“Language lies at the root of that transformation of the environment that we call civilization”  -Maria Montessori

Montessori recognized that language begins with observation of sound and the human voice at birth.  Language development follows specific and observable patterns which vary greatly according to each child’s abilities. The development of their talkative capabilities is greatly influenced by experiences in their environment. There are many occurrences that need to take place preceding reading and writing for a child. A child’s mind is being formed at a swift pace in these early years and is absorbing vast amounts of information without any effort. During the first three years of his life he is able to take in information from his environment – forming the base of his personality and the formation of his mind.
“All children pass through a period in which they can only pronounce syllables; then they pronounce whole words and finally they use to perfection all the rules of syntax and grammar”
–Maria Montessori
By creating a rich environment where there is plenty of good conversation, reading and writing, the Montessori environment fosters the language development for the child. Maria Montessori’s approach to learning guides the child - preparing the person to be. The child’s first introduction to reading and writing inadvertently begins in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas of the classroom where he develops the concentration, coordination and also where his need for order and independence is fostered. Examples of Practical Life activities that promote fine motor development and hand eye coordination needed for reading and writing would be spooning exercises, needle work, eye dropper transfer etc.  The Sensorial area of the classroom is an essential area for refinement of the senses, where the child learns to discriminate items by certian attributes using their senses. Examples of Sensorial activities that assist in refining a child’s auditory are the sound cylinders which range in sound when you shake them from soft to loud. Another appropriate sensorial material worth mentioning for its relevance in assisting a child’s auditory development are the bells. The bells are intended to teach pitch necessary to help the child move forward in his abilities to discriminate sound. The bells cover the musical scale and come in pairs. The task is to match the mixed set to the graded set by gently tapping it with a hammer. Included in the presentations of several of the Montessori materials are the three period lessons which exercise the child’s memory and enriches vocabulary with the proper pronunciation of names. Within the language area of the Montessori classroom the materials are arranged and guide the child through a progression of skills that give them the tools to reading, writing and the expansion of their vocabulary. The child of  3 years is first given practice in the recognition of sounds of the letters of the alphabet through the sandpaper letters and several other pre-reading activities. Pre-reading activities include such things as puzzles, object matching, object to picture, sequencing, patterning, association matching, and whole to part matching. All of the activities can range in complexity based on how a teacher tailors them to the need of the child. As the sandpaper letters are introduced, the child sees the directress say the sound and trace the letter. The names are not necessary. He then repeats the sound and traces on his own.
            “The sandpaper letter serves to control the child’s movements when he feels the letter, for he knows by touch when he has slipped off the letter onto the smooth board…this principle of isolation of new knowledge, running through Montessori education, helps a child to focus on a new discovery”  -Lillard, 1972
The childs sound discrimination is increasing with practice using small objects with corresponding initial sound. He begins to recognize sounds with in all parts of a word as he practices sorting objects by their begining, middle or ending sound. The sandpaper letters are ingenious in that they incorporate the sensorial materials seamlessly combining sight, sound, speech, and kinesthetic stimuli. As the child is mastering letter sounds they are introduced to the metal insets which are a set of 10 insets and templates of various shapes; circle, ellipse, ovoid, curvilinear triangle, quatrefoil, square, rectangle, triangle, trapezoid and hexagon. As long as the child can weild a pencil, the child can trace around the curved shapes first, for these are less difficult, and then move on to the straighter edged shapes. It is through the exercise with the metal insets that the child will practice concentration and coordination with a pencil.
“The purpose of the metal isets is primarily to develop the muscular control needed to wield a pencil, to stay within an outline and to move lightly across a paper is a controlled movement. The metal insets complete the possibility for an explosion into writing” -Lillard, 1972
As soon as the child knows atleast a dozen sounds, and can isolate them, he can blending them. The movable alphabet can be introduced when the child is comfortable enough with most of the sounds of the alphabet. An introduction to the moveable alphabet via the sandpaper letters comes when the teacher places the letters next to each other and the child sees that the moveable alphabet is the same as the sandpaper letters. This is a magical introduction to the child because they have graduated out of the sandpaper letter box and into the world of manipulating realer looking letters! They are coming closer to expressing themselves through a different form of language – writing. Once the child is introduced to the moveable alphabet they should already be confident and have knowledge of most letter sounds so that the directress can ask them to retrieve an ‘h’ from the box with ease and interest. The child begins using the moveable alphabet to blend letter sounds. Now that the child has blended sounds and can manipulate them, he is ready for the next step which is writing and reading. As the child moves into the abstract away from the concreteness of the sandpaper letters, they are ready to write. In the Montessori classroom writing and reading do not peak simultaneously. The skills needed to write with a pencil may limit a child’s spelling, so naturally they may hesitate. After much work with the moveable alphabet the child is introduced to more phonetic learning which is introduced in a sequential order, moving from the concrete to the abstract. Activities in language area are aimed to move the child toward an explosion into reading and writing. Objects are identified first, then pictures, then secret word slips, and then a mixture of sight words, commands, phrases and sentences. The first exercises in this area are the phonetic object box games where each box contains up to 8 objects that are familiar such as hat, dog, jug, bun or bit. There are labels for all of the items which the child sounds out and matches to the item. It is this action of association of word to object that he begins to read. The child also sounds out and recites simple phonetic words on flash cards simple commands such as “tag him” or “cut a rag.” As the reading of phonetic words is mastered, the child starts writing phonetic phrases and simple sentences and begins to acquire the use of simple sight words. Four letter words are introduced. Blends get more complex and double consonants not seen before such as cl, nd, wn, ss, tt, ck are introduced. Phonograms are introduced in much the same manner as the three letter consonant-vowel-consonant word: objects, sandpaper phongrams, phongram cards and books with phongram highlighted in red. The language area is a dynamic area of the classroom where the child is given much opportunity for his language skills to move from labling objects, labling pictures, reading word cards, reading word booklets, reading word lists, reading sentence strips, and stories, and finally to small reading books. As the child continues reading their interest in grammar is sparked and can be practiced with further exercises.
“[The] child has been reading on his own. This is possible for him because the isolation of difficulties in the earlier preparation has meant that, when reading came to him, it came in a full form. In Montessori education this full form is referred to as ‘total reading’ -Lillard, 1972
Promoting a love of language is a major curriculum goal in Montessori classroom but is not imposed on the child. Essentially the child is teachingthemselves with the initial lesson and the help of the materials he is free to make discoveries on his own and correct his mistakes (with some assistance). Teachers provide many opportunities for social interaction and conversation among children as well as activities that contain various realistic demands.  Teachers should also make readily available those materials and settings that promote language development such as a class library and book sharing nook; a book making or art area with paints, writing tools, paper, wall paper, pictures catalogues, rubber stamps, etc. Adults serve as language models. It is the child’s desire to construct meaning and communicate, along with their readiness that propels this rapid development.
“The speed with which young children become speakers of their home languages without directly being taught is one of nature’s marvels and provides strong evidence of a biological basis for language acquisition” -Noam Chomsky