letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet

Simple Letter Recognition: 4 Engaging Moveable Alphabet Ideas

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Transition to the moveable alphabet: letter recognition

After your child has spent quite a bit of time with the sandpaper letters with objects and completed several pages of her letter sound book, she can try letter recognition activities with the moveable alphabet.

Transitioning to this iconic Montessori writing material is an exciting and significant step. Your child is on her way to writing and reading! 

But before jumping into writing words with the moveable letters, your child must first explore and get to know this hands-on material for letter recognition and familiarity.

In this post, I’ll share the transition to the moveable alphabet lesson I learned from my teacher training. I’ll also share four additional letter recognition activities to try and how it went with my four-year-old daughter, Annie, at home! 

 

letter recognition pin

In This Post

Why is letter recognition important?

Letter recognition activities help young children with:

  • Associating the letter sound with letter symbol
  • preparation for writing and reading

A recent large study by Francis Huang at the University of Missouri helped show the importance of preschool education in recognizing letters and academic success. He says: 

“Alphabet recognition has been shown to be one of the strongest and most reliable predictors of reading ability and, on its own, letter name knowledge can be as effective as administering an entire reading readiness test. On average, the more letters children can recognize and identify at an early age, the better their future reading achievement and the lower the risk of academic failure."

The Montessori transition to the moveable alphabet activity is wonderful practice and repetition for alphabet recognition, while setting up your child for writing and reading success. 

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
Transition to the letters that move around!

How to do the Montessori transition to the moveable alphabet lesson

What you will need

A set of sandpaper letters.

A moveable alphabet is traditionally a box with 26 partitions containing letters, several in each section. The letters are blue and red, the same as the Sandpaper Letters. They are also shaped the same (print or cursive).

Note: these materials come in either print or cursive. I support both, but be sure that you are consistent. For example, continue your child’s journey with a moveable print alphabet if you have been using sandpaper print letters. Same thing if you are using cursive.

* I created a moveable print alphabet printable. If you’d like to download it, sign up for the resource library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, use the updated password in my newest email. 

moveable alphabet printable

You could purchase a moveable alphabet online at various Montessori materials websites, Amazon, or Etsy. They range in price, with the most affordable set in the thirty to forty dollar range, but premium sets could cost hundreds of dollars. 

You could make your moveable letters DIY. There are several ideas you could find online. You could also print out letters like in the printable I made for you. 

letter recognition, Montessori, moveable alphabet, DIY, glass gems
Matching DIY glass gem letters to the sandpaper letters

Several years ago, I made a DIY set out of clear glass gems from a craft store, printed out small letters, and glued the letters to the bottom of the gems with mod podge. I made this set for a four-year-old girl that I was tutoring. 

The DIY glass gem set came out nice! I used partitioned craft boxes to keep the letter gems in separate boxes. In the picture, you see two boxes for the letters, but you could also find a larger box with more sections. 

Note: The glass gems are very small and are a choking hazard. Please be sure your child is old enough to use them and be sure to closely supervise your child.

letter recognition, Montessori, moveable alphabet, DIY, glass gems
writing words with the DIY glass gem letters

Note: Keep in mind that the youngest children should use a traditional Montessori moveable alphabet with tactile letters so that the children can feel the letter shape in their hands. Although, it is okay to use gems or letter cards for your moveable letters as an alternative option.

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
Set up the sandpaper letters at the top of the rug

Step-by-step moveable alphabet transition lesson

Invite your child to do the activity on a work rug.

Bring the sandpaper letters that your child already knows.

Bring the movable alphabet.

Sit on your child’s dominant side.

Line up the sandpaper letters across the top of the rug. 

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
Match the letters

“Ask your child to give you the sound of the letters. This is a quick review – of 3rd period of the Three Period Lesson.

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
Trace the sandpaper letter

Sensitize your fingers by rubbing your hands together until warm. It helps to enhance the tactile experience of touching the sandpaper. 

Trace the first letter and say the sound. Find the same letter from the movable letter box and place it beneath the sandpaper letter. Say while pointing to the sandpaper letter, “This is /s/.”  Point to the moveable letter and say,  “This is /s/. They are the same.

Repeat in the same manner for each letter.

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
Continue to match the letters

State that these moveable letters are the same as the sandpaper bigger letters. They are smaller and can help us write many more words than one set of the big letters. “We use the moveable letters to make words.”

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
We can use these smaller letters to make words

Take away sandpaper big letters and let movable small alphabet letters stand alone.

Ask your child to find and move down several letters.

Replace the letters in the alphabet box and return them to the shelf. (This sorting helps your child realize the various positions of letters in the box.)

Here are the 4 letter recognition activities

letter recognition, Montessori, A-Z letter train
make a letter A-Z train

1. Letter Hunt

Choose three or four sandpaper “big” letters and place them on the rug on the floor. 

Collect all the same moveable “small” alphabet letters that go with the big letters you chose and hide them randomly around the room. 

Look at the first big letter on the rug. Walk around the room and remember the letter in your mind. 

Find all the matching small alphabet letters for that letter, and place them next to the matching sandpaper big letter. 

Complete all of the letters in this way.

