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L has been devouring beginning sounds using the Sandpaper Letters, but even before she had learned all of them, she was showing a TON of interest in sounding out whole words. So I decided to follow the child and bring out our movable alphabet and pink series cards before she knew every single letter.
What are these mysterious materials of which I am speaking? The movable alphabet is one of the original Montessori materials used for beginning writing, and it’s exactly what it sounds like — small wooden letters that can be manipulated and rearranged in multiple different ways to form words. The pink series is simply a set of words that would be the first ones presented for a child to spell — 3-letter phonetic CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words in which the vowel is short. You can find a brief history of the development of the pink, blue, and green series HERE.
Because I was jumping ahead and presenting these materials to L before she knew all of her letters, I started with just 5 pink series cards (1 for each vowel) and placed them on a work rug with only the letters that would be needed to spell those words.
For our first presentation, I spelled the words myself. I pointed to the first card, exaggerated the pronunciation of each sound in the word, and placed the letters beside it. I continued until they were all spelled, and then we put the work away — for about 10 minutes, which is when L decided she wanted to try it.
I definitely HEAVILY pronounced each of the sounds in the letter for our first presentation, and by the end L was doing the same.
The next time we got this out, I chose 10 pink series cards and placed them out with only the letters needed to form the words. This time L pronounced the sounds she heard in each word by herself, then placed the letters beside the card — you will notice that she spelled “hen” with an i instead of an e, which is actually pretty accurate considering the way her little 3-year-old self pronounces the word. I didn’t correct her, but I did wonder what would happen when the i that we needed for “rip” was not there.
I fully expected L to sound out “rip” and then see that the only vowel left on the mat was an e, and so to spell it “rep.” She surprised me. She paused for a moment, then said, “I think I put the wrong one here! It’s this /i/!”
She took the i from “hin” to put in “rip” and replaced it with e to spell “hen.”
I’m not so sure she would have caught that mistake if she had had the entire movable alphabet available to spell with, as there would have been another i available. That is our next step — I will put out some pink series cards and allow L to choose the letters she hears from the entire movable alphabet tray.
Invented spelling is ok here. That’s how your child will naturally learn to write, and she will pick up the mechanics of it as she continues to progress — especially once she begins reading and can see the correct way to spell things. Try to resist the urge to correct your child’s misspellings so she can figure this out for herself.