culmination of all of the preparatory work that started back in Practical Life.
Montessori, Maria. (1912) The Montessori Method. London: William Heinemann.
This post is part of the series: Writing Activities in the Montessori Classroom
Within the Montessori classroom, there are numerous activities that prepare the child’s hand for writing. Initial activities are found in the Practical Life area. More can be found in the art area. Finally, Maria developed a few manipulative activities also used to prepare the hand for writing.