Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Early Montessori Writing Exercises and LOLZ

A bit of info on Montessori for those who are not teachers: one distinct difference between Montessori and traditional education is that writing comes before reading. This may sound crazy, but makes perfect sense when you consider that the process of writing is encoding, a process much less complicated than decoding, which reading necessitates. The children learn the sounds of the English language and their corresponding symbols, and soon learn that they can put these together to make words. Later on, they have what is often called an "explosion" into reading. They know all the sounds, understand concretely what it means to put letters together to make words, and for this reason are quite well-prepared for reading, and as soon as they realize that they have what it takes, generally take to it quite easily.

When they do begin to write for the first time, however, they write phonetically, and without having been exposed to the correct spelling of many common words through reading. (You would be surprised how easily they adapt their writing later, however.) Children in Montessori classrooms are encouraged to put letters together to make words, without being bothered with the tedious task of making sure all of the words are spelled correctly. For the young child just beginning to write, the main concern is that they can express ideas in written form, and that they gain confidence in writing. This is fascinating and exciting to watch, and fills the teacher with great pride.

The material used for writing in primary classrooms is called the Large Movable Alphabet (pictured). Children take out the letters needed to form words from the box and place them on a rug or a table. Children are not corrected when they choose the wrong letter, but encouraged to write whatever they desire. As they practice, and are exposed to more written material, they begin to write more perfectly, usually without even realizing it.

This process is absolutely incredible, and is often a source of great pride for the children. I love reading what the children have written in the way they saw fit to do so, and sharing their excitement over this accomplishment.

However, as a member of a generation where proper grammar and spelling are often abandoned for the sake of brevity, internet culture, or lolz, it can be quite amusing as well.

Vowels are often omitted, as they are much harder to pick out than the consonant sounds. So, sorry is often written as sry, and please as pls or plz.

Third person verbs and plural nouns are often written with a z on the end instead of an s, as in runz, livz, walkz (more commonly wokz), and catz.

My often becomes mi, your ur, and our if often just r. Love is almost invariably written early on as luv.*

Perhaps lesson plans for the LMA box should be adapted to include the indirect aim of preparing the child to communicate via text message and the internet(z)?

Very young children who do not yet know the sounds, but do know what some letters look like often try to write as their older peers do. One favorite thing for children to write is their own name, and many very young ones insist that they know how to write their name simply because they are so determined to do so, whether they have learned to or not. I have learned to memorize many strings of shapes and squiggles as the "name" of particular children on their art and other work to take home. One of my favorites, however, is one girl who always writes her name (in all caps) as LOL. L is actually in her name, and most children, no matter what age, know what O looks like.

*Note: Writing in this way is only done early in the process of learning to write, and children have been shown to benefit greatly from uninterrupted practice and the confidence gained from the same. Children who write in this way are generally quite young, and become excellent spellers and masters of their language soon after.


MattBronsil said...

I am glad to see another Montessori person doing a blog.

I have not read any other posts yet, but will in a few minutes. I did laugh at the girl's name (LOL).

One suggestion with the writing names - have name cards in the art area that children can look through and find their names. If they can recognize their name, they can take the name card and try to copy it. If they don't copy it well - no big deal...they'll get it eventually (I doubt anyone makes it to high school age without knowing how to write their name). You'll see it slowly progress to having different symbols to having a letter that's correct with different symbols. You'll then see it move closer to them writing their name.

I'm adding this blog to my favorites. Thank you for it.


melissa joanne said...

That's an excellent idea.

We have one writing exercise in the pre language area with a basket containing a laminated card for each child in the class. Each one has a child's picture on one side, and their name written on the other. There are tracing papers provided and the children choose a card (often their own, or one of their favorite friends') and place a tracing paper over it to write the name.

It is really exciting to watch the progression that you mentioned!

Thanks for the input! I'm enjoying your blog, too!

The Fix It Girl said...

I love what your doing, I am a first time reader of your blog and I think it is fantastic. I my self have a blog about a Montessori school. You see I went to this wonderful Montessori school for nine years. Those were the best nine years of my life. But sadly the school is losing a lot of kids in there higher grades because the parents believe there children are not "learning enough" I would love you to read it and give your input you can visit it at www.thejustfixitmovement.blogspot.com

The Fix It Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Guilletots said...

Hi Melissa. I Know this post is quite old but I thought I would let you know that I have quoted you in my own blog, when talking about writing/reading. I hope you don't mind. I have just found your blog and this is so enriching. Thank you.

Hedy said...

you just saved my life, I am writing my language intro right now and totally couldn't remember why we write before we read! and you answered it in the first couple sentences! Thank you thank you!!!

Janine (Alternative Housewife) said...

Awesome - And this sounds a lot like what Sebastian does naturally on our fridge, even if the letter sounds are different in his head. He is clearly very proud of himself, and very concentrated as he works.