Making Words with the Montessori Moveable Alphabet
In my previous blog post, Writing And Reading: 6 Movable Alphabet Games You’ll Love, the first lesson is making words. It is exciting because it is your child’s first time writing words with the moveable alphabet!
It is interesting to note that writing comes before reading, according to the Montessori method. Your child forms that inner image of what she wants to write rather than trying to read someone else’s ideas.
Building words using phonics and letter sounds is also a fantastic way to prepare for reading. My four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Annie, loves writing with moveable letters, and with practice, she has learned about building and pulling apart letter sounds, which is an important skill.
In this post, I will share how to do the first word-building lesson with the moveable alphabet I learned from my training. I’ll also share 4 cool variations I tried in the classroom and with my daughter at home!
In This Post
Why is making words important?
Writing activities, like making words with the moveable alphabet, help prepare for reading. It further allows your child to explore letter sounds and letter symbols, which is part of the phonics process.
Also, building words with the moveable letters is wonderful because it enables your child to freely write words and thoughts, even if she is not ready to write with a pencil yet.
How to do the First Moveable Alphabet Lesson: Composition
What you will need
You will need a moveable alphabet, traditionally a box with 26 partitions containing letters, several in each section. The letters are blue (vowels) and red (consonants), the same as the Sandpaper Letters. They are also shaped the same (print or cursive).
Be sure to be consistent with print or cursive. For example, stick with a moveable print alphabet if you have been using print sandpaper letters.
To learn more about where to get a moveable alphabet, download my printable and learn how to make moveable letters at home DIY; see my blog post on transitioning to the moveable alphabet.
Before you begin with building words
Remember that it is essential that you, the adult, work with your child with the moveable alphabet for the auditory process. In other words, your child needs to hear you say the words and the sounds within the word as she builds the word. This helps with the phonics process and preparation for reading.
Encouraging your child to write her thoughts as much as possible is also important. Think about words to write together. At first, we want to stick with simple three-letter-phonetic words with the letter sounds she knows.
But it’s okay to move on to other longer words she thinks about with inventive spelling. Help your child to find the many different ways to write words. This is all a part of the process. Don’t worry about proper spelling at this point. This will come later in the sequence.
Step-by-step: writing words with the moveable alphabet
In the upper left-hand corner, bring the Movable Alphabet to the rug. Sit on your child’s dominant side.
Say to your child that she has already seen these letters before.
Acknowledge the known sounds and indicate that we can build words with these sounds. Return the letters into the box.
Say, “Let’s build the word yam. Yam.” Say the word’s sounds slowly /y/, /a/, /m/, still blending the sounds (y-a-m). Then repeat the word.
Say the sound /y/, find the “y,” and place it to the right of the movable alphabet box. Say the sound /y/ again.
Repeat the same procedure with “a” and place it to the right of the “y.” Say “ya.”
Repeat the same procedure with “m” and place it next to the “ya.” Say, “yam.”
Repeat saying the sounds of the word slowly, blending them yet emphasizing each component sound.
Note: Do not ask your child to read the word after saying the sounds separately. But if she does so independently, that’s great; you will know she is ready to read.
Build another word, f-o-x, and let your child repeat the procedure. Your child may need guidance.
Note: Continue building words with your child, using only three letter/short vowel words.
Replace the letters in the movable 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 cool ideas for writing words
1. Make words using objects
Gathering a basket of objects is a great way to encourage independence in writing words with moveable letters. Be sure that when you’re first starting, the objects are three-letter phonetic words containing sounds your child already knows.
As your child practices with this lesson, you can move on to 4 phonetic letter words with consonant blends (lamp, clip, nest, hand).
The tricky thing with objects is that it’s hard to find specific hand-held objects of things that are simple phonetic words. But young children love little objects they can hold in their hands, so I recommend trying this for at least a handful of words.
2. Write words using pictures
Like writing words with objects, pictures are a great way to encourage independence with the moveable alphabet. The great thing about using pictures is that it’s easier to find pictures of simple phonetic words to write. Sometimes objects are harder to find, in my experience.
A common question I get with sounding out the /c/ and /k/ sounds is how you differentiate that when making words with your child. What has worked for me as a Montessori teacher is to call them “short /c/” and “tall /k/.” This comes up with words like kid, kite, and kick. For words spelled with “ck,” you could say, “look at that; this word has both short /c/ and tall /k/ together. Isn’t that funny!”
It’s also important to remember that inventive spelling is encouraged and expected at this stage in your child’s writing journey. In my previous blog post about writing and reading, I spoke about inventive spelling.
As she progresses, your child can move on to longer four-letter consonant blend words and two-syllable phonetic words (napkin, picnic, cactus).
Then your child can move on to writing words with sounds from the green “double” sandpaper letters (book, goat, church, sheep). When you get to these words, remember to revisit the green “double” sandpaper letters with your child.
3. Make words using word cards
A fun game we used to play in the classroom was to have the teacher (or an older student) read a word card to the child and then flip the card upside down on the mat.
The child writes the word with the moveable letters. Then, the child can turn the card over to check her work to be sure she got it right.
It’s okay if your child realizes she got any sounds wrong. It’s fun for them to check their work and fix it if they want to. The word cards can be used as a control of error. In other words, it becomes self-correcting, where the adult doesn’t have to correct the child.
What is important to remember about using word-only cards is that the adult (or an older child) has to read the word aloud. So your child is listening to the sounds she hears, which is essential for the auditory process.
However, if your child is independently working with the objects and pictures only to write words, she is not hearing the adult say the word for her. But if you’re working together, she can hear you say the words and sounds. Both options are excellent variations for exploring building words with the moveable alphabet.
4. Build words using both picture and word cards
We also have the option of using picture and word cards together! I often did this variation with the kids in the classroom. We had many sets of the matching word and picture cards for reading activities. I would use them for a writing game with moveable letter alphabet.
First, lay the pictures vertically next to the moveable alphabet box. Leave space for the word and flip over the matching word card on the right edge of the mat so you can’t see it. Then your child writes the words with the letters. Ultimately, your child flips over the card and checks her work to ensure she got the sounds correct.
You could either check all the words at the end or check them one-by-one, as you go!
Note: If you’d like to download the three-letter phonetic picture and word cards I made for building words (in the photos above), sign up for the resource library at the bottom of this post. If you’re already a subscriber, check my most recent email for the updated password.
Concluding Thoughts about writing words
I hope you enjoyed reading about making words with the moveable alphabet. It is a super exciting time for our children when we get to write words! This lesson is key in the Montessori language writing and reading curriculum. It’s important to remember to work on building words with the moveable letters regularly.
I think it’s wonderful that the lesson has several cool variations, such as using objects, pictures, word cards, or using them together. It keeps the lesson fresh and interesting. Also, moving on to more complex words makes it more intriguing for your child.
I have found that children of this age are creative and love to experiment and explore independently. For instance, my daughter, Annie, wanted to see what would happen if we added an /s/ to the end of the words she wrote. This became a whole discussion of “more than one” and plural. Then she had to add multiple objects for it to make sense!
My next blog post will cover writing word families (sat, mat, hat, bat) with the moveable alphabet. Keep an eye out for that!
Have you worked on building words with the moveable alphabet with your child? What are you currently working on in your child’s language journey? Leave a comment below!
More Montessori Resources
Making Words with the Montessori Moveable Alphabet
Note: If you’d like to download the three-letter phonetic picture and word cards I made for building words, as well as the lesson plan, sign up for the resource library below. If you’re already a subscriber, check my most recent email for the updated password.