Overview of the Montessori Reading Program
- The Montessori reading curriculum has three essential conponents:
A strong foundation in phonics, comprehension based on visualization, and
whole language, or learning to read for meaning and using context clues.
- Montessori reading is based on a strong foundation of phonics. This
multi-sensory approach is unique in that it has children building words
(encoding) before actually reading them (decoding). Developmentally appropriate
activities allow children to build their own understanding of how sounds
are represented by symbols, and these symbols are joined together to form
- In the Montessori classroom, by the age of 4, children are developmentally
ready and eager to begin the preparation for reading. Along with learning
the sounds and tracing their symbols with the sandpaper letters, students
simultaneously learn to hold a pencil and control its use with the insets
- When children have learned the phonetic sounds, they are ready to begin
word building with the moveable alphabet. They begin by building to two
or three letter phonetic words (those in which all the letters make their
most common sound, like dog, pig, ram, bat, etc.). In order to allow the
children to work independently, they are given small phonetic objects which
represent the words they are to build. Later, pictures of phonetic words
can be introduced for variety and additional practice in word building.
- After the child has mastered two and three letter word building, he
or she can begin matching reading cards with the objects and later pictures,
and also begin working on building four or more letter phonetic words.
After these are mastered, the child can match four or more letter words
with corresponding objects and pictures, in a variety of formats.
- At this time the child can begin to read phonetic phrases and sentences,
and match them with pictures. Specially prepared phonetic books are then
- The key to comprehension is visualization, and in the Montessori approach
to reading, children have lots of practice developing this skill. Visualization
is an essential component of the grammar activities where an understanding
of the function of words is developed through the use of manipulative activities.
Working with these activities gives children further practice in reading
and comprehension through visualization.
- It is only after children have mastered the phonetic sounds of letters,
that they are introduced to the phonograms, sounds represented by combinations
of letters like "sh" and "ph", long vowel sounds, and
other less common pronunciations of letters. Once the teacher has introduced
a new sound, the children can work independently to master the sound in
- After mastering the phonograms, children's interest will lead them
to read any book they wish. We strive with young children to give them
beautifully illustrated books about the real world. There are also many
reading activities related to science, geography, history and many other
topics of special interest, as well as further experiential grammar activites,
which the children greatly enjoy.