Reading & Language Arts
All of the essential components of reading are taught in the Montessori program: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension.
Reading serves as a building block for the entire curriculum and is interwoven throughout all aspects of it, making reading a primary focus of the student’s activities. A specific 267 item Montessori Language Arts Scope and Sequence includes items such as phonetic sounds, phonetic writing and reading, irregular or sight words, phonograms and blends, which lead to fluent (total) reading. Journal keeping, creative writing, whole language, poetry and many other activities are also part of the program.
The Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program, approved and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, has named Montessori as a research-based program supported by reliable research and effective practices. Two applicable quotes are:
“Montessori students consistently outperform their peers in reading and math; even those who only attend Montessori preschool continue to outscore peers in reading and math.”
“Montessori magnet schools have a track record of having accomplished the goals of desegregation, parental choice, and student achievement. They typically rank in the upper one-third of the schools in their district on achievement test scores, and they usually reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of their communities.”
We have also attached evidence from the Montessori Public School Consortium which includes reading research statistics.
“Montessori achieves results. Magnet school test scores indicate a significant percentage of students scoring in the “high performance” category (77th through 99th percentiles) in vocabulary, reading, and math.”
In reference to the Montessori reading program and gifted students – “The methods used in Montessori schools are highly effective with both learning-disabled and gifted learners; the reason for their effectiveness, however, is that the learning environments have been designed to ensure success for all children.”
The Montessori Reading Curriculum is an enriching program for gifted students – the depth and breadth as well as the individualized nature of the Montessori curriculum ensures that the needs of gifted children will be met. Students in the Montessori classroom are active participants in the learning process and are intrinsically motivated to achieve higher levels of reading; they read because they want to, not because they have to.
Discovery reading assessments are given three times a year for all students to ensure that the student is on grade level. Discovery monitors student mastery and determines any need for immediate intensive intervention. Examples are:
- Computerized monitoring of lessons that that judge the child’s progress and effort towards mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension.
- Computerized monitoring to track the child’s usage and mastery of the Montessori reading materials and activities.
- Each student is provided web based access to Scholastic Reading Counts to increase reading comprehension.
- Process-focused reading assessments like interviewing and work plans are be developed together with the student.
- Observations of reading ability are documented.
- Performance assessments such as oral reading presentations and demonstrations.
- Computerized reports are prepared four times per year based on each student’s Personal Education Plan. The PEP outlines how the child has succeeded in meeting their individual goals and objectives. These goals and objectives are reevaluated throughout the year with the teacher, student and parents.
- Student Portfolios include samples of student reading work and product (work and product that document reading development in other areas of the curriculum, such as science and geography projects can also be included).
All of these items, along with similar ongoing assessments in other curriculum areas, are used to provide documentation to parents concerning their child’s progress in achieving learning goals.
Due to our multi-age classroom design, our youngest students are constantly exposed to the older children in the class who are already reading. The total environment of the Primary classes (3 to 6 years-old) tends to create and reinforce in our young children a spontaneous interest in learning how to read. We begin to teach reading as soon as that interest is first expressed.
- Using a total immersion approach, we help the youngest children to develop a highly sophisticated vocabulary and command of the language.
- The children are taught through many early approaches to listen for and recognize the individual phonetic sounds in words.
- We introduce the children to literature by reading aloud and discussing a wide range of classic stories and poetry.
- We help our youngest students to recognize the shape and phonetic sounds of the alphabet through the ‘sandpaper letters:’ a tactile alphabet.
The development of the concept that written words are actual thoughts set down on paper. (This takes children much longer than most people realize.)
- Sounding out simple three or four-letter phonetic words. (Typically before age 5)
- Early exercises to practice reading and to gain the concept of a noun: labeling objects with written name tags, mastering increasingly complex words naming things that interest them, such as dinosaurs, the parts of a flower, geometric shapes, the materials in the classroom, etc.
- Learning to recognize verbs: normally exercises in which the child reads a card with a verbal “command” printed out (such as run, sit, walk, etc.) and demonstrates his understanding by acting it out. As the child’s reading vocabulary increases, verbal commands involve full sentences and multiple steps: “Place the mat on the table and bring back a red pencil.”
