Category Archives: Montessori_language

Book Review :: Montessori Read & Write

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Montessori Read and Write by Lynne Lawrence

Montessori Read and Write by Lynne Lawrence

For parents, Montessori teachers and all people who interact with young children
Lawrence, Lynne. Montessori Read & Write: A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children. Ebury Press: London, 1998.

Despite the 1980s clothing that permeates the photographs throughout the book, Lawrence’s book is quite up to date. She is a Montessorian and obviously cares deeply about staying true to Dr. Montessori’s original message, but she isn’t afraid to advocate for parents to “teach” their child to learn how to read and write. And, she isn’t afraid to suggest that a Montessori approach to learning is more important than the materials themselves. Many of the games and activities she mentions in her book are easily and inexpensively replicated. There is no need to run out and purchase an entire Montessori classroom’s worth of materials.

Many of Lawrence's suggested activities are easy to replicate at home.

Many of Lawrence’s suggested activities are easy to replicate at home.

I have a special attachment to this book as it furthered my understanding of the Montessori approach that only years of teaching and observing could have done.  To say that I was a bit overwhelmed during my Montessori training would be a colossal understatement. And, I already had a master’s degree! The initial training was crammed into a month-long summer seminar that ran from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Every day. For four and a half weeks.

At the time, my eldest son was only 20-months-old, so I was happy to have such a short time to have to worry about care. However, I was also trying to adjust to working parenthood and such a concentrated focus left me little time to reflect on my newly gained knowledge. That’s not a criticism of the training, more like a criticism of myself at the time. Even though I would go back and redo a few things during that time, I don’t regret my Montessori training in any way. It has helped me to become the person, parent, and teacher that I had hoped to be and it wouldn’t have happened if I was too worried about how to get it all done.

A chart of Dr. Montessori's observations on children's sensitive periods.

A chart of Dr. Montessori’s observations on children’s sensitive periods. Apologies for the bad picture!

That being said, when I was on my own and trying to make sense of the language component of a Montessori approach, I needed a bit more clarification. I didn’t have the luxury of having a lead teacher as mentor. I was the lead teacher, so I needed help and I needed help fast. Before the school year began.

Enter, Lynne Lawrence’s fabulous, easy to understand book on the language component of a Montessori classroom. As a Montessori teacher, I loved it for the straightforward way of explaining the sensitive periods and for having lots of charts and graphs that described (in general) the type of concepts a child had to work with to be ready for the next stage in learning.

From Montessori Read & Write by Lynne Lawrence. Increase concentration with other tasks.

From Montessori Read & Write by Lynne Lawrence. Increase concentration with other tasks.

Later, as a homeschooling parent, I loved that I could play a few verbal games, read lots of books and make some materials to use at home with my young children. The only true Montessori materials that I would recommend buying (rather than making) are the sandpaper letters. Trust me. I speak from personal experience. Buy these or these. You can thank me later.

So, this is less a review about what’s in the book and more a review that asks you to go out and find it and use it. Give it to new parents. Use it even if your child is attending preschool and, don’t worry if your child isn’t reading as soon as she implies in the book. Neither of my children love(d) the process of learning how to read. My eldest son, who is now almost ten, is a voracious reader. Voracious. He finishes books in a few hours (and then rereads them). But, he hated learning to read. So, don’t fret. They’ll get there.

So, here’s the kicker – unfortunately, this book is out of print. It was out of print when I found a used copy in 2007, but you can find old copies at Amazon. It’s worth it.

Children NEED choice. We all NEED choice.

Children NEED choice. We all NEED choice.

My Thoughts on Reading

I was trying to think about the activities that we focus on at my house…why do my husband and I think these are more important than others? And, well, quite frankly, I could come up with no good reason, other than they are important to him and me. I have read a lot of books on parenting, homeschool, teaching, learning and most of it boils down to one thing: personal interest.

We have found this to be true in our own household as the topics and activities we value are reflected in our children’s learning. And, not just because we choose to “teach” them, but rather, because we are actively learning about and participating in them. At our house that means French language study, playing guitar and computer programming. The kids have their own interests too (robotics and animals) and they pursue that type of learning through the books they pick out at the library, items they choose to ask for, etc.

However, the one “skill” that I consistently teach, beginning at birth, is the importance of reading.
DSC_0807We give books as presents – to reinforce the idea that books are special

As I am a trained librarian, reading has always been important to me. It was a key point in my decision to be a librarian, as the keeper of knowledge, the defender of the everyday rights to knowledge – regardless of income or race or language.

