Montessori Ideas: Lazy Literacy

Before the summer began I vowed it would be different than previous years. Oh yes, I was going to think ahead and plan ahead! I was going to create theme weeks with specific field trips to go along with the (educational) theme. Like a space week followed by a trip to Space Center Houston and NASA. You see!? It was all going to be great.

Obviously on this third (fourth?) week of summer vacation, I have failed at the above. I have once again fallen into the position of lazy cruise director. One that the clients think, with good reason, makes up activities without forethought and evilly forces the young one to nap. Well they are right, but one good thing has come from falling into old patterns and that is my tendency toward control has been smacked down on something really important: My daughter learning to read.

At the end of the school year my daughter had mastered consonant-vowel-consonant words and was busting up common sight words like a little ninja. As an educator I knew full well of the dreaded “summer melt” when kids lose skills and knowledge from the previous school year. So of course I built in daily time to our summer schedule for us to work on sight words and her to read to me. That lasted about a day and she fiercely rebelled. So I begrudgingly backed off with Maria Montessori’s voice in my head. Then I started observing her reading everything: signs, magazines, books in her bed alone when no one was watching. She did not want or need me to be her teacher, she wanted me to be her mom.

Then while running errands we found an awesome game that she wanted to buy. Hangman. I know what you are thinking you don’t buy hangman you make it on a piece of paper, but with little ones that is a pretty tough game to explain and set-up. I really like this Melissa and Doug set-up because it is visual. You know what letters are left to guess and how many more guesses you have. The kids love to flip over the tiles. It also allows us to tailor the game to our kids needs, the board says it is for 6 and up but my kids are 5 and 3 so we play different versions based on who is playing.


Version 1: The whole family.

  • Kids pair up with a grown up. The child thinks of the word or phrase and the grown up helps or tells them how many dashes are in that word or phrase. The other pair guesses.

Version 2: The early reader plus a grown up

  • When it is the early reader’s turn she chooses a word that she knows how to spell. She can practice on the whiteboard first to check how many letters, without showing the grown-up then the game progresses normally. When it is the grown up’s turn it is played the traditional way.

Version 3: The pre-reader plus a grown up

  • This is my favorite sneaky way of learning. My 3 year old knows all of his letters and we are working on the phonetic sounds. So he thinks of a word and tells the grown up what it is. The other day it was “sock”. The grown up then tells him how many dashes to write. He then has to guess the letters by sounding it out. He already knows the word so he uses the word to try to figure out the sound.

I am totally in love with this game and I know it will help us pass the time on a plane ride we are taking this week! We love it so much we wore out the dry erase marker it came with and I bought a four pack to make sure we made it through our trip!


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