Preschool & Kindergarten Language

Reading is the combination of our “verbal” language skills (some children use signing as their verbal language) and our fine motor skills. Just as children are learning to speak, they are also learning to draw, paint, and create with their hands. Just as the words begin as exercises in making sounds, so do the creations of the hand begin as scribbles. Then the words come together in stories and the pictures on the page are seen as people, skies, and animals. From here we are ready to begin learning to write and to read, two skills that happen independently of one another. Some children learn to read before their fine motor skills draw them to writing, others begin forming the letters before mastering their sounds.


In the Montessori-oriented classroom, we use a phonetic approach to reading. Younger bodies begin by learning to read their own name and to use lowercase sandpaper letters—combining the concept of a letter’s sound with its written symbol, just as they do with numerals and shapes. Doing this exercise one-on-one with the child also makes us aware of any specific speech difficulties a child may have so that we can intervene early. It may take a year to a year and a half to master these sounds, and that is perfectly fine. Reading success is based strongly on experience. The more outside experience and verbal language a child has the better, so taking time to learn sounds is a good thing.

Once the sounds are mastered, a child is ready to start putting them together in 3-letter phonetic word activities (word-to-picture matching and beginning reading). From this stage, children are encouraged to begin reading simple books with 3-letter words one-on-one with teachers. This skill grows with time and experience, and soon the children are able to read longer words and more readily decode the smaller words. They move from “sounding out” to reading fluidly and comprehending the stories. Reading is a skill that varies greatly with each child, and finding that sensitive period for it is key.

Each child is exposed to materials in the classroom that promote these skills in this developmental order: learning sounds and their symbols, matching lower- to upper-case letters, matching objects to beginning sounds, matching objects to ending sounds, matching objects to vowel sounds, sight-word reading, sounding out words with blends, sounding out words with consonant digraphs, sounding words with silent e, sounding out words with special vowels (oo, ou, ee, ei, ie. ea, oi, oy, aw, au, and ew), sounding out words with r-controlled vowels, and reading comprehension.


At the same time, this progression is moving along, the children are learning to write. Writing at ABC-Stewart Preschool-Kindergarten starts in the sensorial area by tracing the metal insets. Once a child can hold a pencil well, they are able to begin this exercise. We provide many other materials and projects to strengthen the hand for writing as well: creative projects, practical life skills (spooning, tweezing, pouring), and cutting with scissors are a few. Children also begin to trace their name, and they are encouraged to free-write their name often through the day on all their works. If they are not yet able to write their full name, we ask them to just write what they know.

We continue to move from tracing to free-hand writing to free-hand writing with lines, and from this practice writing grows. Children ages 4–5 love to write! They write lists and dates and names. They want to write everything! Once handwriting is well underway, we introduce the moveable alphabet to help children combine these two skills, reading and writing. Children create stories with a moveable alphabet, phonetically spelling the words as best they can, and then writing the words when they are finished.

Older students will continue doing creative writing, alphabetizing, using a dictionary, and continuing on their reading progress. Daily we read stories to all the children, and all-day students are read a chapter book in the afternoons before spending some time focusing on handwriting. Once children begin reading, we strive to read with them one-on-one each day, and we loan books to parents to continue the process.