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What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom?

6 min read
North Star Montessori Student

Did you know that in Montessori classrooms the preparation for writing starts long before we ask the child to hold a pencil?  Learning to write in a Montessori Preschool & Kindergarten (Casa) classroom offers an important and enriching experience that lays a solid foundation for a child’s educational journey.  

The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century, is celebrated for its unique approach to learning and child development. Its effectiveness and continued popularity can be attributed to several key principles that distinguish it from more traditional educational models. This approach, rooted in the principles of self-directed activity and hands-on learning, emphasizes the development of the whole child.  Specifically, children are introduced to writing through a series of engaging, sensory-based activities designed to develop fine motor skills, enhance cognitive abilities, and foster a deep love for expressive communication.  

The indirect preparation in Montessori is a strategic approach that involves subtly guiding children towards more complex skills and understandings through activities that may not seem directly related at first glance.  This method is foundational in Montessori education, where early activities in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas lay the groundwork for later academic and life skills without the child being explicitly aware of these connections.

The Practical Life area in the Montessori Casa classroom plays a foundational role in the development of writing, as these life skill activities are indirectly designed to refine the motor skills necessary for the intricate task of holding and maneuvering a pencil.  These activities emphasize coordination, concentration, development of fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and left to right sequencing.  For example, the act of transferring objects with tongs mirrors the pincer grip used to hold a pencil, while using scissors strengthens the hand muscles crucial for writing. 

What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

The washing a table activity is presented to the child by showing them how to scrub from the left side of the table to the right, in small circular motions, mimicking the same direction and control needed for writing. 

By engaging in these tasks, children not only learn to control their movements with precision but also gain an understanding of sequence and order, laying a cognitive foundation for the structured process of writing.  Consequently, practical life activities do much more than teach everyday skills; they prepare the child’s hand and mind for the complexities of writing, making the transition to formal writing a natural and seamless progression.

In the Language area of the Montessori Casa classroom, the progression of writing begins with sensorial experiences.  The children are introduced to sandpaper letters where they trace cursive letters with their fingers, feeling the shape and flow of each letter. 

What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

This tactile experience helps in internalizing the form of each letter, linking the physical sensation of its shape with its phonetic sound.  Why do we start children with cursive letters before print in Montessori classrooms?  Learning cursive before print offers several unique benefits which include emphasizing the natural flow of writing with continuous hand movement (no lifting necessary), the left to right nature of forming each letter (preparation for reading), and that each letter is uniquely different (no b/d/p mix ups).

What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

After children have practiced tracing the sandpaper letters, they are introduced to writing on a chalkboard.  Practicing writing letters on a chalkboard before transitioning to pencil and paper is a thoughtful step that offers several benefits. 

This approach allows children to use larger arm movements, which can be more natural and less restrictive for young learners, helping to develop their motor skills and muscle memory in a more forgiving and easily correctable format.  The tactile feedback from the chalkboard and the physical motion required to write on it also enhance sensory integration and fine motor control.  Furthermore, this method reduces the pressure and frustration that can come with making mistakes on paper, as chalk can be easily erased, encouraging experimentation and practice without fear of imperfection. 

Once familiar with a good number of cursive letters, children use a moveable alphabet to form words and eventually sentences. 

What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

The moveable alphabet in Montessori serves as a dynamic tool for language exploration and literacy development.  Its purpose is to empower children to independently construct words, phrases, and sentences by arranging moveable letters, before they have fully mastered the fine motor skills required for handwriting.  Children sound out words phonetically, find the corresponding letters from the moveable alphabet box, and ‘write’ the words on the floor mat.  This is not a time for the teacher to correct the child’s spelling, as we want to encourage creativity, independent exploration, and self-correction.  This approach honours the child’s process of experimentation and discovery, allowing them to learn from their mistakes organically while maintaining a positive and supportive learning environment.

In Montessori, the final transition from using the chalkboards and moveable alphabet to writing on paper occurs gradually and naturally as the child’s fine motor skills and confidence in language development progress.  As the child’s proficiency increases, they begin to transition to writing simple phonetic words on blank paper, to using lines that decrease in height and width.  This represents the culmination of the child’s developmental journey, integrating the skills and experiences acquired through various preparatory activities as mentioned above.  By the time the child begins writing on paper, they have developed the cognitive, motor, and linguistic skills necessary to express themselves effectively in written form, reflecting the holistic approach to education that Montessori promotes.

There is a lot of thought and preparation that goes into the process of writing in the early years of Montessori, to develop the skills that result in an explosion of creative writing in the elementary years.  Through varying activities, sensorial experiences, and use of Montessori materials, children develop fine motor skills, phonemic awareness, and language proficiency in a natural and engaging manner.  By respecting each child’s unique pace and interests, Montessori empowers students to become proficient writers who are capable of expressing their thoughts and ideas with clarity and conviction.

What Is The Progression Of Writing In The Montessori Classroom? - BC Parent Newsmagazine

Thank you North Star Montessori, for creating this informative story for our readers. You can learn more about North Star Montessori’s early years and elementary school programs by visiting their website at www.northstarmontessori.ca.

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