The Montessori classroom is a “language rich” environment that fosters the development of vocabulary, communication skills, writing and reading. Students then move on to composing words, sentences, and stories so the process of learning to read is seamless and exciting. Skills gained in Practical Life and Sensorial work help prepare the child for writing and reading. Each work in the classroom encourages the use of the three-finger grip necessary to hold a pencil; the children are given many opportunities to perfect fine-motor control needed for precise handwriting.
The sensitive period for language begins at birth and lasts through age five, with the most intense years naturally occurring between ages two and five. Children in a Montessori classroom begin by engaging in games of “I spy” and memory games to build vocabulary and to hone in on visual and perceptual abilities. Eventually students move on to sandpaper letters, in which they become familiar with letters by tracing the sandpaper shape with the first two fingers of the right hand. The child’s mind absorbs the shape through the hand, which will ultimately deliver the image. In other areas of the classroom, children engage with tracing, then filling in metal inset shapes, an activity that also develops the eye-hand coordination necessary to correctly grasp a pencil. Ultimately the child will be introduced to the moveable alphabet – in which he or she constructs words without writing. During these activities, the child’s imagination and creativity are also being fostered. Through this freedom and natural progression, each child individually displays a readiness for spontaneous writing.