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Teaching literacy in the Montessori education setting

According to the theories of Noam Chomsky, the human brain is prewired for language. Modeling of human behavior, such as with motor skills for toddlers, and speech for infants, allows small children to develop the attributes of fluid movement and making sounds and eventually speaking. Reading is a bit more complicated. Spoken language develops spontaneously and on a subconscious level; however, the acquisition of written languages and the ability to read are conscious decisions.

Reading is a multistep process

Learning a working vocabulary is one way humans acquire the ability to read. The brain must learn to process the written word, and that process is sometimes slow. One section of the brain links to phonetics or a student's sounding out of words. Another section of the brain turns these sounds into words. The brain also develops "sight words" that the reader will recognize as he or she reads. These parts of the brain work independently, so an individual needs a lot of training before he or she is able to read.

A Montessori education recognizes certain things about children

Maria Montessori first taught in Italy, and Italian is a largely phonetic language, so she enjoyed an advantage when it came to teaching children to read. The learning of phonetic sounds is vital to reading. Children in Montessori education settings often write before they can read. They can use an alphabet to write a story before they can read often, because of the multistep process required to convert sounds back into words, which is actually more complicated than just recognizing the shapes of letters. This is part of the Montessori Method of the overall practice of developing a good literacy foundation for a child. Writing stories and acting them out also teaches children to express their thoughts verbally.

Montessori education settings use a variety of methods to encourage a solid reading foundation in children. One method involves increasing students' language abilities and then using these newly developed abilities to teach the children science and history. In the Montessori Method of teaching, children are given more individual attention and guidance from the teacher. This is in part achievable due to smaller class sizes and a greater ratio of teachers to students. Montessori schools also teach negotiation skills among students, and encourage them to read to each other, and learn vital communication skills with their peers. But that is not all. Montessori schools also emphasize activity and moving while learning. The curricula is child-centered and encourages children to learn at their own pace.

Reading and literacy are very important parts of being ready to learn. All students need the ability to learn. Montessori schools recognize the importance of phonetics, and the function in students of turning these sounds into words. Through smaller class sizes, a Montessori education provides students with a chance to interact with each other learn from each other, and develop literacy skills for a lifetime.


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