The Montessori method has a particular way of preparing different parts of the body for reading and writing. We prepare the ears for hearing the sounds, we prepare the eyes for recognizing symbols and understanding that we read from left to right, and we prepare the hands for holding a pencil the correct way, making the right strokes, and finally creating written language. And it all begins much earlier than you might think!
Preparing the hand for writing begins long before the materials that are “officially” meant to practice those particular skills, like the sandpaper letters and the metal insets. In fact, the Montessori way of preparing the hand for writing begins with materials to strengthen the hand and develop the pincer grip. This can be found in practical life materials like the spooning transfer, which requires a pincer grip to spoon contents from one bowl on the left to another bowl on the right.
In addition to preparing the pencil grip, other Montessori materials prepare the hand for making the shapes found in our letters. Wood polishing and table washing use a small counter clockwise scrubbing motion — the same way we go when we begin to write the letter a or c.
It is only after these preliminary exercises have been mastered that we begin to introduce things like the sandpaper letters, the salt tray, and the metal insets to refine letter shape and pencil grip.
Then, before beginning to write with paper and pencil, we let the brain practice writing with the movable alphabet.
We practice writing one letter at a time, over and over again, on the Montessori chalkboard.
Then we bring in unlined paper and pencil before finally moving on to lined paper and pencil.
This method of preparing the hand to write is a progression that takes years to develop, so don’t rush it! Your child will show you when she is ready for the next step.