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Reading and writing
are the natural abstract extensions of spoken language. However, before
a child can benefit from reading instruction some key skills must be in
place. The three most critical skills are:
As a child's need to symbolize his/her thoughts on paper grows, so begins the
use of the written word in combination with drawings. Dictation of
stories, using the child's exact words is offered. These thoughts can
then be read back over and over again to various people. The power of
the written word becomes clear as to the child's delight his/her exact
words are repeated every time they are read back. This is one occasion
when the teacher may choose not to correct the child's grammatical errors.
For example, a child may insist that the teacher write "I eated pizza
for dinner." These are their words, they know it, and they take great
pleasure in seeing their idea written and read back exactly as they
expressed it. The powerful experience of using symbols on paper
motivates children to spring forward into the world of writing and reading.
When teachers write, an effort is always made to print clearly so that
the children can begin to recognize and read the words on their own.
Lower case letters are emphasized, so that children become familiar with
print as it appears in books (standard capitalization may be employed
for proper names, or at the beginning of a sentence).
will often begin to write in an experimental way that can look like
scribbling to an adult. Usually it has specific characteristics that
are very similar to print. It is linear and often moves from left to
right in a horizontal pattern, with some individual markings resembling
or being real letters. Sometimes the writing looks similar to cursive
longhand. Teachers value the communication of thoughts through symbols
from the beginning stages such as just described, to the more
sophisticated writing that children move on to over the course of
Writing and reading go hand in hand. Materials for both activities
are always available in the classroom. Thick pencils (for easier
gripping), thin pencils, pencils with grips, crayons, colored pencils,
markers, paint brushes of various sizes, and chalk are some of the basic
supplies available for writing. In addition, the metal insets (a
Montessori material designed for tracing and coloring geometric shapes)
and many sensorial and practical life materials (i.e. knobbed cylinders
or work with tweezers)
offer further opportunities to develop the fine
motor control necessary for writing. Children are encouraged to grasp
these materials with their thumb, index and middle fingers in
preparation for holding a pencil. As they learn to hold pencils with a
standard grip, letter formation and handwriting are introduced.
Again, there is an emphasis on the use of lower case letters.
Imaginative play and conversation about their lives often gives the
child the source and inspiration for the stories they will write or
Books are an essential component of the reading curriculum. There is a
classroom library that includes a tremendous variety of genres, styles
and subjects; fiction, non-fiction, folk tales, animal and people
stories, books about our units of study, books that represent women and
men in a variety of roles, multicultural books, all kinds of family
structures, holidays from around the world, poetry, patterned books,
phonetic books, and many others. Books are rotated on the shelf
throughout the year. Books may also be found at the science table or
near the circle area as they relate to current areas of study. Books
on tape are available with the use of the tape cassette player.
Children also love to bring in books from home to share with the class.
The proper care of books is frequently demonstrated by the teachers.
The teachers continually express their love of reading, and convey a
vision of books as a treasure for everyone's enjoyment.
Children are read to every day at circle time, as well as informally at
other times during the course of the day. The books used range in
complexity from simple single word pages with pictures to chapter books
without illustrations. Discussions may occur before, during or after
the reading and can focus on storyline, patterns in the story, sequence,
predicting outcomes, as well as thoughts about the characters - their
actions, motives, and feelings. The teacher frequently asks open-ended
questions to encourage reflection and discussion. For example, "What
do you think will happen to Wilbur at the fair?" There are no wrong
answers. Children are encouraged to think about what they might do in
a similar situation. After a story, children may be asked to explain
what happened in order to foster the development of comprehension - and
the next day the class may work together recalling the events of the
previous chapter. Sometimes large formatted books, often called big
books are read. These books lend themselves to choral reading, modeled
tracking by the teacher using a pointer, and the whole group sharing
strategies to decipher words. Teachers ask parents to be sure to read
to their children daily and to model the pleasure of reading at home.
- awareness of print and how a book is read
- knowledge of the names of the letters
- awareness of the speech sounds in words, also called