Last month I shared how I made a set of Montessori inspired sandpaper letters. If you're not familiar with Montessori or sandpaper letters you might be wondering how to use these teaching materials. After a lot of reading on Montessori methods and a little trial and error I figured out how to use these materials to teach my preschooler letter sounds and letter formations. Here's what we did:
Each time I introduced new letters, I picked 3 at a time that looked and/or sounded different from each other. On this particular day we worked on letters i, b and v. I also set-up some salt on one side of a baking sheet (sand works great too).
Before showing my preschooler the letters, we played I Spy. I looked around the room for an object that began with one of the letters we were working on. We always played this games using the letter sounds not the letter names. I said, "I spy something in the room that starts with the "i" sound." Then my preschooler tried to guess what object I was thinking of. If I couldn't easily find something in the room that started with the sound we were working on (the i sound was a tricky one) then I would quickly alter the game. For example in the case of letter i, I itched the side of my face and asked, "What am doing that starts with the "i" sound?" After she figured out the I spy object or action I said, "Now let me show you what the sound "i" looks like?" Then I placed the sandpaper letter in front of my preschooler.
Next I went through the stages of a Montessori 3 part lesson.
Stage 1: I modeled how to say the letter sound while tracing the sandpaper letter at the same time. Then my preschooler practiced tracing the letter and saying the sound a few times. If she was able to trace the sandpaper letter in the correct direction, then I modeled how to trace the sandpaper letter in the salt. Next she traced over my letter in the salt, then wrote her own letter in the salt. If she showed confusion on how to trace the sandpaper letter, I didn't have her trace it in the salt because I didn't want her to practice writing something incorrectly. Bad habits in writing are hard to break! After finishing one letter, we played I Spy and practiced tracing the other two letters.
Stage 2: Next I put all three sandpaper letters in front of my preschooler. I asked her to point to a specific letter, naming its sound. I said, "Please show me the "i" sound." After she pointed to the correct letter I had her trace it again and if she correctly traced it on the sandpaper I had her write it in the salt. We repeated this activity for all three letters.
Stage 3: For the last step I turned all three cards upside down and asked my preschooler to pick one. She liked this part of the activity best, calling it the Mystery Letter Game. After she turned over a card I asked, "What sound does this letter make?" If she was able to correctly tell me the sound I had her trace the letter again and proceed to writing it in the salt. If she was unable to to tell me the sound I simply told her the sound and had her trace it while saying the sound a couple times.
I am so glad I discovered Montessori! Using sandpaper letters was an fun, multisensory way for my preschooler to prepare for reading and writing. Next week I'll introduce my daughter to the our Montessori inspired moveable alphabet (another DIY project!)! My preschooler is eager to start writing words and I am equally excited to teach her!