It is the one goal that I have for them at an early age – to love books. I was lucky enough to come across Jim Trelease’s book a few years before my oldest son was born. It validated my thoughts and helped me to preach to others. And, since then, there are a number of other books (this is one here) that support this research-backed opinion.
DSC_0659My younger son, age 3, with an interactive book he received for his birthday

We all know that reading to a child is important. And, yet, even I struggle to find the time on certain days to read aloud to my youngest child. He is learning to read, but he still needs a lot of exposure to books, reading, content. This is key. It’s not just that by reading, you are showing them you think books are important. You are. They are. Another key purpose to reading aloud is to introduce them to content.

My oldest son, looking through a homemade content book at age 6

Dr. Montessori said that true reading was being able to match up the word with understanding (hence, comprehension). An easier way to put this, I might technically be able to read a 2nd year medical school textbook, but I wouldn’t be able to understand it, therefore, rendering the “reading” of it, useless.

In addition to the books my children choose from the library, I also bring home some reality-based picture books for them as well. This is where we are “just reading,” but also imparting real-life content. I am building their vocabulary and helping them to figure out how the world works around them. Dr. Montessori called this the absorbent mind, and she said this was the main way a child, aged 0-6-years, learns.

So, while we have Dr. Seuss books in our house, they are mostly for the capable six or seven-year-old. We focus on non-fiction books and reality-based picture books for five and under (which is not to say we don’t read those other books, if asked, just that we don’t offer those books first).

To recap: 1) read to them, 2) read to them a lot – especially reality-based fiction or non-fiction books,  and 3) let them see you reading.

DSC_0739A picture of my oldest son’s bed, taken September 2014, age 8.5


“Man himself must become the center of education and we must never forget that man does not develop only at the university, but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest intensity during the first three years of life.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori, Absorbent Mind





Math and pre-reading

We're combining tens and units (and in another few weeks, hundreds and thousands), both in written form and in bead form. The teens stil give him trouble, but that's normal for most kids. (Those pesky teen numbers which say their unit's number first – fourteen).




The pictures were all taken by Ronan – he was quite proud of his work. These beads are from Montessori Outlet. I like them for math and geography materials, but would not recommend them for language stuff (it's too small and not quite helpful for small hands).

And, since Calum has started to calm down a bit more (and we're doing our lessons pretty consistently in the morning), he wants to do some "work" too.


He matched half of the letters before he got bored and started goofing around. A pretty impressive feat for a barely two-and-a-half year-old. No, he cannot recognize any one letter by sound or by name (though, Ronan and I have started teaching him "m"). This is a homemade alphabet roll. I traced the letters on muslin and painted them with fabric paint. Then, once dried, I sewed double-fold bias tape to the edges which connected the two pieces of muslin (one that was painted and another for the back). I used this in my classroom and it was a requirement for my Montessori certificate.

Montessori and the concept of tens

While we have been doing a few different types of activities these past few weeks, I've really been concentrating on helping Ronan to master some math and language activities. Namely, teens, tens and blends.


He has a special aptitude for math and he really enjoys it (as opposed to say, language activities in which he could leave behind and allow Joey or I to read to him for the rest of his life)! He always wants to "do" math and it's a joy to show him these activities.


In a tradional Montessori classroom, the teens board and the tens board are connected and quite large. But, since this is home and I have small rugs (and didn't cut the numbers as large as the bead tens…), well, we made do with a few spaces in between. A small part of me thinks that it works a bit better.

With the tens, you teach them to equate the units (ten) to the written numeral – ten. And, gently remind them to count the tens as they go, "one ten, two tens, three tens, etc." After they've mastered the quanity to written numeral, then you can go ahead and give them the names of the numerals, i.e. "this is two tens or twenty."

We will continue to do this work over the next few weeks and reinforce the teen numbers (always a tricky one since the name is based on the number of units). And, I've finally gotten into the rhythm of remembering to set up movable alphabet work for Ronan – everyday. He needs everyday.


I had him look at the picture and I told him what it was (especially for putt and dump). Then, he attempted to spell them with the movable alphabet. He checked his work against the written labels and fixed the spellings. (Note: some Montessorians would put these two-letter words with spelling work, but some do not. He can read them just fine, but sounding them out is a bit more difficult — for obvious reasons). He had a hard time hearing some of the separate sounds in the words – especially dump and ring – something about the n and m sounds being so close to another letter. I've also realized that he needs to do his language work earlier in the day since he can't concentrate nearly as well after lunchtime.

We'll continue to work on these works next week – as a reinforcer and so that he can memorize the words. He seems to do a bit better with a whole language approach and I am trying to incorporate that as well.