Tuesday, 17 June 2014

DIY Montessori Movable Alphabet

Our version of Montessori's movable alphabet is still going strong in our playroom shelf!   It's one of my favourite leave-behind activities for Ladybug Girl to play with while I'm at the office.  

Want to see how we're continuing to use it?

When she was three, I discovered by trial-and-error that a home version of the Montessori movable alphabet worked best for learning letter sounds in starting to make words.  If you're new to this blog (*hello*) please see this post last year on super simple ways to get started at early preschool stage.  
We're using the same DIY set I made more than a year ago: alphabet magnets in drawer organizers.  And a cooking tray from the kitchen.
In hindsight I would have used the cheaper plastic alphabet magnets available everywhere.
These Melissa and Doug magnets went from 550 pesos to 795 pesos in a single year - crazy profit!
We still use them as Montessori intended - to enable kids to practice the sounds of the letters to make words without three hang-ups: correct spelling, legible writing and the pressure of reading aloud.  Those three things are a different set of skills that come later - otherwise they can easily discourage kids from starting to read and communicate.  I've seen all these happen with Ladybug Girl!  
Can you tell I've been reading up on this?  (*nerd cough*)   Well, we're still doing basic word-making:
I put out a simple flashcard prompt at night and sometime during the next days she chooses the letters to make the word.
Remember: don't correct the spelling unless asked!  In Montessori they start correcting spelling at Grade 2.
This one was for Halloween last October
A quick learning opportunity on the "SH" sound
Here's another way to make word-making more sensorial while working on fine motor hand strength at the same time: use moon dough as a stamping pad.  Moon dough doesn't dry up unlike play dough.
I used PlayDoh letters and numbers set and set out a stamping 'pad' made out of moon dough over a small lid.
Extra mommy credit for painstaking letter labels for my left-handed daughter, yes?  Haha
Now that Ladybug Girl is a little older at five, I can see the genius of the movable alphabet in encouraging her to write (the creative kind) even without mastering how to write (the handwriting kind).  Ladybug Girl and fine motor skills were not early friends, you see.  Massive understatement.  
I came across the idea of preschool journaling here and here, but I still need to test how it can be working-mom friendly on top of Ladybug Girl's reluctance to do handwriting.  Using our DIY movable alphabet is a start!
I leave out prompts like this:
"My favourite toys are:" invitation to make a list.
Adapt your words and handwriting to your child's skill level - example "I (heart) my toys:"

Notice the use of a big D instead of the small letter d?  She keeps doing this because that's how she learned to write the D in her name and it's gone uncorrected.  This made me realise that it's time to correct that one in her name, at least.

To make marks on the cooking tray, I used these dry-erase crayons:

Now in Toys R Us in Manila!  No more hoarding these things in Singapore!

Our last one before school started.  I'm looking forward to coming home to more stories and conversations through our movable alphabet play:

"My summer vacation story"

"Boracay, Tagaytay, Play, Write, Buy Toys" made for an interesting conversation after I got home from work.
She says "write" as "writ-uh!" with a very strong T sound in the end : hence the spelling.

For more DIY movable alphabet versions see Montessori Printshop's paper version here and Living Montessori Now's round-up of ideas here.

We have a little gallery of posts on the moveable alphabet here (find it on the sidebar too):

One hundred years old - and a year into using this at home - it's still shiny and new.  
And now it's working-mom friendly too!


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7 comments:

  1. Wow! So how many set of Melissa and Doug did you get to complete your moveable alphabet? I wonder if there are any Montessori shops in the Philippines? But that's great, we love Melissa and Doug products and especially that magnetic alphabet. I have mine for 6 years already and still in tact:)

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  2. Hi Jae! I eventually got four to be able to do lists but we started out with just two sets for one word or two. There are no Montessori shops in the Philippines that I know of, I'm afraid - at least on online searches, there aren't. My daughter's Montessori school has theirs specially made and some ordered from abroad. I think demand is not as obvious for these here (which is a shame because we'd be able to make them cheap!) There's a homeschooling trend that I see but Montessori is not the curriculum that they follow.

    Hats off to you for homeschooling Mavi AND taking care of your new baby at the same time! Superwoman.

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  3. This is great! I'm going to do our own set. Thanks for the tips!

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  4. Thanks Shey! Feel free to email diycorporatemom.ph@gmail.com in case you have questions pa. Sorry I've been in a blackhole for the past month with a project at work! Hope homeschooling is going well!

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  5. Hi! I bought two sets of the Melissa and Doug magnetic alphabet today. I would like to know where you found your drawer organizer. Also, how do you keep the letters in their correct compartments so they can be easily found? I was thinking of pasting a paper to the bottom of each with the upper and lowercase letter that belongs there. Right now I have them in muffin pans to organize them, but there are only 24 compartments.

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  6. Hi! I bought two sets of the Melissa and Doug magnetic alphabet today. I would like to know where you found your drawer organizer. Also, how do you keep the letters in their correct compartments so they can be easily found? I was thinking of pasting a paper to the bottom of each with the upper and lowercase letter that belongs there. Right now I have them in muffin pans to organize them, but there are only 24 compartments.

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    1. Hi Pamela! I found the drawer organisers at a local storage shop - I'm afraid I don't remember the brand! They were a hurried buy, cost a lot and I had to buy three just to make everything fit. I actually think the muffin pan as storage is a fantastic idea!! Maybe you could just make a division for the last two letters?

      I updated the post with a link to our small gallery of moveable alphabet posts so you can see how I set them up at the start. (There's also a link to this in the sidebar). I also used a label stuck to the bottom of each letter compartment. When stacked, the letters aren't perfectly facing upwards but it was okay. Eventually my daughter got used to the order of the letters. Have a great time setting up yours!

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