Saturday, February 7, 2009

Phonics Swap: Part One of Three

We participated in our very first Montessori Swap!    I was extremely excited when I was notified who my swap partners were and I realized one was the author of one of my favorite Montessori Blogs.  The other has her own blog as well and I'll be sure to link you up to them. We are very excited to be becoming part of the online Montessori community ourselves.  It's neat to know that I'll be able to read about and see pictures of the children working with the items we sent them and that they can see my boys working with what they received.

The swap that we participated in was organized by Jojo at A Bit Of This and A Bit Of That. She is a Montessori Homeschooling mom with a little boy about 3 and 1/2 years old, and she lives in Japan. I think most of the Montessori blogs I read have her blog listed in their blog roll.  She is an extremely creative and interesting person.  I have always wanted to read her blog from the beginning, but have to ask for a link to her first post so I can start. If you are a blogger and you are reading this, check right now and make sure you have added your archives as a gadget in your sidebar.  Many people who find a blog they like a lot want to go back and read all the posts from the beginning and it's really hard to find the beginning without the archives.  Sorry...back on topic.  Jojo organizes several swaps a year, and usually two of them are swaps of phonics miniatures  to create what are sometimes called "phonics pouches" or "sound boxes."

You can see pictures of Jojo's phonics pouches here.  Also, she amazingly set it up so that the alphabet is listed under the photo and you can click on any letter you want and see a close up of what's in that particular pouch.  These items  can be recycled into a lot of different language activities.  Some typical things people do with them are lay an assortment of items starting with different sounds and play "I spy."  Such as, "I spy something that starts with the sound 'puh'." Or, you can choose a couple of letters and put out all the objects for those letters mixed together and the child can sort them into piles according to what sound they start with, or end with, or even have in the middle (such as hat, cat, rat in one pile).  Having little objects to work with adds interest for the child as compared to just a picture, and they take up less room to store.  I tried doing this for a while with a collection of Kal-El's toys and he kept playing with them instead of doing the activity.  Plus, when we tried to play "farm" and such, we were always missing animals only to realize later they were in the school room.  I then switched to pictures and had greater success. I plan to use my miniatures once the photos have lost some of their luster.  I hope that since they will not have been cribbed from his toy closet and are very tiny that they will be less likely to distract from the actual activity.

In Jojo's swap, the assignment was to trade ten items each with two other families.  Crafty people (like Montessori moms) often wind up with duplicate items when they buy a package of something for their own phonics assortment, or when they buy a bag of wooden apples for a practical life activity (or something else crafty) and have more than they need.  The idea is to spread these extras around and in return get some fresh things from someone else.  A lot of people also send along extra items such as a letter from your kids to their kids, postcards from your home state, and other cultural items.

You can read the complete rules of the swap here.  To put it in a nutshell, you were to send a package containing 10 items, each starting with a different letter.  The package had to contain at least two "difficult" letters  (e, i, n, o, q, u, v, w, x, y, z). They were to be between 2cm and 10 cm in size and were not to be plastic unless they were particularly "cool."

We received both of our swap packages Friday afternoon.  The first one we opened was from Gigi at Montessori Spanish.  Thank you Gigi and family!  I had been reading Gigi's blog for a long time and was excited to have her as my partner.  What I like most about her blog is that she is currently undergoing Montessori Primary teacher training and she is passing along what she is learning in very detailed posts with photos.  Her blog is also particularly interesting because she teaches Spanish in a Montessori school where her children attend and does some Montessori homeschooling with them as well. 

My swap group exchanged some small cultural items for future work in geography, etc., along with our miniatures.  Gigi sent us a nice letter about the kids with a lot of information about their home state of Texas, a Texas flag, and a postcard.  She is from Puerto Rico and at least one of her miniatures can be used in future "continent boxes."  

Here is a photo of the items that Gigi sent:

She sent 13 items rather than 10, which is great because we are just starting out and can use all the help we can get.  Included in the package were the following:

1. clothespin
2. candy cane
3. drill
4. dog
5. eye
6. frog
7. guitar
8. present
9. pig
10.  screwdriver
11. safety pin
12. thimble
13. vase

Kal-El seems to like the frog and the candy cane the best.  He talks a lot about how the candy cane is "sparkly."  Mommy particularly liked the drill, and Daddy liked the guitar.

In Montessori, we don't teach all of the sounds any letter can make right away.  We start by teaching awareness of the 39 English phonograms with "I spy" activities without teaching the names of the letters.  Children in Montessori school are generally not taught the names of letters at all at first.  When they are shown the letter "p" it is called "puh" not "pea."  That way, once they have the phonograms associated with each letter they can start encoding words much sooner..."cuh" "uh" "puh" = cup.  This is also why they are taught lowercase first, because most written words are in lowercase with only the capital more occasionally.  Kal-El knew the names of all of his capital letters on sight sometime around the age of two so I am not going to be able to do it that way.  He now knows the names of them all, what sound they all make "P says 'puh'," and understands that there are also "little letters."  

He had his first breakthrough spontaneously constructing a "word" a couple of days ago.  Now that we have finally recieved our digital converter we suddenly have 26 clear channels instead of 6 fuzzy ones.  We also have a new 24-hour cartoon station as an alternative to PBS, Qubo.  Kal-El pronounces it "Cue-buh" for some reason.  We keep our magnetic letters on the washing machine and Kal-El was working with them while I was doing laundry.  He found the letter "B" and said "Look Mommy, 'B'...buh, buh, in Cue-buh!  Where' s my 'Q'?"  After he found the "Q" he put it to the left of the "B" and said, "Look Mommy!  Cue-buh!"  Then he put a "J" to the left of the "Q" and said "Look!  A new word!  'juh-cue-buh'!"  Things deteriorated from there.  He added an "E" to the left of the "J" and said "Now what word is it?"  He clearly thinks any combination of letters is a word.  I'm not sure how to tackle that problem.  Advice is welcome.  For now I told him it said "eh-juh-cue-buh" and left it at that.

In related news, he has suddenly started inventing words and speaking in nonsense languages.  Is this normal?  He builds something and says "look Mommy, a jojobeeamal!"  Huh?  At the dinner table he'll say, "Mommy, can we have a talk about {insert topic}?"  I'll say "yes" and he'll start babbling nonsense "buhcappapeah laladilla suffrakiddle...." Yikes.  All I can think is that when Daddy and I really get going in a conversation that must be what we sound like.  I'm told I can talk really fast.

Another question I have is whether or not to use the "eye" Gigi sent us yet.  Because Kal-El knows the letter names already with one sound apiece, they might be confusing.  I'm afraid that if I put "eye" into the mix he'll say "eye...what letter does that start with?"  For the letter "E" we are using the sound e as in 'egg' and for the letter "I" we are using i as in 'it.'  I don't want him to think 'eye' starts with 'I' which makes the sound "i" or that "E" makes the sound "I."  Anyone have any experience with this?  I think I'll use the "thimble" in I spy, but not for sound sorts for a while.  He needs to learn the sound "th" but I don't want to have to explain that "th" starts with "T" which is supposed to make the sound t as in 'at.'  Advice please!


  1. We have a theory about the making up words thing. Our son is almost 3 and he says nonsense (to us) words. We think it is because he hears us say words that he doesn't know and he probably thinks we are making words up, so he is copying us.