Monday, July 20, 2009

Language Tips and Tricks

As I have mentioned before, I am not a trained Montessori teacher. I have been studying Montessori for nearly two years by reading books, blogs, online manuals, message boards and watching some great videos on You Tube. When I decided to homeschool the boys using the Montessori method, I was most excited about the math activities and most intimidated by the language activities. We are following the sequence of put forth in the book Basic Montessori by David Gettman. I mentioned that I was originally overwhelmed by the Gettman book. However, once I looked at blogs and was able to see how the activities are actually carried out in schools and at home everything became very clear...except somehow in the subject area of language. In particular, I kept reading online about the mysterious "pink," "blue," and "green" series works that are not mentioned anywhere in the Gettman.

Fortunately I stumbled across a great blog in May of 2008 that really helped me understand how to teach reading and writing the Montessori way. I am really happy that I found the blog My Montessori Journey when I did. The author had just begun blogging and was in the midst of using her summer break to organize her new classroom. She was returning to teaching Montessori after teaching in a public school. This was a time in which she was taking stock of what the previous teacher had left behind, revisiting materials she had made herself 12 years earlier, organizing her space, reviewing her albums, and assessing how each activity fits into the big picture. Thanks to her, I saw my first photos of the inside of a real Montessori album and got my first peek at how a Montessori teacher stores what's not out on the shelf.

She wrote a great overview of how the subject area of language plays out in her classroom. It started out as a three-part series, but spun off into several more posts as people had questions about some of her self-made materials.

Here are the links to the original three-parts:

You many want to look at these posts even if you already understand the Montessori language sequence because the author includes links to free printables she made (for example, phonogram and digraph stickers).

She had a lot of questions about her "word drawers" and this spun off into another series of posts.

Update: images to use for sorting, image pages, boxes, books, etc., that are organized to align with this system are available here from Our Montessori Story.

What people really seem to like about her word drawer system is that she organized the traditional "Pink Series" CVC words into smaller groups that matched the order that she introduces the sandpaper letters:

  • red: r a m f b it g
  • yellow: p o n l h us c
  • blue (not to be confused with "blue" as in "blue series): d e x q y z v w k l

This way, children can begin the word drawer work (if they are ready) as soon as they have learned their first eight letters.

When I originally started introducing the letter sounds to Kal-El in aural "I spy" activities he a lot of trouble with the first letters in the word order suggested on My Montessori Journey (he was at that time still unable to hear or pronounce "r" or "f"). I instead used the word order found here in an article by Katherine Von Duyke titled "Phonics the Montessori Way."

The Gettman book provides a list of all of the phonetic sounds that will be introduced at this stage. He gives each letter of the alphabet along with a word that contains the appropriate sound as an illustration. "a" as in "bat" etc., I typed up this list and printed out several copies to have scattered around the house while I was learning. If you are still unsure as to how to pronounce a certain letter (as I was when I began), Barbara at Mommy Life posted a video that demonstrates all the letter sounds here.

When we began sandpaper letters I also printed out several copies of the page in the Hainstock book that illustrates the proper directions for tracing/writing the letters to make sure I was demonstrating them correctly. I hear my teacher friends gripe a lot about kids who come to school already able to write, but that were taught to do the strokes in the wrong order.

One thing that I misunderstood when I first started teaching Kal-El is that the activities in the Gettman book are listed by order of introduction and that they are supposed to overlap. I somehow missed the sentence about "overlapping." I figured this out when I read this post at P.S. Montessori about sandpaper letters and the moveable alphabet.

I have blogged in the past about accumulating my collection of miniatures. I was inspired to do this by Jo at A Bit of This and a Bit of That. I posted about how I acquired many phonics objects through one of the swaps that she organizes several times a year here, here and here. I already have packages ready for the next swap and am waiting impatiently for her to announce the next one. I am currently using them to practice both I Spy activities and words sorts. So far we have worked exclusively with intial and ending sounds. I hope to expand to middle sounds soon (am still having trouble getting Kal-El to understand the concept of a "middle sound"). In the future I will be able to use some of these miniatures for traditional pink, blue and green activities and for what Gettman calls "object boxes." A printable list of language objects is available here. These objects are for sale individually, so it would be a good place to pick up a couple to fill out a letter you are having trouble with.