TipBe sure to count how many of each small letter you hid so that you are sure to find all of them. 

letter recognition, montessori, transition to moveable alphabet
matching all the /b/ letters

2. Letter Sorting

Choose about 4 or 5 sandpaper “big” letters and place them on the rug on the floor. 

Collect all the matching moveable “small” alphabet letters from the box and place them mixed up in the basket. Place the basket on the rug.

Choose one small letter from the basket at a time and place them under the matching big letter. 

To make this more challenging, you could do more letters simultaneously, or even all of the letters of the alphabet A-Z and make it a massive work!

3. The A-Z letter train

letter recognition, Montessori, A-Z letter train
Place the letters A-Z as a train track

Another idea for an enormous activity for recognizing letters is to place all the sandpaper “big” letters out simultaneously and pretend that they are train tracks to make an A-Z letter train. 

My daughter, Annie, has been so excited about trains lately. Since we’ve been in the holiday season, she has enjoyed The Polar Express book and movie and we have a polar express train in our living room.

letter recognition, Montessori, A-Z letter train
Match the moveable letters

We set up the train tracks in a square shape, and one by one, Annie placed the big letters from A-Z alongside the train tracks. 

Once the A-Z sandpaper “big” letters were in place, she found the matching moveable “small” alphabet letters to add to her A-Z train! 

letter recognition, Montessori, A-Z letter train
Match all remaining letters

4. Name writing with crayon rubbings

letter recognition, Montessori, crayon rubbings
Set up the crayon rubbing activity

As a classroom teacher, I remember the children loved crayon rubbings with sandpaper letters! A fun activity you could try is to choose the letters in your child’s name and do crayon rubbings to write your child’s name.

letter recognition, Montessori, crayon rubbings
Place the paper over the sandpaper "big" letter and rub the side of the crayon on the paper

Your child’s name might have the same letter more than once, like /n/ in my daughter’s name, Annie. You can show your child that you need to rub the letter twice to write her name.

Once you have completed the crayon rubbings, your child can practice writing her name with the moveable “small” alphabet letters! This could be one of the first experiences with writing with the moveable alphabet.

letter recognition, Montessori, crayon rubbings, moveable alphabet
Write your name with the moveable letters

Concluding Thoughts about the Letter Recognition activities

The A-Z train was a big hit with Annie; she was so excited to work with her polar express train! She had to walk back and forth several times to get the next letter for the large and small letters, which is excellent for children who need to move.

Montessori said that young children of this age are in the sensitive period for movement. Incorporating a lot of back-and-forths moving around the room is a fantastic example of integrating movement into your lessons. 

The transition to the moveable letters highlights the importance of recognizing letters. Young children must explore and familiarize themselves with letters in different forms and experience notes in different hands-on materials, in books, on cards, other print materials, games, activities, and signs they come across daily. 

Exploring letters and phonetic sounds frequently and differently will help children move on to writing and reading with success. Transitioning to the moveable letter lesson sets an excellent foundation for recognizing and experiencing letters.

This is the last lesson of Part 2: Exploration of Letters and Sounds. In the next series of blog posts in Part 3, I will share lessons about writing. The next blog post will go into the first lessons of writing words with the moveable alphabet!

Have you worked with letter recognition activities or the moveable alphabet with your child? Leave a comment below! 

letter recognition pin

More Montessori Resources

* I created a moveable print alphabet printable. If you’d like to download it, sign up for the resource library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, use the updated password in my newest email. 

Transition to the moveable alphabet: letter recognition

moveable alphabet printable
moveable alphabet transition lesson plan

26 thoughts on “Simple Letter Recognition: 4 Engaging Moveable Alphabet Ideas”

  1. I especially loved the “Letter Hunt” game idea. It’s such a simple yet effective way to make learning letters fun. I can already imagine my child’s excitement as they embark on a letter treasure hunt around the house.

    1. Hi Zuan,

      I’m so happy that you enjoyed reading about Montessori letter recognition and the letter hunt game idea!

  2. I stumbled upon your article on letter recognition and was immediately impressed by the engaging visuals and comprehensive approach to teaching children this crucial skill. The tips and tricks you provided are both practical and fun, making learning a joyful experience. I particularly appreciated how you emphasized the importance of repetition and multisensory activities. Your writing style is clear and concise, making the content easy to follow. Keep up the excellent work!

  3. This is really helpful. Thank you for this detailed guide. Will try to find a set of moveable alphabet online and will start with this activity. Appreciate all the tips.

  4. Charlie-Elizabeth Nadeau

    What a great and stimulating way to boost learning! Love your creativity and tips! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Your daughter is going to have a great foundation with your organized systematic teaching! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Such fun ideas to keep little learners engaged and having fun while learning important skills to support literacy! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Interior Design Trends

    This is very very insightful, thank you so much. I know nothing about letter recognition but I wish I knew! These techniques are fundamental and they would make the entire difference.

  7. I haven’t done any letter recognition activities or the moveable alphabet yet but I love the idea of the A-Z train. It sounds fun 🙂

    1. Hi Tina,

      If you have a little one that loves trains, doing this Montessori letter recognition activity with a train set is so exciting!

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