Here, we'll discuss the Montessori method of teaching, the Montessori language curriculum, how Montessori schools approach phonics.
The Montessori method is an approach to teaching first developed in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori. Her approach has been widely influential and is practised in schools all over the world.
There are several elements of teaching encouraged by the Montessori approach – there’s a focus on student freedom and independence (within certain parameters), and a model where students learn through discovery rather than being directly taught answers by rote.
She felt that children learn most effectively when they are self-motivated and independent, and that this has an influence in their later life as it inspires confidence and future achievements.
With a focus on child-led activities and classrooms with children of various ages, Montessori believed that children are more likely to learn effectively if they are given independence and choice around what they learn. This makes it quite different from teaching you might be used to.
For example, many Montessori schools would have teachers moving between groups rather than teaching the whole class in one go. There’s also a reluctance to use standard grading systems, and instead focus on a students’ holistic development. This means looking at their social, emotional and physical development, as all these processes tie into each other.
The Montessori Method of Teaching Phonics
In Montessori classrooms, learning is less strictly instructed and children are encouraged to learn through discovery. When it comes to teaching reading, the Montessori language curriculum focus strongly on the phonics foundation of learning, where children are taught to read through the recognition of sounds that make up words.
Children are first taught to recognise the sounds of individual letters, before being encouraged to blend these sounds together to form full words. This is a more discovery-led approach than the more traditional method of memorising lists of words.
Montessori’s approach to reading is heavily rooted in phonics teaching, and this phonics is taught with an emphasis on a sensory-led approach. For example, students might be encouraged to trace letters in varying materials, to promote a sensory form of learning and improve their fine motor skills. This is thought to aid their overall phonics learning and development of reading skills.
The Montessori approach to phonics treats phonics as an ingrained part of learning to read and write. She felt that children should learn to write before learning to read, since in doing so, children write words repeatedly, and process the word more slowly through writing than through reading.
This is useful for helping students to remember the correct formations of letters that make up words and helping to remember the words as a whole, which then helps with their reading. Montessori felt that writing was a great help in preparing children for reading – it makes learning to read as simple and natural as possible.
When to use the Montessori Method of Teaching Phonics
Montessori felt that the best time to teach phonics is early childhood, where children’s minds are at their most absorbent and ready for learning. She also emphasised that children have ‘sensitive periods’ where they might be ready to take in information and learn most effectively, so learning and development should be encouraged during these sensitive periods.
The Montessori method suggests that children learn most effectively between birth and around six years old. This is when information can be absorbed most readily and easily, due to the rapid development children go through during these years.
From birth to the age of three years old, children absorb lots of information unconsciously. From the age of three, they begin a conscious phase of learning, and can start to seek out learning and development themselves – Montessori encourages this and thinks children learn most effectively when they do so of their own accord.
Phonics is best taught at around 4 to 5 years old, where children are going through their sensitive period regarding speaking, reading and writing.