Our comprehensive literacy model emphasizes six areas of focus for reading: vocabulary, phonological awareness, motivation and interest, phonics, fluency and comprehension integrated with the writing activities of spelling, composition and penmanship. The beautiful hands-on Montessori materials make reading and writing fun for even the most reluctant students.
Read-alouds give young students opportunities to learn vocabulary words that may be above their current reading level but which are easily assimilated into a child’s oral language skills. Teachers also present new oral vocabulary along with picture cards during the science, math and geography three period lessons where students learn the names for geographic landforms, countries, animals and musical instruments, among others.
The miniature environments, including the farm and the object boxes, are a child’s first formal exposure to printed vocabulary. In addition, mathematics, science, art, music, geography and history each have a unique set of vocabulary words that students learn through use of the nomenclature cards. These three-part card sets teach content area vocabulary to even our youngest students and also provide practice with sight words.
Students at each level increase their oral vocabulary through discussion groups in other subject areas. Leveled subject area books and themed book bags allow students to read fiction and non-fiction across the curriculum. Carefully designed environmental print displays and thoughtfully selected object labels enrich classroom areas.
To be successful readers, students must be able to manipulate the vowel sounds in words and they must be able to identify and feel the beat of syllables and words. Emergent readers practice these skills through hands-on activities such as block builder words, the sandpaper phonemes, sound pattern games like I Spy, and songs.
Motivation and Interest
Although students are exposed to great works of literature to pique their interest—students at all grade levels have small group story-time called Read-Alouds where they develop their imaginations along with a love for reading—the central tenet of the Montessori method is personal choice so students at all grade levels have time for independent reading from the classroom and school libraries.
The Montessori method uses systematic, explicit phonics instruction to teach phonemes, graphemes and the relationship between oral and printed words. Students learn the structure of words and the basic rules that guide English pronunciation. Individually, they go on word and letter hunts with pointers, letter swatters and magnifying glasses. In the Nahunta Hall literacy centers, students work with the sorting boxes, sandpaper letters, moveable alphabets, iPad apps and whisper phones. In small groups, they play games, sing songs and join in hands-on literacy activities.
Research shows that fluency is increased more rapidly when students read out loud so Nahunta Hall students have daily reading activities such as small group guided reading, independent reading conferences, cloze reading, choral reading and readers’ theater. Students read both classic children’s literature and skill-targeted books. The stuffed friends reading buddy activities give reluctant students practice in a less intimidating environment.
The listening center, and flannel board stories complement shared reading and interactive read-alouds while independent reading conferences allow teachers to monitor individual reading comprehension.
In a Montessori classroom, most students learn to write before they learn to read. This is accomplished through the skilled use of hands-on literacy materials such as play-doh letters, wood capital pieces, and the moveable alphabet.
The sandpaper letters and writing insets accompanied by small group musical and gross motor activities help each child develop the necessary fine motor skills for beautiful penmanship.
Once children have mastered the basic concepts of composition, they delve further into syntax and grammar with the grammar materials. They identify parts of speech and diagram sentences and when they are ready, they begin spelling and vocabulary work with word sorts.
Many parents want to know, “Will my child learn to read in preschool?” At Nahunta Hall, we honor every child’s individual needs and progress. That means that some children will learn to read earlier than other children. Our focus is on helping each child learn to read as soon as they are ready without pressuring them to perform to external expectations.