As a Montessori teacher/homeschooler, there’s a lot of material preparation that goes into lesson prep. When I was teaching myself, I would make anything that didn’t require too much research — matching cards, 3-part cards, etc. If I wanted things that had actual facts on them, I would buy them — because teaching is hard enough, and it’s okay to outsource some of the lesson prep to people who do that for living! Now that I’m no longer teaching, a lot of my time is spent creating printable materials. You can find my Montessori printables in my Etsy Shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers!
But… getting back to how to make your own printable Montessori materials. Sometimes you have a child with a special interest, and you just can’t find any ready-made 3-part cards all about different types of chickens. So you make your own! I usually just use Microsoft Word to make printables because that’s the program I’m most familiar with, but I know that many people use Powerpoint. Sometimes you can find templates to use on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I honestly find those more difficult to use than just making things myself from scratch. Canva also has some templates you can use for making life cycles and other things, where you just plug in the pictures if it’s the formatting that’s making things difficult. Canva also has a neat little tool called “Background Remover” that can isolate images on a white background. It’s not perfect — sometimes you have to go in and erase a bit more or add some of the picture back — but it’s a huge time saver!
To find photographs to use for your cards, I like to use Pixabay or Canva itself. If you’re not planning on selling your printables, and so you don’t have to worry about copyright issues, you could even just do a Google image search and use those! Some things to look for in your pictures: clear photographs rather than cartoons, isolated objects rather than a really busy background, and don’t blindly trust the image title — doublecheck that this is really a picture of a toad tadpole rather than a frog tadpole!
In Microsoft word, I usually insert a shape (3″x3″ for matching cards, 3″x4″ for 3-part cards), change the border to black with a 2 1/4 pt weight, and change the fill to “no fill.” Then I insert the picture and send it to the back.
Finding the right font is critical for a Montessori teacher/homeschooler! The important letters/numbers to watch out for are ‘a,’ ‘q,’ ‘t,’ ‘1,’ ‘2,’ and ‘4’. I like to make sure the font I’m using matches the way those letters show up in the sandpaper letters/numbers and the movable alphabet. Here are my favorite fonts to use:
Heiti TC is the best free option that is included with Microsoft Word. It has the perfect ‘a,’ which is the most important one to get right (in my opinion). The ‘q’ and ‘t’ aren’t perfect, but they work. The closed 4 is not ideal, but again, it works if it has to.
AbcPrint is my absolute favorite font, and the one I use most often. The ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘1,’ ‘2,’ and ‘4’ are perfect. The only thing that could be improved would be if the ‘q’ had a slightly longer/more curved tail — but it DOES have a tail in this font, so that makes the cut. This font is free but must be downloaded and installed separately.
If you would like your students to be able to trace words, KG Primary Dots is my favorite font for that. It hits all the marks, even with a beautiful tail on the q! This font is free for personal use on Teachers Pay Teachers, and you can also buy a license for it if you plan on selling your printables.
Finally, if you’re working in cursive, this if my favorite cursive font! It is a bit difficult to use because you have to go in and use the “alternate” ConnectingCursive font for some of the letters to connect correctly based on what you’ve typed — you can see that I did NOT take the time to do that when I typed “ConnectingCursive,” so the first ‘n’ and last ‘e’ aren’t connected properly. This font is available for purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers.
If you can’t find the perfect font for you, no worries! Just make sure you leave a bit of extra space on your cards, and handwrite the words on them.