5 Ways to Teach Reading and Writing Using a Montessori Approach

One of your most important goals as a parent is to instill a love of words in your child. A love of reading. A love of writing.

And the Montessori approach makes learning to read and write a joy rather than a chore because it works with your child’s natural development. 

You’ve already seen the happiness in your child when they master a new skill - pouring milk into a glass, sorting objects, sweeping the floor.

Maybe without you even knowing it, these skills have prepared your child to read and write because with a Montessori approach, a child isn’t taught literacy skills. They acquire them during their natural course of development.

Want to know more about reading and writing using the Montessori method?

Here are 5 ways to teach reading and writing using a Montessori approach. 

1. Start early.

There’s no such thing as too early when it comes to laying the groundwork for reading and writing because the sensitive period begins in the womb and continues through age 6. That’s when your child is wired to meet developmental milestones, including language acquisition.  

Dr. Montessori said, “It’s important to remember the child’s actions are not due to random choice but directed by their inner needs for development.” Young children are made to learn language. By 3, most children are ready to learn letter sounds, and by 4, most can read basic words.

So what can you do to enhance their development? Speak to your child early and often. 

Remember how your infant reacted when you started talking to them? Their bodies jerked and squirmed because they wanted to make the sounds you were making. Children want to communicate.

Read to your child. Let them “read” to you. Children can use the pictures in a book to tell their own story, so have them “take a picture walk.” Let them turn the pages. Point out things you see. Talk about them, and use their real names. Language is everywhere. Show them.

2. Introduce phonics.

Phonics means sounds, and it’s the way of teaching literacy in Montessori. With phonics, each letter or group of letters relates to a sound we make when talking. To be able to read, your child needs to know their letter sounds.  

The Montessori method combines phonics with sensory learning, and this is often done with sandpaper letters. Vowels are typically blue, while consonants are red. Children trace the letters with their fingers while learning the letters’ sounds. Therefore, the letter and its sounds are committed to both visual and muscle memory.  

You don’t need to go in alphabetical order. Start with 3 letters, and show your child 1 letter at a time. For example, if your child is working with the letter “M,” show them how to trace it slowly. Make sure to start on the left side, then model how to say the letter’s sound at the end of each tracing.

When your child is comfortable with single letters, move on to double letters like “sh,” “th,” and “ar.” 

3. Develop phonological awareness.

Phonological awareness is the ability to work with the sounds of spoken language, and phonemes are the smallest unit of speech. It’s just teacher talk for “the sounds letters make.” For example, the word “cat” has 3 phonemes (or sounds) - “c,” “a,” and “t.” 

Having strong phonological awareness means your child can:

  • Segment - identify letter sounds in a word
  • Blend - join letter sounds together
  • Manipulate - take away or add a letter sound
  • Categorize - put words with similar letter sounds together
  • Count - identify the number of syllables in a word
  • Rhyme

Sounds complicated, right? It’s not. Again, these are teacher terms for things you’re probably doing with your child already. You strengthen your child’s phonological awareness every time you sing silly songs, recite nursery rhymes, and play sound games.

4. Start writing.

In Montessori, children learn to write before they learn to read because developmentally, it’s more natural for your child to build their own words before they read the words of others. Writing, or encoding, is how your child gets what’s in their head on paper. 

Introduce your child to a movable alphabet. A movable alphabet is an essential literacy tool, and a Montessori home or classroom isn’t complete without one.

A movable alphabet is a wooden box with letters inside, and your child uses those letters to create simple words. And just like sandpaper letters, the vowels in a movable alphabet are blue and consonants are red.

Once your child is confident creating three-letter words, they can move on to more complex words and even begin making short sentences. Did you catch that? Your child is writing!

5. Start reading.

Reading is the natural next step after learning to write. Now that your child can encode their own words, they’re ready to read or decode, words someone else has written. 

Reading is understanding that symbols stand for sounds. Sounds combine together to make words. And words connect with other words to deliver meaning. 

Remember the ball tracker your toddler couldn’t get enough of? Tracking the ball prepared your child to read left to write. And the alphabet tracing boards they used to write and read their first words? Both of these pieces helped get your child to where they are now. Readers and writers!

So what can you do now? Make sure they have a child-sized bookshelf in their room or “yes” space with books they can grab freely. Change out the books regularly so they’re always looking forward to what you put out next. 

The ball tracker and tracing boards we just mentioned? Get them back out. Montessori materials are classic and timeless, and your child will love working with them again.

Need a movable alphabet to make your Montessori literacy toolkit complete? Montessori & Me just released their movable alphabet.

Montessori & Me’s movable alphabet includes: 

  • 1 wooden storage case and lid
  • 10 wooden letters of each vowel (painted blue)
  • 5 wooden letters of each consonant (painted red)

The storage case has each letter printed on it so your child can put away the letters independently. And the letters are painted on only one side so children can tell the difference between “b” and “d.”

And unlike others on the market, Montessori & Me’s movable alphabet has lines printed on the lid that your child can use to make sure their letters are nice and straight.  

Our movable alphabet has everything you need. That means your child can start reading and writing today!

Back to blog