In the Children’s House environment at AIM, children learn both English and either Chinese or Japanese simultaneously. For more details on the language immersion program, please click here, In this section, you’ll read primarily about the English component of the classroom, but similar principles apply to Japanese and Chinese, too.
The Montessori language program enables preschoolers to joyfully learn to read and write. Often, Montessori preschool children who start in the infant community can read well, before the end of the 3rd year in the program (that is, before the end of traditional Kindergarten.) In effect, one of the factors deciding when a child is ready to move up to AIM’s elementary program is his or her ability to read phonetic texts independently.
Montessori preschool supports the development of literacy skills at an early age by breaking the process down to simple steps, and making each step fun for children to master:
- Learning to control a pencil is key to learning to write. Many activities provide what we call indirect preparation for writing (picking up small objects, gripping knobs on cylinders, even the circular motion of cleaning the blackboard or washing a table develop motor skills critical for writing.) The metal insets further refine pencil control, as children outline and then color in a series of geometric shapes.
- Phonemic awareness, often started in kindergarten in other schools, begins as early as age 2 ½ or 3 in Montessori at AIM. Students listen to beginning sounds of objects, and repeat those sounds. We also do a lot of songs and rhyming games to foster this essential skill.
- Associating sounds with letters. While most preschools teach letter names and capital letters, at AIM we focus solely on letter sounds. We use a material called sandpaper letters to introduce cursive writing to students as young as age four. In short, individual lessons, the teacher guides the child in associating a sound with a symbols. The child also traced the letter with his pointer and middle finger, and thus, over time, masters the movement necessary for forming the letter.
- Word building with the moveable alphabet enables children to write before they can form letters properly. Students delight in labeling small objects with their names: bat, mug, pig and so on: they are writing, transmitting ideas, as young as age four.
- Putting it all together: the explosion into writing and reading. With this careful preparation, usually at some time during the 3rd year in Children’s House, children start writing, not just three-letter words, but full sentences. Shortly thereafter, they begin to read, not just simple sentences like a cat on a mat, but anything they can phonetically decipher.
- Building to independent reading. Once a preschool child starts to write and read, a range of materials enables them to learn the phonograms, multi-letter combinations that are critical to reading in English (e.g., <oo> for the different sounds in door or pool, <ea> for the sounds in read and head, <ir>, <ur>, and <er> for the same sound in words like girl, perfect, and purpose. This practice in phonograms begins in Childen’s House, and continues seamlessly into our Montessori elementary program.