Montessori: What Comes First?

In Montessori, when we follow the observations made by Maria Montessori and our own observations when we remove all culturally-imbedded bias, we discover some interesting things:

Writing come first. Followed by a discovery of reading. 

The adult provides the keys to writing, the child discovers he can read; the teacher has done less work, the child has found greater joy.

Cursive comes first. Following by a discovery of the ability to read and write in any writing style. 

The adult provides the keys to writing in cursive. The child discovers he can read anything in print and can replicate it when he needs to. The teacher again has done less work, the child has found greater joy in all the discoveries of the world around him.

Maria Montessori herself on writing, reading and cursive: 

Source: The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori pages 300-302

Coming into the school one day, I found that the directress had allowed the children to take the tables and chairs out upon the terrace, and was having school in the open air. A number of little ones were playing in the sun, while others were seated in a circle about the tables containing the sandpaper letters and the movable alphabet. 
A little apart sat the directress, holding upon her lap [Page 301]  a long narrow box full of written slips, and all along the edge of her box were little hands, fishing for the beloved cards. "You may not believe me," said the directress, "but it is more than an hour since we began this, and they are not satisfied yet!" We tried the experiment of bringing balls, and dolls to the children, but without result; such futilities had no power beside the joys of knowledge. 

Seeing these surprising results, I had already thought of testing the children with print, and had suggested that the directress print the word under the written word upon a number of slips. But the children forestalled us! There was in the hall a calendar upon which many of the words were printed in clear type, while others were done in Gothic characters. In their mania for reading the children began to look at this calendar, and, to my inexpressible amazement, read not only the print, but the Gothic script.
There therefore remained nothing but the presentation of a book, and I did not feel that any of those available were suited to our method. 
The mothers soon had proofs of the progress of their children; finding in the pockets of some of them little slips of paper upon which were written rough notes of marketing done; bread, salt, etc. Our children were making lists of the marketing they did for their mothers! Other mothers told us that their children no longer ran through the streets, but stopped to read the signs over the shops. 
A four-year-old boy, educated in a private house by the same method, surprised us in the following way. The child's father was a Deputy, and received many letters. He knew that his son had for two months been taught by means of exercises apt to facilitate the learning of read- [Page 302]  ing and writing, but he had paid slight attention to it, and, indeed, put little faith in the method. One day as he sat reading, with the boy playing near, a servant entered, and placed upon the table a large number of letters that had just arrived. The little boy turned his attention to these, and holding up each letter read aloud the address. To his father this seemed a veritable miracle. 
As to the average time required for learning to read and write, experience would seem to show that, starting from the moment in which the child writes, the passage from such an inferior stage of the graphic language to the superior state of reading averages a fortnight. Security in reading is, however, arrived at much more slowly than perfection in writing. In the greater majority of cases the child who writes beautifully, still reads rather poorly.

A fortnight! Two WEEKS!?

Yes, it still happens today. But it happens when we give the children a strong foundation in aural awareness, then all the sandpaper letters (single letters and multi-letters) mixed together within 3-6 weeks, then they start writing with the movable alphabet (their OWN ideas) - and suddenly they are reading.


  1. So basically, what she is saying is that by providing cursive (or Gothic style, in her words) SPL and moveable alphabet, and letting them work through the sounds and then begin to write with the moveable alphabet, which transferred to writing with pencils on their own, they began to read?

    1. Gothic is a calligraphy-like print. She gave them cursive-cursive first ;)

      Yes, that is what she was saying.

    2. Oh, yes. I ask because I have gone slightly different routes teaching reading, but have recently acquired both SPL and MA and am curious to see how well things progress with my youngest and he gets more a foundation in Montessori methods before reading. With a child that is already through the beginning stages of reading, what would be the best way to begin incorporating the moveable alphabet? Basic spelling/word to picture matching or story telling first?

    3. Even if a child is already reading, I still start with the SPL as if we were at the beginning. Mostly because we are teaching "writing" with the SPL and MA - not reading directly. Of course, since reading skills are already there, we can proceed through faster; but the child still needs practice with strokes, building words with sounds, etc.

    4. Thank you! :) Hoping to also incorporate AAS with all of this :)

  2. Related Montessori Nugget will post June 1, 2015: