“She Can’t Even Write Her Name”

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“You’re right, with a pencil, she is not yet writing her name. She writes it regularly with the Large Moveable Alphabet and has recently taken an interest in writing some letters on the chalkboard. It is a process; it will come”.

When I studied to become a Montessori Teacher, I was instilled with the idea of having faith in the children, faith that they will educate themselves, given the right “keys” at the right times. That is what I learned to do, present the children with the materials at the right time, when they are in the Sensitive Period. Sensitive Periods are like “Windows of Opportunity”, a time when new stimuli or skills can simply be absorbed by the child, rather than taught or drilled. My job is to observe the children and offer those keys as needed. I do not teach per se, I rather assist the children in gaining mastery of the environment prepared especially for them. I demonstrate the correct process in using the Montessori materials; the presentations are brief and efficient. I give just enough information to intrigue them so that they will later return to investigate and explore. This is when the true learning takes place, when the children work and work, repeating the activity until they master a new skill or concept.

From time to time, I hear a comment from parents who are concerned that their child is not yet reading or writing their name. I will focus on learning to write in a Montessori Casa classroom. Just over three years ago, WMS opened its doors. One of our first students was Cameron; he was almost three years old, two and three quarters, he would proudly tell you. Like most children his age, he wanted to do things for himself, so I showed him how to button buttons and zip zippers, he learned to wash windows and spoon beans, transferring them from one bowl to the next. These Practical Life materials helped him become more independent, while building up muscles in his little hands. The coordination of movement developed through the Practical Life activities provided him with a strong foundation for writing. He developed the stamina of his hand, the flexibility of his wrist and the development of his pincer grip for holding a writing instrument. His ability to concentrate and understand the work cycle grew. He became capable of independently choosing an activity and carrying it out to completion.

As the year went on, we played a lot of sound games, “I Spy” and some others; he needed to understand that words are made up of sounds before I showed him the letters, we never want to put the cart before the horse! We did some counting, worked on some numbers one to ten towards the end of his first year in Casa. He got into Sandpaper Letters as he approached three and a half and he loved to work with the puzzle maps, he had a ton of trips planned, all to tropical countries, I might add!

Year two, Cameron was 3 and three quarters and was well on his way through the Sandpaper Letters, he continued to strengthen his pincer grip through polishing, using the screwdriver and working with the Geometry Cabinet, amongst other activities. I showed him the Metal Insets, where he gained fluidity of wrist movement by tracing the shapes. He learned how to grip and guide the writing instrument and experienced
the effects of pressure on the pencil. Part way through the year, well after his fourth birthday, I introduced him to the chalkboard work. He was now tracing the Sandpaper Letters and Numbers, then writing them on the chalkboard. The children begin to write on the chalkboard in Montessori, then they move on to blank paper and lastly, lined paper.

‘It is necessary to find out at what age the mechanisms for writing are ready to be fixed, they will then be fixed naturally and without effort; and they will also be a source of pleasure and provide an increase of vital energy.’ Maria Montessori, ‘The Formation of Man’

He continued to practise working with the Sandpaper Letters, writing on a chalkboard, the Metal Insets and was introduced to the Large Moveable Alphabet. He used the wooden Alphabet to build words, initially three letter phonetic words such as cat, dog, hat, etc…

My young student started his final year of Casa when he was almost five. He was writing with the Large Moveable Alphabet daily and beginning to sound out words. One day, while we were working with the Large Moveable Alphabet, he said, “Lizzie, I’m going to write my name”. He slowly sounded out his name and retrieved the letters needed, all on his own. He then wrote several of his classmates’ names, as well as the names of his family members. As he had been practicing his writing on a chalkboard and had begun to write on paper, I observed that he was ready for a new challenge, writing on paper.

This young boy was in his final year of the Casa program and writing like mad. Everyday he wrote his planned activities in his work journal, he wrote a project about the Bahamas and he wrote adventure stories. He graduated from Westside last June and has moved into his first year of lower elementary at a Montessori School. I recently ran into his new teacher and she commented on how lovely his handwriting is!

In summation, all learning is a process and we need to have complete faith in the children; we give them the keys and leave them to open the doors.

October 15, 2011. Uncategorized. No Comments.