Reading - Montessori Nuggets on the Process

Learning to read should be a joy, not a chore. When children learn during the primary windows of opportunity (ages 3 1/2-5 1/2 or 7-9, though it can happen in between and after as well), the process goes much more smoothly.

Some tidbits to help the process along:

  • writing precedes reading - it's just easier to put your own thoughts down with the sounds you know, than to interpret someone else's thoughts that you have to construct in your mind without perhaps being in the right "mindset" at the time. When a child has a reason to write, he will do it - have lots of life experiences so there are things to write about, introduce card-making and journaling with pictures - the writing will come. Then the child becomes interested in what others have written......
  • the sounds help us to read, not the names of the letters - the names of the letters help us to tell someone else how to spell; they don't even help us to alphabetize! 
  • children read silently until they are at least 7 - let them formulate what the words say, in their entirety (the entire passage, the entire phrase, the entire word)
  • begin with commands - write out commands for the child to perform - make it a FUN GAME: you know they got it "right" because they'll obey the words as they read them. A first one might be "kiss mama" - a later one might be "share candy with sister"
  • match labels with pictures/symbols/objects - then they check their work with already-labeled cards
  • Adult read-aloud - allows the child to hear things again and again, shows pronunciation of words, inflection, voice tones, etc. 
  • All of this focuses on comprehension - whole reading
  • children read-aloud below the child's reading level - a 7 year old reading at a middle school reading comprehension may only be able to read-aloud a "2nd grade" book. That is OKAY! An idea: think of "reading levels" in books as what a child should be able to comfortably read-aloud at that typical age - but reading aloud only after they have moved on in silent reading. 
  • Minimize technology - in normally developing children, technology is a hindrance. It breeds the idea that it is easier to do it this way, therefore why bother doing the perceived "hard way". A small selection of books on tape/CD are fine (and can be GREAT!) when properly balanced with other experiences; but that's it. The adult (parent or teacher) should be interacting with the child during read-alouds as well. 
  • Read with a purpose - whether it be entertainment, cooking, science experiments - but have the things the children read that are required by you or the local educational standards mean something to you and to them. Dick and Jane are cute from an adult nostalgic perspective. Not so with the little ones! 
  • Trust that your child can read. - when our trust fails, theirs fails. Let them know they CAN do it and provide them opportunities to do so. Especially boys - they need a purpose and they need complete faith from those around them. If a book is too hard and you don't have time to tell them every word, let them know: You may read this book, but I will only help you at the end of the chapter with what you were not able to figure out. It is *amazing* what they figure out when they are not allowed to use a crutch, yet know that help is available if/when they do need it. 
  • Tiny blips throughout the day - 4-8 5-minute blips of reading practice are worth far more than 1 30-minute block each day. This one most especially applies to all learners, particular those not in the "windows of opportunity". 3-5 minutes before breakfast; after morning chores; mid-morning; before or after lunch; mid-afternoon; late afternoon; just before evening chores. Even 2-4 minutes. 
And all of that can be done without a curriculum! However, I know - something of a guide is so much easier for the adults to follow and ensure the foundation is laid, especially an easy-to-follow Montessori sequence that doesn't involve re-inventing the wheel with materials and colored sequences! 

Keys of the World will soon be offering such an option. In the meantime, you may contact me for ideas on resources to use for your particular situation. Or visit this post on my personal blog for ideas.

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