Pathway to reading and writing

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On my quest to learn more about the Montessori method I have just read the booklet ‘A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading’ by Muriel Dwyer.  I would really recommend it to anyone for a short, clear and concise guide to the steps required to acquire the mechanics of reading and writing. I have always found language and literacy resources rather confusing and muddled, clearly not helped by the policy changes along the way but as I keep discovering Montessori ideas seem to withstand the test of time.  I also especially love that her theories were developed and refined upon observations of children.

As is the way with the Montessoi approach it is not about ‘teaching’ the child but instead about the child exploring for themselves via a ‘prepared environment’ – think ‘strewing’ but in a planned , logical kind of sequence that corresponds with the child’s interest or ‘sensitive periods’ for exploring and learning about certain things.  Montessori discovered by observation that the child has a sensitive period for language development from birth through to about six years.  

In short the book details the steps from:

1) Language awareness including building vocabulary, talking, singing, naming things, stories and poems.  Then onto develop sound awareness via I spy games exploring not just initial sounds but middle and final sounds too.  

2) Graphic symbols, this involves learning what the 26 single sounds of the alphabet look like and includes learning 14 sounds which contain 2 letters such as ‘sh’ and ‘ch’.  Sandpaper letters are the traditional aid at this point with the child tracing the letters with their fingers.

3) Creation of words building up to phrases, sentences and even short stories using the aid of a moveable alphabet.

4) Beginning Reading which consists of object boxes – matching written words to objects, activity word games – reading and acting the word, i.e clap, wink. Next learning puzzle words, those that are not spelt phonetically such as ‘the’.  Finally reading short stories/ books.

5) Folders for alternative spellings of sounds.  This consists of 13 folders and the demonstrate alternative spellings for sounds i.e the sound ‘er’ can also be written ‘ir’ ‘ur’.  

I would recommend this booklet whether you are interested in the Montessori approach or not.  I purchased mine from The Montessori Society AMI (UK) for £6 plus p&p.  

My other recommendation is Toe by Toe, there are no bells or whistles with this and at first glance it looks pretty torturous.  It is fairly substantial and requires you to work page at a time gaining three ticks in a row gained on separate days before moving on.  It begins with the letter sounds and moves on through blends, cvc words up to sentences and paragraphs.  It is very useful for highlighting the areas the child finds difficult and gaps in knowledge become evident quickly.  All three of my biggies have used or are still using it and have quite enjoyed its simplistic approach and the evidence of their progress.  They have all been happy and willing to work through it which is a plus point of its own!  

Have you discovered any books or resources that you have found really useful recently?  I’d love to hear about them!

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