pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified objects, insects

1 Playful Pre-Reading Activity To Try Today (Classify Objects)

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A beginning pre-reading activity

My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Annie has been so excited about the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Lately, she wants me to read it to her each day, and when I hand her the book, she reads it back to me in her own words. 

I thought it would be a fun idea to pull together the classic Montessori pre-reading activity, Classified Objects, with an insect theme. The collection of insect objects includes a caterpillar and a butterfly, which are her favorites! 

Does your child love books? Does your child like to flip through the pages and “read” the book back to you? What is your child’s favorite book about right now and what “theme” of objects (or pictures) could you come up with to go with the book? 

In this post, I’ll talk about the Classified Objects lesson I learned from my Montessori training. I’ll share playful variations of the lesson I did in the classroom, and how the lesson went with Annie at home!

classified objects pin

In This Post

pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified objects, insects
Naming the types of insects

Why are pre-reading activities important for young children?

To develop language and love reading

Young children naturally love books. We read to them and they tell the stories back to us. They notice words that rhyme and are attracted to fun poems and rhyming songs.

They tell stories with their toys or they like to talk about what they see in picturesThey notice and point out labels and signs everywhere. They begin to recognize letters and the sounds they make.

The cool thing is that your child is already “writing” and “reading” in her own way, before she is officially there yet. Above is just a short list of examples of pre-reading skills and activities. There are so many more! 

Pre-reading activities and skills are important to help your child to fall in love with writing and reading when the time comes.  We’re setting our child up for success each day with these activities! 

Verywell Family talks about pre-reading activities and gives even more examples you can try. 

"Though it may look as though your child is merely playing, she is organizing what she knows about books and language (including words, letters, and sounds) and how they work together to form this magical skill known as 'reading.'"

pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified objects, insects
Exploring with the insect objects

Why a Classified Objects lesson?

The classification of objects pre-reading activity can help your child with:

  • enlarging vocabulary
  • naming things
  • exploring a topic further
  • reliving things
  • building confidence
  • preparing for further study in science 

Tip: Choose a topic that your child really loves. It will keep her motivated and engaged even more. I chose insect objects because I observed that Annie absolutely loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar! She loved exploring and playing with the insect objects and learning their names.

What is the classified objects lesson?

The main purpose of this Montessori language lesson is to build your child’s vocabulary. While naming the objects, you are also classifying objects that are within the same category.

For the first presentation use real items, like real fruit

When you first present this lesson, especially to very young children around two to two-and-a-half years old, it’s best to use real objects, such as real fruit from your kitchen. 

You can try this with your child now! Go to your kitchen and find at least five fruit and put them in a bowl or basket; for example:

  • apple
  • banana
  • orange
  • peach
  • some grapes

You could also use vegetables instead. Use what ever you have.

This lesson is very simple. You’re basically naming the fruit and stating that these are all types of fruit. You could even get more exotic fruit, such as papaya, persimmon, fig, starfruit and dragon fruit to learn new and unfamiliar fruit names. 

Notice what your child knows really well and what names she doesn’t know yet. You can continue with more practice with the names she doesn’t know. 

Tip: Make it a game! You could gather a collection of fruits and vegetables and sort them by type: put all the fruits in one bowl, and put all of the vegetables in another bowl while naming all of them. 

pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified objects, insects
Playing with the insects

A collection of insect figures

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, my daughter Annie is really into caterpillars and butterflies because of the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. 

I already had a collection of insects by Safari Ltd. Toobs that we haven’t had the chance to explore with yet, so I thought this would be a fabulous opportunity to use them. 

Annie instantly loved them. She enjoys pretend playing with them. She didn’t know the names of some of them at first, but when exploring with them more, she remembered all of the names.

She likes to carry the caterpillar around with her and pretends that he’s very hungry, eating snacks, like apples, along the way.

pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified cards, insects
Insect classified cards

Classified Cards

You can do this same lesson with cards. In Montessori, it is aways best to start with “concrete” objects and then move on to “abstract” cards. But if you don’t have objects, you can move on to working with the cards first.

I also created 8 insect classified cards for Annie to explore with. I chose 8 insects that are a part of the Safari Ltd. Insect Toob. They include: 

  • praying mantis
  • dragonfly
  • butterfly
  • caterpillar
  • ladybug
  • grasshopper
  • ant
  • bumble bee
pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified cards, insects
Exploring with the Insect classified cards

Simply mix up the cards and place them in a horizontal line on your mat. Say that these are all types of insects. Name the insect as you place the cards. 

Keep a mental note of what names your child doesn’t know yet and go back and work with those cards more. 

