Thursday, January 26, 2012

'Total' Reading

The Montessori classroom provides a language rich environment from which the child is able to absorb information.  While lessons within the curriculum areas and adult interactions nurture language growth, they also simultaneously form a foundation for future reading. We are able to provide the tools necessary for the child to form his own thoughts as he progresses through the stages of writing.  Therefore, it is recognized that writing precedes reading.  In order to write, a child must analyze and decode his own word or thought.  Reading on the other hand, presents an entirely new process.  Here, the child is first required to synthesize outside information, followed by analyzation and decoding of information before putting it back together again.  As we refer to the teaching of reading, one must also remember that reading is to be taught in totality.  That is, a child must not only be able to decode words, but we also strive to cultivate his understanding of meaning, thought, and expression conveyed by an author.  The Montessori teacher facilitates this process by providing the child ‘keys’ for learning.

Reading practice with the Phonetic Object Box lesson.
The initial lessons in the Montessori classroom for reading involve the Single Word Exercises.  First, the child is introduced to the phonetic sounds of words so that he may experience isolation of sound.  This is an essential element to learning as the child will know what to expect.  Next, phonograms are introduced and the child realizes that sometimes, more than one letter is necessary to produce one sound.  The children are also introduced to puzzle words (sight words) which assist the child in practicing words which do not follow established reading rules.  The final lessons of the initial stage involve a combination of phonetic reading lessons, phonograms, and puzzle words.
Word building with the phonogram '-ow.'
The next set of lessons, The Function of Words, allows the child to explore relationships between words.  Through various lessons involving articles, nouns, and adjectives, the child comes to understand the power of words.  Grammar Symbols are also introduced along with lessons of conjunctions and prepositions.  Verbs are introduced after much work with the nouns.  The Function of Words exercises provide the ‘keys’ necessary for the child to experience the forceful impressions elicited through word. 
The 'Conjunction' lesson with grammar symbols.
Lastly, the child is provided ’keys’ for Reading Analysis.  These lessons provide opportunities for the child to explore relationships among parts of sentences.  As the child progresses through the individualized exercises, his reading level increases along with his self-esteem.  Of paramount importance is the support of the child’s self confidence and providing him the tools needed for success.

The importance of books in the classroom should not be neglected.  The modeling of correct treatment of books is emphasized in the Montessori classroom.  Children are taught how to properly handle books and carefully turn pages.  The teacher should also take care to provide an array of books with varying degrees of reading levels.  Introducing a variety of literature is a positive reinforcement not only to the Language curriculum, but also to the development of the child’s ability to read.
Reading should be regarded as an extension of one’s speech.  Teaching methods for learning to read can be adapted and enriched to maintain a child’s interest and desire to read.  Reading is an integrated process involving language experience, interrelated skills, phonetic instruction, and analyzation.  It is also a culmination of a child’s curious mind responding to the adult’s enthusiastic approach to the teaching of total reading.

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