Monday, January 18, 2010

School Day: Sound Bins

The language area of our classroom is partway through a major reorganization. I have been participating in the Karen Tyler training course with World Wide Montessori Online. My husband, knowing what I like, got this for me as my Christmas present this year. I have only been participating since November and am going to hold off on talking about it much until I am further into the course. My husband expected that I would be beyond the general content of the course (philosophy, history, etc.,) but would benefit from having a set of 12 complete primary albums and an "on call" Montessori teacher being paid to answer my questions. So far, he was right.

I am taking the "fast track" version of the course and am part of a group that is accelerated within that course due to having an "older" child. This was important because it meant I got my grubby paws on the Language and Math albums right away. I had been feeling like the language area of the classroom hasn't been pulled together the way it should be. Kal-El has been teetering on the line, almost reading, for quite some time now and I feel like this lack of cohesion was what was holding him back. I'm using Karen's album to pull everything together.

Her language album is 525 pages long. We had already covered the first 100 pages or so pretty thoroughly. About 100 pages in is where the "pink series" officially begins. There were many things past this point that we have done, but this also marked where I was losing consistent forward progression. The first activity in her "pink series" (although this activity is probably generally considered "pre" pink series, but who cares) is to put together beginning sound bins. Since this goes along with the introduction of sandpaper letters I thought this was right about where Me Too should be. Putting these together meant both reorganizing some things that are already on the shelves and adding some materials to increase their exposure and amount of practice which was sorely needed.

Here are two of our sound bins on the shelf. I introduced one last week Friday and the other today. It seems like one a day is going to be the right pace for us for a while. Kal-El is devouring these and Me Too will enjoy revisiting them repeatedly.

Karen's sound bins include a sound card, sound book, sound box, and a sound object box. I incorporated some of our other corresponding activities as well (some just for Kal-El, some for both boys).

I took pictures of the contents of both sound bins side by side so you can see what's inside. The following shows the sound cards, miniature sound books (same pictures as the card), object boxes, and a sound "envelope" (rather than "box") for both bins. As you can see, I also threw in our upper and lowercase sandpaper letters. Kal-El had been ignoring them (not anymore!) and Me Too uses a full-sized set stored at our sound table. I think it is particularly neat that because my object boxes are metal I was able to stick the magnetic wooden letters I pulled off the shelf to use with them right to the front of the boxes.

I found full-color pictures to use for free here. Because they were Word files, I was able to alter them before printing to be cards or books as desired rather than just loose pictures.

These are the pictures in our "sound envelope." I could have printed and laminated a third copy of the same pictures I used for the cards and books, but I already own the Lakeshore Learning Alphabet Sounds Library.

The following shows what is inside the object boxes for these letters. I added my little "train" graphics to start "training" Me Too that a colored engine refers to the word's initial sound.

(A: ant, alligator, ax, apple, astronaut)
(T: tiger, train, tugboat, tank, tree, toothpick)

Also included are the appropriate books from I spy phonics fun and the Scholastics Alphatales box set. (Sorry, I don't know why this picture is sideways. It is right-side up until I import it into Blogger, then it flips.)

I also reorganized our snowman initial sound search and snowman letter search activities into the bins along with the HWT patterns for letters and appropriate letter pieces. I should probably make the latter harder by storing all the wood pieces together and just including the patterns.

Kal-El is just loving these bins. He simply devours them. First we do the large sandpaper letter together and then he practices writing it in the sand tray. Then he digs into the bin. My favorite part is that today I took a cue from the Margaret Homfray video and said "maybe today you'll think of other words that have the /t/ sound in them and you can come and tell me"...and he has! All day I heard all about words with the /t/ sound and he told me whether the sound was at the beginning, end, or middle. He has been really excited about thinking of words that start with certain letters after playing that "game" with my parents Saturday night at dinner. He sometimes invents his "own words" which are a little odd. He could get a job naming streets in England.

I spent several hours printing, gluing, cutting, and laminating all 26 little cards and books. The rest is all pulled together from materials I already have. This week I have to put together traditional pink series materials for Kal-El (word lists, object boxes with labels, etc.,). At the same time, we plan to put our house on the market in February and I have a million things to do.

In other news, both boys woke up with head colds.

Home of:
The Ultimate Montessori Blog List
The Ultimate Montessori Search Box
The Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration


  1. I love your sound boxes! How old is your younger son? My son is 2 yrs, 8 months old and even through we have not been doing formal letter/reading activities he knows a lot of letters/letter sounds. He has mostly been working on Getterman's period one. I have looked at Karen Tyler's class but have been turned off by the fact the site is out dated. Will look forward to hearing more about your experiences with the course. Thank you!

  2. Where did you get the lowercase wooden pieces for HWT? On their website, I have only been able to find the capital letters.

  3. Spensamor Academy:

    At I'm not sure that the lowercase letters are very "Montessori." The uppercase print letters flow with Montessori because those letters are generally printed here in the U.S. using separate strokes. If you are putting a lot of effort in making sure that lowercase is being done in a continuous motion these may be counterproductive. I don't think I'd order them if I could do it over, but since we have them I'm using them sparingly for letter shape recognition.

  4. Hiking Mama,

    Me Too is 2 yrs, 7 months. When Kal-El was 24 months he know ALL of his capital letters and learned lowercase with hardly any effort. It is a totally different ball game with Me Too. I wonder if Kal-El being so early was "first child syndrome." Me Too just can't seem to remember. I likes letters a lot though so we are going to keep at it.

  5. Sounds like you hit a good note with the sound boxes. Let me know how your latest house visit goes...send me the MLS as I love looking at houses. I wish could continually house shop. Auntie R

  6. hi,
    i would love it if you can tell some more about the course that you are taking. there isn't any much info on the website and it is always nice anyways to hear from the students as well. i'm sure many readers will appreciate a post about it. any chance?!?!
    thanks for this GREAT blog. i learn so much from you.

  7. Shumim...I will, I'm just not sure what to say yet :)

  8. Hi MTB! This is my 1st time visiting and I got to say you have an AMAZING blog. Really! I found you thanks to Mi Escuelita Montessori. Karen is my friend. I can't believe I've been confusing you with another blog for so long. I also have 2 boys, 3 and 8. And I'm homeschooling using the Montessori Method. Thanks for all the info.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Montessori's schools are focused on creating the environment for a child that will let him/her absorb as much information as possible in the most effective way. Children need support from parents and surrounding people, if you are looking for the school that your child will be feel comfortable in, then have a look at this link. The Montessori's school help children exploring the world.