Learning the Montessori Way: Writing

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Dinomite learned how to write while attending a private preschool for special needs children.  Bulldozer and Princess learned how to write at home from me, as part of our homeschooling journey.  Princess did pretty well as I taught her the way I had been taught, but  Bulldozer really struggled.  Nothing I tried worked for him, until I decided to teach him using the Montessori Method approach.

Like all Montessori processes, learning to write does not begin with the language curriculum.  It starts with practical life activities that prepare little hands, strengthening muscles and the pincer grasp.  Take the time to allow your children to develop these much needed skills.  To start the writing process before they are developed will only cause frustration and setbacks.  Bulldozer has always struggled with fine motor tasks.  Practical Life activities  made such a difference for him.  He loved the work.  The improvement in his hand coordination and muscle strength could not go unnoticed.  Once a child becomes successful with pre-writing focused practical life activities and has begun the process of learning letter sounds, it is appropriate to introduce writing.
There are only two original Montessori writing materials in the early language curriculum.  The first is called the metal insets.  This work is used to introduce the process of writing.  Visit the Montessori Primary Guide for step by step instructions, a video, and explanation of the process.  Since the metal insets are quite expensive and I do not have the space to store them, I purchased these Montessori Shapes made of plastic.  They work beautifully.  One might not think this work is important, but I assure you it's necessary.  There are so many skills learned as children trace shapes using the metal insets.  It's challenging.  My children love when I put this work on our shelves.

The Montessori Lower Case Cursive Sandpaper Letters is the other original Montessori writing material.

For those who prefer to use the Montessori Lower Case Sandpaper Letters in print, they are available as well.  The sandpaper letters are used to teach children the shape of each letter.  For specific instructions visit Living Montessori Now.

If you're teaching children how to write numbers, the Montessori Sandpaper Numbers are used.  No matter what sandpaper numbers or letters you're teaching, the process of going through this work is crucial to helping your child learn how to write.  I love that the letters are actually made of sandpaper.  The cards provide such a sensory experience for the child.  The control of error is the texture.  Right now Sunshine is working very hard to keep her fingers on the sandpaper.

Once a child is successful with the sandpaper letters the Montessori Sand Tray is introduced.  This is not an original Montessori material but is used in most Montessori schools.  Lowercase letters are taught first, a couple at a time.  Once again letters do not need to be introduced in any specific order, just remember that they should not look or sound alike.  Bulldozer could not have learned how to write, if it wasn't for the sand tray in the classroom.  Not only did he love the work, but it helped improve his fine motor skills.  We had so much fun changing our trays to different colored sand, scented salts, etc.  There is so much one can do to vary this activity if you find your child is becoming bored with it.
When the child can successfully write letters in the sand tray, a chalkboard is introduced for practice in most Montessori schools.  There is no specific chalkboard that you HAVE to have.  I recommend the Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chalk Dry Erase Board.  We love the Melissa & Doug Eraser and Chalk Bundle.  The chalk is dustless which is really nice.  For those who don't like using a chalkboard (like me), consider using the dry erase board on the back.  This is what we have done in our home.  I love Crayola Large Dry Erase Crayons for writing purposes.  The kiddos practice letters and words in cursive and print on a daily basis.
When your child is successful writing on the chalkboard or dry erase board with no lines, a CHALK BOARD with lines is most often introduced.
For those that would prefer dry erase boards, we use the Board Dudes Double Sided Dry Erase Lapboard.  I find that the board with lines helps the kiddos learn to control the size of each letter.  It also helps them perfect the shape of each letter.

Once writing tasks come easy using a lined chalkboard, plain white paper and Pencils are available for writing tasks in some Montessori schools.  I'm not one who likes a lot of loose paper laying around, so I recommend using the Mead Académie Spiral Sketchbook.  If a teacher feels no need to work with unlined paper, they may skip this step.  I know we did.

Finally writing using lined paper and pencil is introduced.  Like I've mentioned, I don't like loose papers around, so I choose to use the Mead Primary Composition Book for my children.  They call these books their journals and LOVE to go through them reading what they've written etc.  When Bulldozer was having a rough time with writing and becoming very frustrated, I was able to pull out his very first journal and show him how much he'd improved.  From that day forward he wrote with such confidence.

The process of writing takes time and can not be rushed.  Bulldozer has taken years to perfect the skill.  Remember to introduce only a couple of letters and/or numbers at a time otherwise the child will be overwhelmed, and you'll become frustrated with the learning process.  Learning to write occurs at the same time children are learning their numbers and letter sounds, once a teacher confirms the child is ready and has the proper skills to move forward.  If you'd like to refresh your memory on how children learn counting and numbers, be sure to visit my post:

If you need help remembering how letters and sounds are taught in Montessori schools, visit this post:

If you're looking for fine motor or practical life activities that improve writing skills, be sure to visit my Learn & Play Link Up Features this week.  They all offer so many fabulous ideas and variations to activities.

Welcome to the Learn & Play Link Up!!!
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  1. We use the same primary composition notebooks. I wish they made one for slight older children with a page that had the half picture/ half writing and the backside filled with lines; it would be a great in between journal for those kids who are still intimidated by all lines but need more room than just a few half pages.

  2. I love all of these! Montessori really takes the fear out of teaching language to a preschooler. We love our sand tray, it was one of the first activities that gave my son the confidence to start handwriting.

  3. I'm going to start presenting the metal insets to Little Bee. I'm excited! I love the Montessori approach for learning how to write.

  4. I just love the sand/salt writing tray!

  5. Nice post.Thank you so much for sharing this post.


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