Sandpaper Letter Activity
When searching for a Montessori school near me, it is important to look at what learning activities they are offering the students. Sandpaper letters are a fundamental material in the Montessori early education classroom. They offer the first introduction to writing. Sandpaper letters appeal to the young child’s ability to learn best through tactile means.
What Are Sandpaper Letters?
Sandpaper letters are large sandpaper cutouts pasted onto wooden boards. They are just the right size for the young child’s fingers to feel along their curves and corners.
In Montessori, we introduce lowercase letters first. This is because lowercase letters make up most print. Why learn the capital letters first when they appear so rarely in books and other writing a child can access?
Before teaching the names of each letter, we teach the sounds that they make. This makes the transition to blending sounds in early reading more straight forward. For this reason, children learning English or another non-phonetic language may also work with sandpaper phonemes. Phonemes are sounds made from common letter pairs like /sh/ or /oo/. Make sure when you are looking up “Montessori School near me” that you dig deeper and look into their curriculum.
How Are Sandpaper Letters Used?
Using the index finger on the dominant hand, students trace along each letter while making its sound. The next step is to use the first two fingers to follow the letter’s path. This comes one step closer to making the writing movements while holding a pencil. Finally, the young learner holds a thin stick as if it were a pencil and traces it over the letters. To work on these skills is one important reason to “find a Montessori school near me!”
When they are ready, a writing component is added, usually forming letters with their fingers in a tray of salt. The sandpaper letter is used as a reference tool. This can be both visual and tactile, according to the learner’s needs.
As an alternative to salt trays, some early education centers spread finger paint over a sheet of paper. The kids use their fingers to write letters and wipe them away before writing more. This is a fun way to incorporate art, and perfect for the classroom that blends Montessori and Reggio Emilia.
Why Are Sandpaper Letters So Effective?
The Montessori school method of using a textured object to first introduce writing works so well because it is developmentally appropriate. Young children are drawn to textured surfaces and enjoy feeling the letters. Running their fingers over the sandpaper helps build muscle memory for when they begin to write. Lastly, children do best with concrete, hands-on representations. Young children aren’t ready yet to trace accurately over dotted lines, much less create the shapes on their own.
When is a Child Ready to Begin Working with the Sandpaper Letters?
Montessori teachers observe their students to find the right time to introduce this material. At one point, children will become interested in letters they see in the world around them. This may be in picture books or elsewhere, such as on street signs or cereal boxes. Searching for a “Montessori school near me” is a great start, but make sure to look into the teachers as well!
Before working with the sandpaper letters, Montessori students will have developed phonemic awareness. They will have learned this by playing games where their teacher said things like “I spy something that begins with the sound /b/.” So the children already know that letter sounds make up words. The sandpaper letters are their first introduction to the abstract symbols that denote each sound.
Full phonemic awareness and accurate finger tracing skills should be in place before the child works with the salt trays. Writing with chalk is another good step towards mastering the pencil.
Sandpaper letters give kids the tools they need to develop their small muscles and their minds for writing. Students who work with the sandpaper letters will have neat handwriting in the future, and will be less likely to tire out while writing! So when you are searching for a “Montessori school near me” be sure to look into their curriculum!
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