This is a very common question that has haunted many a parents’ mind. Let me take you through what is done in Montessori schools to answer this question.
Montessori curriculum requires teachers to observe the child and present lessons to them when the child is ready. This means teachers know well about each child. Each lesson is tailor made to the child and specially monitored by the teacher. I also think it takes a special person to become a Montessori teacher. Having said this, let me walk through the process of how a child learns to write at our school
When the child enters a Montessori house of children, she is made comfortable to settle down and start her exploration. There are various materials that kindle her sense of exploration and imagination. One cannot achieve the skill to write unless she has a specific set of gross motor skill, fine motor skills that are adequately developed. Such development cannot be thrust on a child. So the Montessori environment provides opportunities (materials to work with) to promote development of muscles in the hands. Each material opens itself to a wide spectrum of knowledge. For example: These are called the Cylinder blocks.
- It helps to develop pincer grip (Fine motor Skill)
- Develops skill of carrying it from the shelf (Gross motor skill)
- Concept of cylinder, round
- Big to small/ thick to thin/ Varying Depth etc.
Here are a few more examples of such activities that are presented to the child to first develop her physical abilities.
- Ability to transfer grains – collecting small grains like rajma provides opportunity for our child to develop her grip
- Transferring liquids gives them control over the motion of their hands. Ability to pick items with fingers/ tongs achieves the same.
- Playing with dough, play dough to hone their muscles in their hands .
- Peck board puzzles with animals, fruits, parts of the body etc.
Once we are on the road to fine motor skill development, we move on simultaneously to other activities like sand paper letters/ numbers which helps the child to identify the sounds instead of the alphabet names. This material is both sensorial and tactile, which encourages learning through touch. These letters/numbers are traced with 2 fingers to promote muscle memory of the letter written and later this same concept is extended to paper and pencil.
Why sounds ..and why not the names of the letter ?
This prepares them for reading. Simultaneously, there are story reading sessions to promote the habit to reading & listening.
We do a great deal of art with paint and coloring work with that makes them glide their fingers through paint and make patterns. And activities
- Pattern painting using brush, sponge, vegetables prints , fruits prints , etc .
- They also do a great deal of colouring and drawing that trains their hands and fingers to hold and make controlled movements of writing.
- Sticking a variety of things with glue gives them great hand eye co-ordination 7 improves their concentration.
- Activities like tearing, rolling the paper into tubes/ balls are all part of the opportunities provided to develop their skills
Then children are presented with a tray of sand to trace letters too. Once they are ready, they are made to write letters/ alphabets on a board/ slate. Later a paper and pencil is presented to them to write.
Writing without writing – This is a unique method in Montessori schooling .
It starts with Naming of objects using The Three part matching card system.
Here children begin by starting to identify & match words to their images. They start with smaller 3 letter words and move ahead. The Three part matching card system is very effective for children to learn. The child traces these words arranging the letters or copies the names of the objects using the letters.Worksheets of drawing / colouring are also done on the same topic to
Then they start with Writing with the Moveable Alphabet.
When a child is spelling out words with letters, she can write them. A box of letters are provided to them and they assemble to form words and eventually simple sentences.
This method of learning a language can be extended to any language
I’ve just given a small view of what goes on in our school and how opportunities are provided to develop writing skill. We have adapted our ways to suit the need of children who pass out of our Montessori school to continue further education in a regular schools where they are expected to write. To answer the question “When will my child begin to write?” . When he/she is ready the magic just happens. Until then just provide the necessary opportunity to develop their skills.