Parents write us asking about phonics (sounding the word out) versus whole word instruction (memorization of whole words, not sounding them out) and how these methods of reading instruction mesh with the Montessori Method.
In the Montessori Method, the Sandpaper Letters are the first step in teaching a child to read. Children are not taught the ABCs until a bit later to avoid confusion.
Sandpaper Letters are made from very fine-grained sandpaper, which allows children to engage their sense of touch, sight, and sound when they learn the letter sounds. Vowels are mounted on pink or red cards, consonants on pale blue or medium blue cards.
Introduce your child to one letter at a time. For the first lesson, start with the letter m. Use your pointer and index fingers together to trace the letter as it is written. Say the sound of the letter when you trace it. Let your child trace the letter and say the sound. Young children love doing this! You will be amazed at how much time they spend tracing the letters and how much they enjoy learning these sounds.
If your child is ready to learn more, introduce the letters o and p. Let your child trace and practice the sounds until he or she knows the sounds well. Your next step will be to show your child how to create words with the sounds. Save this lesson for when your child knows eight or nine sounds.
Do not use the Sandpaper Letters to show your child how to blend the letters to form words. If he or she prompts you or jumps to the word mop, affirm your child's observation enthusiastically, and then move to the Movable Alphabet Letters.