Following the Child: Why Montessori Preschool Teachers Abandon "Letters of the Week"

Montessori Language Sound Pouches NAMC
With the profound interest of one who has made a discovery, he had understood that each of these sounds corresponded to a letter of the alphabet. Indeed, what is alphabetical writing, if not the correspondence of a sign with a sound?
—Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 138.
The Montessori method is a holistic and child-centered approach to learning. One notable aspect that sets Montessori early childhood teachers apart from their traditional counterparts is their deliberate abandonment of the popular practice of teaching the alphabet with "letters of the week." Instead, Montessori educators emphasize the importance of following the child's individual development and interests. In this blog post, we explore the underlying philosophy behind this approach and delve into the benefits it brings to a child's early educational journey.
Montessori Early Childhood Classroom

Letters of the Week: A Traditional Approach

In many traditional preschool settings, the "letters of the week" approach is commonly employed to collectively introduce children to the alphabet. Each week, a specific letter is chosen, and various activities, crafts, and worksheets are designed around that particular letter. While this method may seem structured and organized, it tends to overlook the individual needs and interests of each child. It also assumes that all children are ready to learn these concepts at the same time in the same manner.

The Importance of Following the Child

Montessori preschool teachers choose to abandon "letters of the week" because they believe in following the child's unique developmental journey. They understand that each child has their own pace of learning and a varied range of interests. By observing and interacting with each child, the teacher gains insight into their strengths, weaknesses, and current interests. This valuable information allows the teacher to tailor the learning experience to the individual child, ensuring optimal growth and engagement. Instead of imposing a predetermined curriculum, the teachers creates an environment where each child is free to explore and discover at their own pace.

Montessori Language Double Sandpaper Letter NAMC

Individualized Learning

In a Montessori classroom, the absence of rigid lesson plans enables the teacher to provide individualized instruction and support. When a child is ready and interested in exploring letters and sounds, the teacher can introduce language materials such as the Sound Pouches and Sandpaper Letters that align with the child’s developmental readiness. These materials focus on the phonetic sounds of each letter rather than on letter names to avoid confusion between the two. By focusing on the child's readiness, the Montessori approach avoids the pitfalls of rote memorization and allows for a deeper understanding of language concepts.

Learn more about following the child and presenting individualized learning with the Montessori method in NAMC's Montessori Early Childhood Diploma Program and NAMC's Montessori Early Childhood Curriculum.

Michelle Zanavich — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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