WHAT IS THE MONTESSORI MOVEABLE ALPHABET?
In brief, a Movable Alphabet is a tool used in a Montessori learning environment to teach reading, spelling, and writing. It is a wooden box containing 26 wooden letters. Vowels are blue and consonants are pink. Typically the child is 3.5 years or older when they start using and learning with the Movable Alphabet. The teacher knows they are ready because they can recognize at least 3-4 consonant sounds and one vowel sound. Montessori’s Movable Alphabet is an exciting transition for many young children. Thus far in the Montessori Language sequence of lessons, children have progressed using the Sandpaper Letters only. Once the teacher presents the Movable Alphabet, the child is eager to continue to learn more in his area. The goal of the very first lesson with this material is their learning to familiarize the child with the Movable Alphabet, to teach care of the work by being careful with the letters, and by organizing & straightening letters in the box. The child will likely be interested in the myriad of letters available to her hands. The blue and pink colours will engage them, too. The child will begin to identify sounds to match the letters. The child may also be interested in how the letters fit into the box’s compartments so neatly (control of error).
The next lesson in the sequence is associating this new tool, the Movable Alphabet, with familiar material, the Sandpaper Letters. The age, readiness, and goals of this lesson are the same as when first introducing the Moveable Alphabet. Similarly, age 3.5 years old or older, having the ability to recognize 3-4 consonant sounds and one vowel sound, and preparation for reading, writing, and spelling. Finally, for this presentation, you need only a mat, the Sandpaper Letters, and the Movable Alphabet.
Once the guide introduces and associates the Movable Alphabet with the Sandpaper Letters, the child is likely a bit older, about 4 years old or so, with the same prerequisites. The goals of this next lesson focus on order, concentration, coordination, independence, self-esteem, and preparation for writing, reading, and spelling. The child will be ready at this point to identify the beginning, middle-vowel sound and the ending sound in a 3-letter phonetic word (eg, c-a-t) and use the material to build the word. When the child is ready to move on from short vowel word-building, they will tackle the next lesson in the pink series sequence. The child will create short vowel words and match little objects to the words. Once the child masters matching the objects to short vowel words built with the moveable alphabet, he is ready to move a bit more to the abstract. In this lesson, the child will build short-vowel words with the Movable Alphabet and match pictures (instead of objects) to the words.
This same process is later introduced again, only next using the blue series materials. The blue series contains longer phonetic words such as slap, drum, match, clam. These words still follow the phonetic reading, but now contain 4 or more letters in each word. The child learns to build the words using the Movable Alphabet in the same manner as they used the CVC words of the pink series. Eventually, once the child is able to print all of the letters, the teacher would encourage them to print the words (that they has built) in their printing notebook.