Also, you can use the Montessori Three-Period Lesson to help your child learn the names of objects she doesn’t know. 

Annie knew all of the names of the insect cards from working with the objects first, so this was a wonderful review. Also, seeing the insects look a little bit different in a photograph was exciting and intriguing to Annie.

Note: If you’d like to download the cards I made, sign up for the Resources Library at the bottom of this post. 

pre-reading, Montessori, language, classification, classified cards, flowers
Flower cards made out of pictures from an old journal

The ideas for topics are endless!

The beauty of this type of Montessori lesson is that you can create this activity for virtually any topic you can think of! For instance:

  • vehicles
  • backyard birds
  • owls
  • tropical fish
  • dogs
  • clothing
  • paintings
  • reptiles

I found the first classified cards I made in 2007 for my Montessori teacher training. They are beautiful flower illustrations from an old journal I had. You can make cards out of anything like old calendars, old books, magazines, or photos you find online. 

The best part is, your child is exploring and learning new vocabulary with each topic! 

Tip: As I mentioned above with the real fruit, you can turn this into a game! Get another set of cards of a different topic and mix up all of the cards. Sort the cards by category.

classified objects pin

Have fun and be silly!

I have found that if you don’t bring silliness and fun into your activities and lessons, or if you find these lessons boring, the children will find them boring, too. 

Even with my daughter, Annie, at home I find that if I show her a new activity and I am not interested or I’m confused or bored or I don’t feel like doing it, she will not be interested. Also, choose topics and themes your child loves!

Keep this in mind while presenting Classified Objects or Cards to your child! I have observed that some Montessori teachers completely ignore and skip over these types of pre-reading language lessons because they just want to go straight to the lessons on letters, phonics, or reading.

Concluding thoughts about classified objects and cards

Take your time and give your child the opportunity to explore new topics and vocabulary words. Make it joyful!

Annie loves the caterpillar the most. She carries it around with her and pretends that he is very hungry like from the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

She shares her snack with the caterpillar. I try to be silly, too and pretend that all of the insects are hungry and eating up all the leaves! 

Have you tried this pre-reading activity with your child? What themes, topics, or books does your child love? 

Leave a comment, below! 

More Montessori Resources

You can also download the lesson plans for:

Lesson 1: Beginning Oral Language Activities
Lesson 2: Picture Story (Dictation) Plus 24 photos and the lined paper we used!
Lesson 3: Naming – plus 140 labels for around the house
Lesson 4: Classified Objects – plus 8 insect photo cards
Lesson 5: Object Discrimination (Object Matching)

I will be adding all of the lesson plans as I write additional blog posts about Oral Language.

You can download them all below, by signing up for the Resources Library.

Pre-Reading Activity: Montessori Classified Objects and Cards

Lesson 4 mockup
Insect cards pin

17 thoughts on “1 Playful Pre-Reading Activity To Try Today (Classify Objects)”

  1. Love doing things like this with my toddler! The importance of vocabulary development and pattern recognition that comes with classifying objects is huge for kids at young ages!

  2. My 3 year old toddler is having vocabulary explosion. I think this activity will work for him. We can start with his toys that he plays all the time. He loves cars, dinosaurs and construction trucks. We can move on to other categories later.

  3. I really enjoyed learning about this pre-reading activity. My son is just 17 months, but is starting to develop favorites when it comes to his books so I will be keeping an eye out on how to start incorporating this!

    1. That’s wonderful, Katie! 17 months old is a great age to try the pre-reading activity, Classified objects! Observing what books your son gravitates towards is a wonderful way to choose what topics to try!

  4. An amazing idea to prepare our kids for their reading activity. As we all know that kids are hard to get focus on things we want them to do. This is definitely a great help, thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. I love the concept of pre-reading activities. And definitely love the suggested activities in your post. Makes learning so very complete and enjoyable

  6. I love this so much! I’m not Montessori trained, but I was a kindergarten teacher for 5 years and it’s so great to make connections before reading a book! Your ideas are hands-on and fun learning activities and I love them!

  7. This sounds like such a fun and beneficial activity! My son also loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so your insect cards will be great for us to start with. Thanks for sharing!

  8. The cards are super cute! I am not a huge fan of bugs, but I guess the kids have to learn about them LOL. Just kidding. Bugs are super important to know about and these activities are great for doing just that.

    Awesome ideas! and they are budget friendly too!

  9. Ashley Cirka

    I love this we have done this with our older kids and will continue to with our younger two as well the steps before reading are just as important as reading it’s self! Thank you for sharing!

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