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A child begins his or her lifelong education in Language from birth – from the first words heard to their first sounds uttered, the infant observes and absorbs an abundance of information. The infant strives to communicate – to express his or her thoughts and adapt to the culture and community he or she is now part of. The child’s first and most critical teachers in language are his or her immediate family members. It is crucial for the child to be surrounded by rich language – a varied vocabulary, and the appropriate terminology and phrases for numerous day to day situations.
The meticulously constructed and interconnected Montessori curriculum prepares for the writing and reading the second the child enters his or her Casa. The curriculum area of Practical Life fosters the mental and physical links necessary for “[framing] the words,” as Dr. Montessori said:
“Not only does he create his language, but he shapes the organs that enable him to frame the words. He has to make the physical basis of every moment, all the elements of our intellect, everything the human being is blessed with.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 22)
Preliminary exercises in the Practical Life area, for example, such as Using a Screwdriver and Spooning promote order, a left to right progression and aid in the strengthening of the child’s fine motor skills. Additionally, vocabulary is provided for items within the classroom and in the appropriate social situations.
Activities in the Sensorial curriculum area such as the Cylinder blocks, Geometry Cabinet and Animal puzzles also promote the use of the pincer grip – the proper way to hold writing materials – in addition to vocabulary.
Direct language education begins with the identification of the various sounds within a word – isolating the beginning, middle and ending sounds through various sound games. Once the child is able to identify and hear these sounds, the corresponding symbol is introduced in the form of sandpaper letters. Once the child is able to identify the symbol that corresponds to each sound, the child begins building words using a combination of letters. The child is now writing. The child then moves on to interpreting the written word in the form of a teacher writing words for him or her, and finally reading the words printed on labels and on paper.
The child begins with phonetic words and continues on to phonograms – sound blends, and puzzle/sight words.
Reading the written word is the greatest triumph of civilization. (Chapter 17, “Reading”: The Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori.)
Here are a few things you can do at home to help your child’s language development: