I'm really excited about introducing sandpaper letters to Bear! They are such a classic and beautiful Montessori material. I bought these sandpaper letters a long time ago and have been waiting patiently for the right time to introduce them to Bear.
I started by learning about the sandpaper letters myself. I have found lots of helpful information from Montessori Read and Write, montessoriworld.org and montessoriforeveryone.com. Despite reading and reading and reading I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what there is to know. I still feel quite unprepared to teach this boy!
However I am prepared to keep learning along the way!!
Next I choose a time and place to present the sandpaper letters to Bear. This area is usually where Fox's toys are kept. When Fox goes down for a sleep after lunch I pack a few things away to make space. Bear stays up with me for another hour or so before he has a nap too. We get this hour long window on the 4 days when I'm not at work. I've been getting out the sandpaper letters 1 or 2 days per week in this time.
This has become a special time for me and Bear. It is far enough away from Fox that we can chat without waking him. Bear gets to enjoy some exclusive attention which is lovely for both of us. It is not a perfect time for Montessori because he is usually tired from a busy morning and sometimes he is just not interested. Sometimes I'm just not interested either. But sometimes it works and it's perfect.
The space has become special too. It is transformed into a Bear's very own Montessori preschool. Bear doesn't use this space much at other times during the day so getting out these special materials makes it just for him and gives the materials a very special quality. He is free in this space to choose what he does. I don't put any pressure on him to sit with me if that's not what he's ready for.
The actual lesson has been the hardest part - for me because it requires knowing how to present it and for Bear because he has to submit to being taught. Montessori materials are not allowed to be used unless the child has received a lesson. The materials are to be used in a specific way. The teacher needs to show the child how.
Bear has submitted to lessons (much to my surprise, relief, gratitude, and pride!). He has submitted because these materials are so special. Because this time is for the two of us to spend together. Because he is so interested in sounds and letters right at the moment. Because he can't help but touch them!
Once he has submitted to a lesson he is free to use them as much or as little as he likes.
I have lured Bear to have a lesson by choosing 3 letters, sitting at his table with them and tracing them myself with great interest. He has come to investigate straight away each time.
The 3 letters are contrasting in shape and sound. I have selected from the sounds he can say (m, n, h, ng, w, d, y, b, a, e, i, o, u) or the sound he is working on. I will include phonograms too but they are yet to arrive in the mail.
While Bear watches I trace the letter as it is written saying the phonetic sound 'buh this is buh'. Once he has watched he is invited to have a turn 'Would you like to trace buh.' Then move on to the 2nd and 3rd letters. Once he has traced each of them we move on to the 2nd period 'can you show me buh?' and the 3rd period which one is this. We don't often reach the 3rd period.
The next time we play it is with 3 new letters regardless of Bear's progress with the 3 introduced last time. The ones he hasn't mastered will come back out again soon enough.
At the beginning Bear snatched the letters from me. I explained that they are not for snatching they are for tracing and had to pack them away (much to his fury). Once that lesson was learned he would insist on tracing them upside down. I explained that they are not to go upside down they are to go the right way up and had to pack them away again (more fury). Since accepting that there are rules to this game he has chosen to play over and over again.
Once Bear has had a lesson with a sound it can go on the shelf for him to choose freely. At the moment they are only displayed when Fox is asleep. Some fit on this book shelf. Others go in the beautiful wooden storage boxes that they came in on the shelf. Bear loves to sort through them one by one and make a big pile of them. He loves to point out their different features - this one has a tail, this one is the cross where Jesus died, this one is an aeroplane, this one is mmm for mcdonalds.
He has been quick to pick up their sounds but is still very clumsy tracing them. But there's no hurry - he has 3 years to explore these materials.
One aspect of Bear's speech homework is sssound ssstimulation. Which involves sssubtly sssurrounding him with a sssertain sssound. It's quite fun!
I was given a little book of games, nursery rhymes and book lists for each of the sounds we want to target for Bear. They're a starting point but we're really only limited by our own creativity. We can play whatever games we like!
We choose a new sound each fortnight with the speech pathologist. Our first sound is 'sss'!
We play with trains:
signal, sign, stop, diesel, steam, piston, smoke, ambulance, siren, race car, bus, crossing, fast, whistle, street, city
We play Simon Says:
stand, sit, sleep, sing, stamp, salute, sigh, kiss, dress, saw, snuggle, splash, stumble, sneeze, smile, sweep
stir, sift, pass, slice, spoon, sauce, sink, stove, glass, soup, salt, salad, cereal, sandwich, spread, snack, lettuce, sip, spaghetti, scoop, cinnamon, sprinkles, hundreds and thousands, sausages, spatula, pasta
silently, whispering, sleeping, snore, soundly, surprise, softly, stumble, stepping, scare, startle
We play outside:
sand, sandpit, seesaw, slippery-dip, slide, sun, spade, snail, straw, secateurs, seed, sprout, scoop, spider, insect, fast, race, grass, swing and sing...