If you are looking for objects to go in your word drawers instead of or along with the pictures, Montessori For Everyone recently posted a list of traditional pink, blue and green series words that can be objects. I know I have a lot of these objects in my minitatures collection that I can resort for this purpose.

If you plan to use the pink/blue/green series for language all the materials you need can be printed for free from Goldmark Montessori or from The Helpful Garden.  Even if you are not using the PBG series, these materials can be useful for finding good lists of words to use and sentences to write. I found the Blue Series Sound Cards very useful for making sound bins for the double sandpaper letters.

Kal-El already knew the names of the upper-case letters when I discovered Montessori. I modeled how I "work around this" on this blog post at Montessori at Home. This affected my choice of which sandpaper letters to buy. I settled on a set that included both lowercase and uppercase for the singles. The lowercase are pink and the uppercase are blue. When we do sound sorts Kal-El first matches the lowercase to the appropriate uppercase and lays them side-by-side. Then, the two forms together make the headers for his sort. I do not like that the vowels are not a different color for the consonants and that the colors don't match the movable alphabet but a compromise had to be made somewhere.

This post is a dead-on example of how I use other blogs to learn how to homeschool the Montessori way. The "Ultimate Montessori Blog List" in my left sidebar is up to about 120 blogs now. When I started studying Montessori in the fall of 2007 there were only a handful of Montessori blogs to learn from. This number has exploded in the past year. With so many quality blogs out there I am in no way suffering delusions that have anything earth-shattering to say about Montessori (in fact, I often wonder if I should make it "just for family" and be done with it). However, I am happy to provide a big-ole list all in one place so that people will hopefully not have to work so hard to find blogs that suit their purposes. Please feel free to provide some kind of link to the list if you have a Montessori blog or website. Also, as always, if you have a Montessori blog that is not listed or is listed in the the wrong category or categories please let me know so I can fix it!


  1. Please, please keep going with your blog. It is so amazingly helpful. Especially this post, although all of the information is so overwhelming it is fantastic that you've put everything together in one post. Thank you so much!

  2. This is a great post of how you use different blogs to teach a certain area. I stumbled on My Montessori Journey last summer too, and used her Red/Yellow/Blue series instead. I found it much more manageable for the children, especially since I generally only have students until they are ready for Kindy, and rarely get past the traditional pink series anyway. But using this system, I actually had more readers at the end of the year than usual. So I'll definitely be keeping it!

  3. Wow! Thanks for the shout-out for my Montessori blog. You have done an amazing amount of research. I'm looking forward to adding some of your links to my Google reader soon. Thanks again!

  4. I love your blog. I enjoy seeing the different ways different homeschooling families use montessori, especially posts like this where it all comes together.

    My Montessori Journey also helped me "decode" Montessori when I discovered it. It is nice to see in detail how Montessori works in the classroom as well.

  5. Hola!! Gracias por tu agradable y carinosa Bienvenida!! Gracias por visitarme y por poner mi link en tu blog... Que "by the way" ME ENCANTA!! Todo muy organizadito!! y MUchas y ideas y actividades!! Gracias de nuevo y gracias por compartir tan ESPECTACULAR trabajo!! encantó y sorprendió tus preciosos comentarios EN ESPANOL!!! en mi blog.!!

    Gracias y muchas gracias!!

  6. Karen

    ¡El gusto es mío! Soy feliz que usted podría entender. Mi español es un poquito oxidado. No puedo decir que todo que quiero decir. (For example, something feels really wrong with that sentence.) Tengo que escoger con cuidado. Muchas gracias por los elogios, significan mucho.

  7. Andie,

    THANK YOU! I have been inwardly wondering which system someone who has tried both would choose.

  8. Hello!! I saw my blog on your list and I'm honoured because we're on your list!! Esta lección de lenguaje esta ESPECTACULAR!! MUCHAS MUCHAS GRACIAS!! POR COMPARTIRLA CON NOSOTROS!!!

    A PROPOSITO, I gave you an award on my blog, Because I love yours!!!