Sensorial Materials in the Montessori Classroom – Part 6
Sandpaper Letters – Shapes
The child meets the alphabetical symbols by using the sandpaper letters. Each letter of the alphabet is outlined in sandpaper on an individual card, the vowels on blue and the consonants on red. The teacher shows the child how to trace the letter with two fingers following the same direction in which the symbol is normally written.
By using the material, the child sees the shape, feels the shape, and learns the sound of the letter which the teacher repeats when introducing it. The fact that the letter is made of sandpaper, rather than ink, invites the child to trace the shape. This is an important step in learning to write.
Sandpaper Letters – Sounds
In a Montessori classroom the child learns the phonetic sounds of the letters before he or she learns the alphabetical names in sequence. The phonetic sounds are given first because these are the sounds he or she learned in words. For example, a child can hear the letter At@ at the beginning of the word Atop.@ The child hears the alphabetical sound of Ak.@ The teacher introduces the consonants with the sandpaper letters. For example, when presenting the letter Am,@ the teacher makes a humming sound rather than saying Am.@ In the first introduction of the vowels, the teacher gives the short vowels sounds such as those at the beginning of the words, apple, egg, inset, ostrich, and umbrella. As soon as the child learns a few vowels and consonants, he or she is ready to begin constructing three letter words which have a short vowel sound.