- Reading specially selected or prepared small books on topics that really interest the child, such as in science, geography, nature or history.
- Interpretive reading for comprehension at ever increasing levels of difficulty, beginning in the early elementary grades and continuing until high school graduation.
- Use of the library and reference books on a daily basis for both research and pleasure.
- An introduction to the world’s classical children’s literature at increasing depth and sophistication.
Control of the hand in preparation for writing is developed through many exercises, including specially designed tasks in the use of the pencil. Such exercises begin with very young children and extend over several years so that mastery is gradually, but thoroughly, attained.
- The young children practice making letters from the time of their first initial “explosion into writing” at age 3 or 4:
- Moveable Alphabets’ made up of easily manipulated plastic letters are used for the early stages of phonetic word creation, the analysis of words, and spelling. They facilitate early reading and writing tasks during the period when young children are still not comfortable with their own writing skills. Even before the children are comfortable in their handwriting skills, they spell words, compose sentences and stories, and work on punctuation and capitalization with the moveable alphabets (Age 4-6).
- At first, by tracing letters into sand.
- Later, by writing on special tilted, upright blackboards: unlined, wide-lined, and narrow-lined.
- Later, by writing on special writing tablets, becoming comfortable with script.
- Cursive writing (Typically around age 5)
- Word Processing (Normally beginning around age 6)
- Calligraphy (Whenever the child is interested, often around age 10)
At an early age, before handwriting has been mastered, the children compose sentences, stores, and poetry through oral dictation to adults and with the use of the moveable alphabet. Once handwriting is fairly accomplished, the children begin to develop their composition skills. They continue to develop over the years at increasing levels of sophistication.
- Preparing written answers to simple questions.
- Composing stories to follow a picture series.
- Beginning to write stories or poems on given simple themes.
- Preparing written descriptions of science experiments.
- Preparing written reports.
- Learning how to write letter s.
- By age 9, research skills and the preparation of reports become major components of the educational program. Students research areas of interest or topics that have been assigned in depth, and prepare both formal and informal, written and oral reports.
- Creative and expository composition skills continue to develop as the children advance from level to level. Students are typically asked to write on a daily basis, composing short stories, poems, plays, reports, and news articles.
Children begin to spell using the moveable alphabet to sound out and spell words as they are first learning to read. They ‘take dictation’ – spelling words called for by the teacher – as a daily exercise. The sequence of spelling, as with all language skills, begins much earlier than is traditional in this country, during a time when children are spontaneously interested in language. It continues throughout their education.
- Learning to sound out and spell simple phonetic words.
- Learning to recognize and spell words involving phonograms, such as ei, ai, or ough.
- Developing a first “personal” dictionary of words that they can now spell.
- Learning to recognize and spell the “puzzle words” of English: words that are non-phonetic and are not spelled as they sound.
- Studying words: involving compound words, contractions, singular-plural, masculine-feminine words, prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms.
The study of grammar begins almost immediately after the child begins to read, during the sensitive period when he is spontaneously interested in language. It continues over several years until mastered. The idea is to introduce grammar to the young child as she is first learning how to put thoughts down on paper, when the process is natural and interesting, rather than waiting until the student is much older and finds the work tedious.
- We introduce our children to the function of the parts of speech one at a time through many games and exercises that isolate the one element under study. Montessori has assigned a geometric symbol to represent each element of grammar. (For example, verbs are represented by a large red circle.) The children analyze sentences by placing the symbols for the appropriate part of speech over each word.
- Once students have mastered the concrete symbols for the parts of speech, they perform more advanced exercises for several years with grammar boxes set up to allow them to analyze sentences by their parts of speech.
- Sentence analysis: simple and compound sentences, clauses, verb voices, and logical analysis of all sorts of sentences are studied using many different concrete materials and exercises. This normally begins about age 5 and continues over several years.
- Students continue their study of language from the mid-elementary years onward, reviewing as well as engaging new concepts and skills: tenses, moods, irregular verbs, person and number, the study of style, the study of grammatical arrangements in other languages.