Thursday, September 8, 2011

Montessori Read and Write

It is recommended that parents start reading to their children as early as possible. When Pei Pei and Hao Hao were babies, it seems that most of the time I was reading to myself, as the two restless monkeys start to jump after I read half of the sentence of the first page!

Pei Pei became more interested in reading when she was 2+ years old, especially after she attended childcare centre. At home, she plays the role as "teacher", asks me to read the story books to her. Then she would say, "Very good! 謝謝誰?" which her teacher would say after reading a story to the class. I must say "謝謝 Pei Pei!" Then we would read another book.

Hao Hao, at this point of time, is only interested in read / browse books with flaps. The first book he has completed reading / browing is "Cars", which is something that he is interested in.

Recently I have started reading up Montessori approach on children's literacy. One book that I have read is Montessori Read & Write, by Lynne Lawrence. I have learnt some important principles that reflect Montessori attitude towards educating children:
  • Children have the power to educate themselves
  • Children learn best when they do so at their own pace
  • Children need to make their own discoveries
  • Children learn when they are interested
  • Children need to develop concentration
  • Children learn by doing
  • Children need praise and encouragement, not treats and stickers
  • Mistakes are an opportunity for learning
  • Repetition is important in children's learning
  • Children learn best when they have chosen an activity themselves
  • Learn to observe your children

A procedure called The Three Period Lesson is used to help children to associate a name and an object, with about three objects are introduced during the lesson. Just to summarise what I understand...
  1. Place one of the object in front of the child and say its name clearly, do the same for another two objects.
  2. Place all three objects together, ask the child to point to / show / hold / touch one of the object. Most time is devoted to this stage, as the child learns to associate the object and name together.
  3. Point at one of the objects and ask the child if he / she knows the name.
The book also suggests three activities as the first steps towards reading and writing: the Sound Game, the Sandpaper Letters, and the Moveable Alphabets.

The Sound Game is based on "I spy with my little eye", e.g. "I spy with my little eye something on the table beginning with 'c'"... (e.g. cup). There are 6 levels:
Level 1 (2.5 years old) - to hear individual sounds at the beginning of words (one object at a time)
Level 2 (2.5 to 3 years old) - to distinguish one initial sound from another (2 objects with different initial sounds)
Level 3 (3.5 years old) - to be aware that many objects may begin with the same sound
Level 4 (3.5 to 4.5 years old) - to be aware of sounds in words other than initial sounds (e.g. beginning with "c" and ends with "p")
Level 5 (3.5 to 3.5 years old) - to analyse all sounds in a word (e.g. find the sounds in "cup" c-u-p)
Level 6 (4.5 to 6 years old) - to think of all words that have a certain sound in them

By the time the children are at Level 3 of the Sound Game, the parents can start the Sandpaper Letters, using the Three Period Lesson procedure to teach the children to identify the letters through "feeling".

When the children are at Level  5 of the Sound Game, the Moveable Alphabet can be used. The children would use the letters to create words phonetically. It is a way they start to learn to create message.

I have used some paper with texture and made a few letters (A to D) for Pei Pei to try. She loves playing this game! Now she can use her fingers to "trace" capital "A" in the correct sequence of strokes. She is so creative that she uses those letters to make a person with head, hands and legs!

We also play other games to help her with letter recognition - she will search for a certain letter that I name from a book or the surrounding, or she would tell me the letter that I point at. She enjoys these games! She now can recognise "A", "B", "C" and "O". When we go out, she would suddenly point at some advertisment or decoration, and says "MaMi, Capital A!!"

We have been borrowing books from the library, and recently, I have bought some books through online and Pei Pei's school.

I am not too worried in Pei Pei's command of spoken Mandarin. She has been exposed to Mandarin-speaking environment when she was staying with her grandparents. I think we need to train her to speak more English, after all, English is the first language in Singapore.

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