Sound Games Come First in Montessori

Written by Directress Monica Dieter

Contrary to popular belief, a child’s knowledge of letter-sound relationship is far more important than his or her ability to name letters or recite the alphabet. A child can easily memorize the names of objects or letter symbols, but that does not mean they can use that information to later read or write. To encode and decode, the child must know the sounds the letters make.

In Montessori, concepts are always introduced from the most concrete to the abstract. This is why sound games are one of the very first lessons in the language area, even before sandpaper letters. Your child may have told you that they play “I Spy” at school, but you probably didn’t realize it was a precursor to writing and reading. A teacher gathers a few students at a rug with a box of objects and places three objects at a time in front of the students. The teacher would then tell the children the names of each object. For example: box, umbrella and tiger. Then say: “I spy something that begins with the sound “ttt” and a child would answer, “tiger.” Once the child has mastered recognizing the different sounds letters make, they are able to match the sound to its letter symbol-which is where sandpaper letters come in.

Children learn to write and read by using the sounds of their language to make up words. This is why the sandpaper letters are taught by their sound and not their letter name. Knowing that “b” is called “bee” doesn’t teach a child how to sound out the word “bat.” However, if a child knows the sounds each letter makes, he or she can read phonetically. Sound lessons give the child a foundation of concrete knowledge that is needed to later understand the abstraction. Next time you want to sing the ABCs with your child, have some fun with sound games instead!