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Cursive Cards

For the past few weeks, Zach has shown a strong interest in sounds and letters.  He’s constantly pointing out letters and asking what sound they make, and then thinking of words that start with that sound.  However, he’s not keen on tracing the sandpaper letters.  I can’t say I blame him; ours are pretty rough (because they’re new) and his index and middle fingers are very sensitive because he sucks them!

It irritates me that he doesn’t see cursive letters anywhere except in school (most signs that he sees are in upper-case print and books are in lower-case print), so I made some cards to spark a conversation on sounds and hopefully help him associate the cursive letter with the sound while his interest is strong.  I chose pictures of objects that he’s interested in and found a great font that is almost exactly like the one used in the Montessori sandpaper letter and large moveable alphabet materials.  Please note that these are not an AMI-approved material, but simply an extension to support my son’s burgeoning interest.

I’m sharing them with you but ask that you don’t use them as flash cards to drill your child.  They’re only intended to start a conversation that then leads to the child thinking of more words on his own, and that sparks interest in and awareness of cursive letters.  Also, please don’t use them with young toddlers.  The images are not to scale, and it’s important to provide accurate scale for children younger than 2 1/2.

To make them, simply print them out in color on white card stock, cut, and then laminate (or print on regular paper, mount on colored card stock, and laminate).

Have fun and let me know how they worked for you!

PS: the letter “x” doesn’t have any images because its phonetic sound is not used at the beginning of any word.  But, this in itself is an interesting point to discuss with the child!

PPS: There are only four cards in each PDF because the alignment would get all funky if I tried to put more cards in the same document.

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cursive-cards-u-x

cursive-cards-y-z

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To Follow the Child

Now that Zachary is three years old, I’m constantly surprised by how differently Montessori happens at home and in school.

In a classroom, you plan your lessons in part around the child’s interests and abilities, but also based on the sequence in your album. The children are (for the most part) happy and willing to receive the presentations.  Not so at home when it’s your own child.  I’ve learned that nine times out of ten, we’ll only do anything productive if Zachary initiates it.  If I invite him to do an activity, I often get a “No, thanks”.  And honestly, I’m perfectly fine with that (not to say that it didn’t rattle me at first because I’m a planner by nature).  It’s made me think that maybe, just maybe, as guides we could try following the child a bit more…

Case in point: A couple of months ago I tried introducing a couple of sandpaper letters to Zach, since I noticed he was tracing letters on signs.  Not the least bit interested.  So I put my letters away and didn’t push the subject.

Then, about two weeks ago, while he was decorating a thank-you note from his birthday party, he asked me how to write his name.  In lieu of a moveable alphabet, I took out the sandpaper letters and introduced each one, tracing and saying the sound.  Then, I lined them up to make his name (this is not AMI practice but I was improvising) and let him look at them for a good long while without saying anything (note: I never read the name to him).

He looked and looked, and suddenly, his whole face lit up.  “That says ‘Zachary’?” he asked.  I said yes and he broke into a huge grin.  The next day, he asked me to write ‘Zachary’ on his chalkboard, which I did slowly, sound by sound, helping him figure out which sound came next.  I told his teacher about his interest and left it there.

Then, this morning I was reading him a book.  He pointed to the letter ‘g’ and asked what sound it made.  I told him, and IMG_0299he started finding more ‘g’s throughout the page.  He asked: “What words start with ‘g’?”  I said “g-g-guitar” and then he said “g-gorilla”.  We thought of a couple more words and then I pulled out the sandpaper letter ‘g’.  I traced it, said the sound, and asked if he wanted to trace it.  He said no, so I clipped the ‘g’ on the chalkboard and drew a cursive ‘g’.  I asked if he wanted me to write some words starting with ‘g’.  He said yes, so I wrote four words.  Then, he started erasing them with his hand.  Thinking we were done (and honestly a little disappointed that he didn’t want to take it further), I passed him a wet rag to erase his board.  But to my surprise, once he was done erasing, he set to work trying to write a ‘g’!!!  Happy day!

They are our great little teachers, in so many ways.  To truly follow the child, I have only to keep my eyes open for the sensitive periods and prepare the environment accordingly.  His powerful developmental drives will take care of the rest.

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The Moveable Alphabet

A trainer once asked my classmates and me the following: “If you were on a deserted island and could only take two Montessori materials with you to support a child’s intellectual development, what would they be?”  We pondered, debated, and finally concluded that for math it would have to be the Golden Beads that represent the decimal system and for language it would be the Moveable Alphabet.

The Moveable Alphabet was developed by Dr. Montessori when she realized that children had the mental capacity to analyze the sounds in words way before they could synthesize them.  The former is what we do when we write, while the latter is how we read.  During a child’s first year in a Primary environment, we spend a lot of time playing Sound Games, which help children understand that words are composed of sounds.  Around their third birthday, we start introducing the Sandpaper Letters – individual letters cut out of sandpaper and glued on wooden boards – which is how children learn what sound each letter makes and how the letter is written. 

In a genuine Montessori environment, we NEVER refer to a letter by its name, because we are preparing the child to write and read.  Think about it: when you write or read the word “cat”, you are saying [c]-[a]-[t]… You are NOT reading “cee-ay-tee”!!  So why teach the names of the letters?  It’s a testament to children’s intelligence that they can learn to read in traditional environments where they have to be taught that “cee says [c]”.  Why confuse the poor children?

When a child writes a word with the Moveable Alphabet, he does so phonetically by analyzing the sounds he hears as he says a word slowly out-loud.  Because English is not a phonetic language, many words will be misspelled.  We never correct a child, nor do we ask him to read the word back to us, because they can’t read yet!  (Sometimes a child will ask you to read to him what he wrote; all Montessori teachers have hilarious stories of decoding phonetically written words… My favorite is “wnsupnetaim”, or “once upon a time”.)

Eventually, after weeks and weeks (and sometimes months) of using the Moveable Alphabet, the child will start reading the words back spontaneously (and that’s when you leave the room, shed a tear of joy, send a quick thank you up to Dr. Montessori, and do a happy dance).  And later on, perhaps when the child is five or six years old, he will become curious about correct spelling, and you can guide him in his new awareness.  But only when he’s ready.

Check out The Very Montessori blog, where you can see several examples of pre-schoolers writing with the Moveable Alphabet.

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Get More Montessori

The Full Montessori is now on Facebook (see the handy little box on the right margin, just waiting for your FB picture). “Like” us to get Montessori quotes and links to child development articles and blog posts from around the web.  Because your News Feed can always use more Montessori, right?

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Pour yourself a glass of lemonade and pay a visit to these hard-working guys and gals who are making a difference by bringing the Montessori approach to children around the world.