Lovin Language! What is the best method to teach reading, phonics or whole language? This is a century old question and I will tell you what method Montessori teaches and why. Let me first start off by saying that as much as I love Montessori math I LOVE the Montessori method of language instruction even more! This method of teaching language is so complete and thorough that it not only teaches a child how to read but in the process they will become fluent readers and writers.
Where do I begin?
Similar to Montessori math, language also starts out very hands on. Children will learn to build letters and manipulate sounds to spell before they will actually write. In doing so the child has a complete understanding of the letter and how it is used in the context of words instead of trying to memorize what a foreign symbol is.
You start out by introducing sandpaper letters.
Sandpaper letters give children a tactile hands on experience with learning letters and sounds. Here is a great post on living montessori now about sandpaper letters.
After you introduce sandpaper letters and sounds you can add activities to reinforce letter recognition such as sand writing, letter building, play dough, Melissa and doug puzzles, wikki sticks ect.
A sandpaper extension would be beginning sound objects. Use small, interesting objects in conjunction with the sandpaper letters and place them in baskets for sound sets 1, 2 , 3, 4 and 5. Everyone has a slightly different method of introducing letter sounds. This is the method I use.
sound set one: m, a, t, s, p
sound set two: b, c, r, f, e
sound set three: h, i, d, g, n
sound set four: j, o, k, l, u, w
sound set five: x, v, z ,q, y
As soon as they finish sound set one they can build, spell and read mat, pat, sat, tap, Sam, Pam, map, at and am.
Also practice blending letters together by saying mmm-aaaa-t say it slow then tell them to say it fast, what does that spell? Mat!
At this stage play games, games and more games!
Games are a "sneaky" way to reinforce learning without them knowing it. A few games I like to play are: bingo, I spy, letter hunt and I have who has.
What happens after they know the sounds?
The next step is the moveable alphabet and the pink series. This is where it really gets exciting! It is their opportunity to take the letters and sounds to build words The first step in this process is to match 3 part cards with a picture and a word that matches the card with both the picture and the word, then they build the word.
I start out with short a words the pink series is three letter short vowel words. Continue teaching each set of short vowel words until you finally end with short u words. Upon completion of this series your child will be able to fluently read CVC or short vowel words!
What about sight words?
Remember that century old question I asked at the beginning? Well here is your answer... BOTH methods are best. In a Montessori language program we teach phonics in conjunction with whole language or sight words. Sight words are not just words you can't sound out. They are the most commonly used words in the English language. I use the dolch list here.
After you teach each set of short vowel words introduce 10 sight words. This is another area where you play games, games, games. We have sight words be the magic word of the day. We use funny voices such as (cowboy, valley girl, movie star and volcano) when introducing the sight words. This makes it more interesting and fun. A fun and educational DVD series that I use to introduce sight words is Let's meet the sight words.
In our classroom and at home we have word wall set up. Here is a picture of our word wall. We use the word wall for writing workshop and sight word games. We play sight word swat, race to the sight word, build a sight word and sight word art.
By using sight words in conjunction with phonics it will speed up a child's fluency and they will enjoy reading much more! Giving a child a love for reading is the gift that never stops giving.
After the pink series is the blue series which is long vowel words and vowel combinations. A program that uses a good systematic approach to this is primary phonics and they also include a teacher's manual that mirrors Montessori methods.
BOB books is another great reading series for children and they also have itunes apps that are fabulous! Click here to view those.
The last part of the reading series is the yellow or green series. In this step the children learn blends and special sounds. Allison's Montessori has sandpaper letters that I use to introduce this series. Once your child has completed all of these steps he will be a fluent reader and enjoy reading!!! My son is 5 and he reads at a 4th grade reading level because he learned with the Montessori Method starting at age 3.
I hope this will be a useful guide on your quest to teach your child to read! Listen to them read and read aloud to them often!
Reading is the window to the unknown world.