Montessori Letter Work Book
It is immediately obvious that this book (and its partners in the series) have been designed by qualified and experienced Montessori educators.
There are so many subtle but powerful details that link the books to the 'concrete' Montessori materials that they support and that represent tenets of the Montessori philosophy.
This is true even of the titles - each book in the series focuses on a particular area of work; the 'Map Work', 'Letter Work', 'Shape Work' and 'Numbers Work'.
This follows the Montessori tradition of identifying the child's activities by the title of 'work'. This unique piece of semantics is very deliberate and powerful. It identifies that "the true work of the child is the task of building himself/herself", it helps to loan a weight and importance to any task that the child chooses (so that the adult sees that the child is not "just playing" but is engaging in that vital, valuable work of building oneself) and it helps the child to build a positive attitude and relationship with the concept of 'work'. The adult misconception that "work" is a chore, a laborious bore or something that we do because we must not because it fulfils us, is not an attitude that we should endeavour to pass on to our children. We should help the next generation, from their youngest days, to recognise that 'work' can and should be joyful and meaningful!
Each book in the series begins with a letter to the adult providing an introduction to the 'Montessori' approach to the topic. This assists the adult, whether it is a teacher or parent, to help guide the child effectively through the book. The books do, however, also promote independent exploration as the child can flip through the sturdy, 'board book' style pages to observe the attractive images, the clear text and the hidden tactile experiences on each page.
The Letter Work book also features an introductory page that just encourages the child to begin tracing the straight and curved lines that will be present in the letter symbols.
These lines, and the following letter symbols throughout the book are tactile. They have a subtle texture that is slightly rougher than the rest of the page. This mimics the attributes of the Montessori 'Tactile Letters' (sometimes called 'Sandpaper Letters'). It allows the child to trace the shape of the letters to create a muscular memory. It also gives the adult an opportunity to present a version of a three period lesson (this is supported by the language at the top of each letter page which encourages the reader to identify "this is..." in the way that occurs in the first period of the three period lesson). The tactile letters in the book feature arrows to help direct the child towards the proper starting position and flow for tracing (and later writing) the letters.
The Letter Work Book, in line with the Montessori presentations of literacy, introducing the phonetic sounds of the letters.
The presence of the "this is..." line for each letter not only provokes the three period lesson but also helps the adult! Many adults are so accustomed to the names of the letters (as we say them in 'the alphabet song') that they may have forgotten the phonetic sounds. So it is helpful, particularly for parents or for educators who haven't completed Montessori training, to have this reminder of how to sound-out the letter phonetically. This is then reinforced (for the adult and the child!) by the presence of a picture of an object or item starting with that phonetic sound (such as 'buh' for 'bus').
One feature that makes this book truly stand out from other 'letter' books is that it is not presented in alphabetical order. This is true in the formal Montessori literacy presentations - when introducing the Tactile Letters the Montessori teacher generally does not do this based on alphabetical order. In the Montessori Letter Work book the letters are instead grouped by their shape and the motion used to write them. The letters with curves sit together, the letters with straight lines in another group and so forth.
(For an interesting blog post about the different orders / groups that Montessori teachers use to present letters please visit Living Montessori Now here).
The final pages of the book offer an opportunity for repetition and reflection.
Please note: You might notice that the cover of each book actually shows the title entirely in lowercase letters - 'shape work' rather than 'Shape Work' and so on.
This is no accident - the authors of the books are helping to demonstrate to the child that an incomplete phrase does not require capitalisation. It is not a complete sentence, or a 'proper noun', and as such neither of the words need to begin with an uppercase letter.
In our product listing we choose to use the capitalisation because that language is directed at the adult, not the child, and refers to the book as an item and therefore utilises the capitalisation of a proper noun.
I just love the attention to detail that the use of lowercase letters in the title demonstrates. It is yet more evidence of the care and thought put into these beautiful books.