See saw Marjorie Daw
The insy winsy spider
... and we sing some more...
Sing a song of sixpence,
We work on speech on the days when I'm at home with the boys, which is 4 days per week. I try to pick 2 or 3 times during the day to focus on the sound. It has to be natural and spontaneous then it can be fun. For example if Bear chooses to sit and play with trains I join him and use as many sss words as I can naturally fit into our play. Giving the sss a little extra emphasis. I don't encourage Bear to copy or say the words himself. If he chooses to that's great!! Otherwise if Bear says a word incorrectly I repeat the word back to him in a sentence as part of conversation without directly correcting him (recasting).
We might only play like this for a few minutes at a time or longer if he's happy. We move on when one of us gets bored of the game or interested in something else. The rest of the day we speak normally.
Within this context of strong focus on sounds I have started to introduce sandpaper letters - starting with 's'. But I'll share more about that next time :)
I recently posted about Bear's newly recognised speech issues.
I've been thinking and researching a lot about how to progress from here.
As always time is precious and my ambitions tend to make me feel overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty. So I have started by thinking carefully through my goals.
I want Bear to know that he has valuable ideas that are worth expressing
I want to help him to communicate clearly to others
To teach Bear to say all the normal speech sounds
Tempting but not essential Goal:
Teaching bear to read and write following Montessori methods
This is what I've come up with:
1. Identify his strengths and weaknesses
- Bear can say these sounds: m, n, h, ng, w, d, y, b, a, e, i, o, u
- his language and vocabulary are good for his age
- he is patient with me when he is trying to communicate
- he is quick to learn new concepts and skills
- he is independent and tries to correct himself
- Bear can't say these sounds: p, t, g, k, f, l, sh, ch, s, z, j, r, v, th
- he refuses to undertake a challenge if he thinks he will fail
- he hates to be told what to do or how to do things
2. Proceed with modified Montessori games and activities
The sound games using sounds Bear can say (listed above)
Bear was struggling to play the sound game because there were so many sounds he wasn't recognising. It was too hard for him so he wasn't engaging with it. There are lots of sounds he does say and when I play using those sounds he succeeds much more often and engages much more successfully.
It takes a lot more careful planning to find objects that start with his sounds! I'm having to stretch my brain and hunt around the house for things like 'y' - 'ute', 'I' - 'Izzy', 'n' - 'knife', 'e' - 'aeroplane' or 'u' - 'undies'. It's so much more time consuming than taking a tray of something off the shelf and just getting starting.
I think it is worth the effort to keep playing. My hope is that by increasing his awareness of the sounds in words he will be better equipped to correct his own speech.
I bought the sandpaper letters a long time ago and I have been waiting patiently for Bear to succeed with the sound games before starting with them. It feels like that day might never come! So I am not going to wait until Bear has mastered the sound game. I am going to start gradually introducing sandpaper letters with sounds he knows or is working on. It makes a lot of sense to use the visual and motor aspect of the sandpaper letters to reinforce the sounds we are trying to call his attention to.
There are a lot of other less direct Montessori activities and material that sit in the domain of "language". There is also the sensorial materials which build a robust foundation for these complex skills. I am gradually trying to make these available for Bear as well. I'll post about them as I get to them because I think they are fascinating and lots of fun.
3. Work with the speech pathologist to increase his sounds
We're seeing the speech pathologist fortnightly for half-an-hour and working on homework between visits.
My important homework is to talk and listen to Bear and "recast" words that he says incorrectly. Recasting simply means using the incorrect word in conversation back to Bear as much as possible. For example:
Bear: Look at that big 'ain
Me: Wow that is a big train. It's a huge train. It's like your toy train at home.
We also practice saying a set list of words a set number of times a day. We play games with it - collecting buttons for each word, or looking at funny pictures of the words, a puzzle piece for a word... There is no right or wrong. I'm not supposed to correct him. The objective is exposure and practise. I can see the benefit of that regular time already. He is listening carefully and trying sounds out in ways he hasn't before.
I always have an alarm ringing in the back of my head saying: "don't make it tedious!", "keep it fun!", "watch him carefully!". I feel so nervous about pushing him too hard. I know if I push him too hard he'll flatly refuse to play at all!!
He is definitely in the sensitive period for language because he is participating so willingly. I am quite used to receiving a firm "NO!" from him - but thankfully that hasn't yet. He is actually asking me to play these games with him.
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.