Early Literacy in the Montessori Classroom

The term early literacy may seem like a buzzword in education. Even though you may see it repeatedly on every daycare blog, article or book, this does not mean it is just a trendy early childhood activity.

Language development starts early on, making an early foundation for reading and writing a necessary part of the young child’s education. Unlike traditional preschools, Montessori does not approach literacy with a rote, memorize, and repeat type of standard.

What does early literacy look like in the Montessori early childhood classroom? Between the materials that your child will use and the guidance that the educator provides, literacy lessons take on a whole new meaning. If reading and writing are top priorities with your child’s early education, learn what Montessori can do for them.


Instead of focusing on the letters themselves, Montessori’s literacy activities start with the sounds. Literacy instruction in a traditional classroom will begin by introducing capital letters, one by one. While the educator will associate the sound with the letter, the educator often does this after the child memorizes the shape or appearance of it.

The letter name rarely makes the specific sound that you would hear in a word. A D in dog does not make a dee sound — it makes a da sound. Understanding the sounds over the letter names can help the child to better understand how words work.

This type of learning may take the form of a game, such as a search for sounds (not the letter) in the classroom. As the child builds the ability to put the individual sounds together, they are able to make words and, eventually, sentences.

Writing and Reading

The traditional method of literacy instruction is largely based on a reading, followed by writing, model. Children learn letters, memorize sight words, and then make marks on paper.

The Montessori method for literacy learning differs from a reading before writing model. The idea of waiting until the child can read before starting to write is not part of the Montessori classroom’s structure. Instead, children begin writing as they learn about language.

Keep in mind, physically writing letters takes a complex set of motor skills that a toddler or preschooler may not be able to master — yet. That does not mean the young child has to wait to start literacy activities. Montessori materials, such as the Montessori Moveable Alphabet, provide children with a way to write words before they can create legible lines on paper.

Sensory Education

Montessori education focuses heavily on learning through the senses. Along with the Moveable Alphabet, sandpaper letters offer a way for the young child to develop literacy skills in the pre-k classroom. The child can write the sounds that they hear, using the textured material. This allows the child to engage in sensory exploration as they build communication skills, making the experience inviting, exciting, and engaging.

Physical Development Activities

Again, the ability to write requires a complex set of physical skills. The child must be able to grip the writing tool, coordinate their eye and hand movements, manipulate the tool, and use their hand/finger strength.

Activities that encourage the development of fine motor skills (such as painting or building with blocks) can help the child to become a more competent writer. Even though you may not associate fine motor skill-building directly with literacy, without this ability your child could not adequately hold or manipulate a writing tool.

Do you want a new educational environment that will help your child to grow and develop as a whole person? Contact Miniapple International Montessori Schools today for more information about our programs.


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