Language – follow up questions

Hello dear readers, bloggers, parents, caretakers !

Today, I want to take the time to answer a few questions I received after my article on language activities 3 weeks ago.

How do I know if my child is ready for sandpaper letters ?

So, no need to start on SPL too fast unless you have done sound games and your child has picked up on finding the 1st sound of any word and/or you feel you child’s interest lowers – sign that they need more. Sandpaper letters come to add the visual letter associated with sounds they can identify in sound games. Then, never forget it’s also about learning the tracing, the feeling to prepare the brain and hand to write later on.

Which SPL should I present first ?

This is on you and the child’s interests – letters associated with names in the family or friends’ are a good starting point. Try to present letters that are graphically different from one another at first and not too hard to trace. We want the child to be interested and challenged but not discouraged. Avoid, a, c and o in the same lesson. With one of my students, we did j,d, e. These letters do not trace the same and they meant something to the child – aka first letters of names that are familiar to her.

When did you know when to start working with the movable alphabet ?

BUS is a CVC word with one consonant, one vowel and another consonant. From SPL to movable alphabet, we use different colours for consonant and vowels.

That’s a tricky one because all trainings do no teach the same thing. Some agree that the child needs to be able to recognize all letters/sounds from SPL work. I don’t disagree with this, however, to me, it’s more about how sound games are going. The child needs to be able to identify beginning sounds, last sounds and middle of a word sound(s) before you start this work. If not, this can be very frustrating for both the child and the adult as you will feel like some work is missing and a lot of words cannot be written since the child is missing some important info – like identifying the middle sounds, understand that words are made of sounds in a certain order. Even if we start only with CVC word (3-letter words with consonant-vowel-consonant, ex: car, cat, lip, far), there is a process not to be rushed in the brain of the child to analyze sounds and be ready to do so. If a child is rushed, there will be too much frustration and this will backfire and potentially slow down the process more than needed as the child will be confused and mix things up. Our goal is to help and guide, not create language problems.

Another thing and this is a pet peeve for me : nobody needs to care about the names of the letters unless later on when working on alphabetical order and dictionary, knowing the names of the letters is confusing children and slows down the writing/reading process. I already had students who could spell their names with letter names (as they can recognize letters by names and they have been taught to do so) but are confused when it comes to identifying sounds. I repeat, to learn how to understand the analyzing process of sounds coming together into words, you need sounds not letters’ names. Rant over.

What if my child is over 3 and can’t seem to identify sounds ?

Leave your child time to do so and make sure to make sound games fun, not a chore when the adult gets frustrated because the child cannot seem to get it. It’s an analysis process. The child’s brain needs to be ready and needs lots of practice. We never rush this process – sound games can last for months, years depending on the child. It’s about respecting the child’s rhythm.

Do I let my child make mistakes, it drives me nuts ?

So this mom was talking about spelling mistakes with the movable alphabet. My answer is YES, your child needs to go through this process – these ‘mistakes’ are not real unless the child can correct himself/herself by reading later on and realize by himself/herself that this word is written a certain way. As teachers, we interfere way later in the process. It will fall into place and we, the adults, need to breathe and realize it is part of the process.

Notice how she told me to write o instead of au for Paul. It’s normal, she does not know yet and there is no need for me to press this until she is ready for more complex sounds like phonograms.

There you go, those are some questions I had over the past weeks and I hope they can help you as well.

Have a great week.

With Montessori love,


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