Before introducing your child to the sandpapers it is extremely important to work with the Montessori 'I spy game'. The 'I spy game' helps to make children aware of the different sounds in a word. The game is played at various different levels, level 1 is very concrete and the child will work through the levels until they are able to identify all the sounds in a given word. Here is a quick description of how to present this activity.
-A special box
-A few objects that start with clear sounds, make sure the child is familiar with the names of each object [for this example I have a dog]
-Mat for tablePresentation:
Take an object from the box and place it on the mat. Say 'I spy with my little eye something beginning with 'd' 'd''. Make sure that you say the sounds correctly, it should be short 'd' and not 'da'. Since there is only one object on the mat the child will be able to succeed and reply 'dog'. Reply 'I spy dog' and emphasis the 'd' in the word. Put the object back in the box and take another object, repeat the activity for the other object. You can continue this game with as many objects as the child needs. I've had children play this for 20min and more.
Do not move onto the next step until you notice that your child is becoming aware of the initial sound in each word. This may take days, weeks or months. Be patient and continue, change the objects and change the placement of the objects to keep it interesting.
By now the child should have developed some awareness of the initial sound in a word. On the mat place two objects with contrasting initial sounds. Say to the child 'I spy with my little eye something on the mat beginning with 'mm' 'mm'. The child now has to choose between the two objects on the mat. If the child has mastered level 1 hopefully they are able to distinguish the sounds and choose the correct object. If the child chooses the wrong object, in this case the dog simply reply ''d' dog, I spy something beginning with 'mm''.
Continue working with two objects at a time. As the child succeeds at the activity gradually increase the number of objects.
Level 3: In this activity you use the environment [room, car, garden]. Choose a sound that represents more than one item in the environment, for example book, basket, ball. Say 'I spy with my little eye many things that begin with 'b'. Encourage the child to find as many objects as possible.
Once the child has mastered this step then they are ready to start the sandpaper letters. The I spy game doesn't end here, continue to work through the different levels, it is still very important that you do this as this will help your child to isolate each sound in a word and ensure that they will be able to successfully work with the pink series and moveable alphabet later on.
Level 4: Now we are focusing on the ending sound of a word. It is easier to limit you objects to three letter phonetic words like dog, cat, pot.
Place two objects on a mat that begin with the same letter but end in different letters for example peg and pin. Say, 'I spy with my little eye something on the mat that begins with 'p' and ends with 'g''. Usually the child will not get this first time, if the child chooses the pin say 'Yes pin begins with 'p' but I spy something the begins with 'p' and ends with 'g'. Lets listen the the ending sounds, p i n, p e g. Then repeat I spy....'g'.
Once the child has mastered this level they will be able to identify the beginning and ending sound of a word.
Level 5: Once level 4 is mastered play the 'I spy game' with the middle sound. This can be very difficult, make sure you have three letter phonetic objects and help the child to sound out the word.
Please note that during these activities you do not show or teach the letter symbols, this activity is an auditory activity and the child should focus on hearing the sounds in a word. If you do the letters at the same time then they child is likely to get confused.
Begin presenting the sandpaper letters after the child has mastered level 3, but do this as a separate presentation/activity.
Do not get frustrated and stressed if the child is not mastering any of the levels, you can continue with each level as long as the child is happy and interested. If the child is unhappy or uninterested it may be because the child is simply not ready. In that case the best thing you can do is put the activity away and try again in a few weeks. But do try it again as this activity is extremely important for many of the later activities in the language area.
If you have an older child who is having difficulty spelling phonetic words, work through this activity and increase the difficulty by having objects with similar sounds like 'b' 'p'.
Those of you who I am helping through your home-schooling journey, try level 1 and 2 and then report back to me on how the activities went!!