Montessori Encyclopedia: Sandpaper Letters
How do you use this material?
The Sandpaper Letters are displayed in a classroom in a box or sometimes on a small ledge. The Consonants are pink, and the Vowels are blue. The guide selects three letters with very different shapes and different sounds and takes them to a table with a child.
We begin with a game. Let’s think of words that begin with “m.” Math, Monkey, Museum, Mom… Do you want to see what “m” looks like? This is “m.” We use letter Sounds, rather than letter Names, since a child is already hearing sounds, and fine-tuning the ear highlights which unique sounds compose words. The letter names are important, but come after a child is working to match the symbol (the letter) with the sound.
We’ll trace the shape, using the index and middle finger of the dominant hand, and say the sound of the letter at the end.
The other two letters are introduced in the same manner. We can review the letters through a game called a Three Period Lesson, where we say, “Touch ‘a’. Trace ‘m.’ Give me ‘t.’” We play this a few times, before asking the child, “What’s this?” If the child correctly identifies the letters, we might move on to three more, or we might invite the child to trace the letters or to put them away and choose a new work, as it suits them.
If the child can’t correctly identify the letters, that’s okay too! We might keep playing, or we might make a note of these letters, and try again another day. It’s another step along the path to literacy!
What is a child learning?
The child is learning the shape of the letters. We’ve already played games with sounds, identifying colors that start with “b,” animals that start with “d.” Now, we’re associating the sound a child is already familiar with, with the visual symbol — the letter.
What does a child not know they’re learning?
Through tracing, a child is also getting their hand ready for handwriting. They’ll use the same movements, only on a smaller scale, to write the letters — from big on a chalkboard, to small on a slip of paper.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder