Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Moveable Alphabet - What do you think?

I'm trying to decide what Montessori work I should organise for Hug and was wondering if anyone could help me with my Moveable Alphabet options. 

I bought this set of balsa wood capital letters (they're about 2 1/2 cm tall) about a year ago at a craft store but never presented it because they weren't lower case letters. Hug has always seemed to have a preference for upper case letters so we were working on focusing on the lower case only. 

Now, that he's not *officially* in a Montessori program (and as I have gathered Waldorf Steiner teaches capitals first - just later) I'm wondering if we should use them? He was was wanting to write a letter for our friends' sweet new baby so I pulled them out. The letter writing turned into a drawing but we played a little game whereby I created a word & asked him to spell it out & when he got it I would change only 1 letter. Eg. PIP became HIP.

I actually do have some lower case letters that I also bought last year. They are scrapbooking letters & I was imagining that I could paint them Montessori style (I was also thinking that I could paint those capital letters too) which is why I've not punched them out yet. Obviously these would be better but I just love that the others came with a box. It makes it so much easier to find what he's looking for and these letters are bigger than the others (about 4 cm for the tall ones) so they don't fit.

I've seen people using tackle boxes but I don't have one that has that many compartments, and I would rather have something in wood rather than plastic. Do you think that I should use the capitals or work out some way to use these ones? 

I'd love to hear what you think.

p.s. Here's another type of Moveable Alphabet that we were playing with over the weekend. It's a board game called 'Find A Word' that I bought at a a thrift shop. I guess it's kind of like Scrabble but with this raised grid. Hug just practiced some words on the stand & it was fun but he got tired of searching for the letters. So, it emphasised the need to have the letters organised in some way.

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Comments :


  1. This is a tricky question! I don't know enough about Waldorf to know why they begin with capitals (although I'm curious and going to see if I can find out) but my own preference as a nursery/primary school teacher would be to start with lower case as it worked best when learning to write letters. If you did decide to use your lower case letters could you find an empty wooden tray and make dividers somehow? Or even draw them on? Whichever way, at some point the child has to learn to link the lower case and upper case letters.
    Is Hug going to attend a Waldorf school? If so then I guess the best thing you could do is whatever would be in harmony with their methods.

  2. I think you should go ahead and use the capitals. Then when you have the lower case letters ready, add those in. Kids do have to know both types of letters at some point anyway, and using something is better than not doing anything because you don't have the "right"thing.

  3. Those letters are lovely. I brought some scrap books letter as well but my son also 5 is not interested in them at all even though he is reading somewhat (level 1 sometimes level 2 books).

    I don't think it matters that much whether you start out with capital or lower case letters. Although if they get confused then stick with one set then the other. My daughter, when she was learning, never confused the upper/lower case letters even at 4 where my son is a different story.

    I'd trust your instinct and use what is best for your particular child.

  4. The reason Montessorians start with the lower case is because they form the majority of what a child learns to read and write. It is noticable in a classroom which children have learnt the uppercase letters first - they are the ones that struggle with both reading and finding a fluid writing style. We don't leave it long before we introduce the uppercase letters and some will be introduced very quickly - the first letters of names etc. We have all the childrens names up in the classroom, continent names and other proper nouns so they get exposure to upper case letters in "real-world" situations. For some reason it is easier for children to learn lower case letters and then match the upper case letters than the other way around...... you know where I am standing with this!!!!!!

  5. Here is a link to a storage box made for storing magnetic letters. It is a little pricey, but it has 32 compartments, which is better than most fishing tackle boxes.

  6. Hi loveley ladies :) Thanks for all of your thoughts. I got excited & have gone and made the lower case set up! I've been wanting to do this for so long & writing this post / reading your responses really got me motivated to actually do it! A big thanks :)

    Claire - Hi! I did have an empty tray after all. Yes, Hug is enrolled in a Waldorf school. He has just started!

    Sarah - Unfortunately the capitals are smaller than the lowers so I probably won't use them together but there will be a time & place for each set. Thanks for your wisdom ;)

    Dong Dong - If your son is already reading level 1 & 2 books maybe he's past the stage for the Moveable Alphabet? I'm sure some official Montessorians could comment on this & I'd be interested to hear. Hug is definitely still at the 'de-coding' stage. Ie. He can sound out & 'spell' words but there isn't any fluid 'reading' as yet. I loved hearing your 'trust your insticts' reminder - thanks.

    Anna- Hi! Ooo, I'm pleased to get some clear reasoning. It totally does make sense to start with the lowers & was interested to read your thought that learning the caps tends to mean the children struggle with fluid reading/writing. I hope that re-introducing the lower case Moveable Alphabet will help my sweet munchkin.

    Laura - Thanks for the tip! :)


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