Saturday, March 21, 2020

Phonemic Awareness Series

It is undoubted that we are facing some uncertain times with the concerns over COVID-19.  As a Montessori Blogger I want to do what I can to help the families who find themselves homeschooling not by choice but by circumstance.  I have been working along with many Montessori Collectives to support teachers, administrators,  and families in keeping as much continuity in the lives of children as possible.  I have updated both the Pink and Blue Reading posts to include all of my updated works and have realized that this post was never completed and published.  This is what I can do.  These are my gifts to the world in times of trouble.  I wish to be one of the helpers.  I am still finishing the explanations on the bottom half of this post but I need to get these files into the hands of parents.  I will publish this post and then continue working on it.

Phonemic Awareness is a vast and important arm of successful reading.  Without Phonemic Awareness skills, even beyond the recognition of letter sounds, children will be hampered in their success.  When a child has solid Phonemic Skills their footing is more sure and their success is greater.


Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #1 - Compound Words for Line Times
Compound words and easy and VERY fun for children to practice and to try to distinguish from other kinds of words.  Every day at Line (circle) our class practices at least a few of Phonemic Exercises and Compound Words is hands down a favorite.  The Compound Words for Line Times document can be used with whole groups to first present the idea of compound words, and then to further practice.  After we have practiced several times I will listen for compound words in everyday discussions at line.  I may say something like, "When I was listening to Joy I heard her use three compound words.  I heard her say playground.  Let's practice that ... play (pause) ground, put it together - playground.  I heard her say backyard.  Let's practice that ... back (pause) yard, put it together - backyard."  and so on.  We use our hands to practice.  The right hand is the first word, the left is the second word. We begin with both hands in the air and drop each one down as we say each word individually and slowly.  Then we bring them together to say the compound word.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #1 Compound Words For Line Times
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #2 - Compound Word Cards
Once the children have practiced this work at Line plenty of times I will place these cards on the Phonemic Awareness Shelf for use.  They include the compound words and the + & = cards with a control of error to help the children be as independent as possible.  They do need a short presentation to aid them in laying out the cards in the below arrangement and to show them how to check their work.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #2 Compound Word Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #3 - Syllables Counting for Line Times
There may possibly not be a more important skill than syllabification.  The further I take my research and learning into language the more syllables show up as a key skill.  This syllable work is a beautiful beginning.  These cards are large enough to be used at Line Time.  We look at a picture and clap out the number of syllables we think there are.  The children hold up their fingers and then we turn around the cards to check to see how we did.  I will generally do at least 3 pictures and then ask for words that go along with what we are learning.  Dinosaur names are fabulous for this work.

Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #3 Syllables for Line Times

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #4 - Syllable Counting Cards
 Once the children have had some practice with syllables at the Line this shelf work can be introduced.  It uses many of the same pictures as the whole group work but we add Red Bingo Markers for marking the number of syllables a child thinks there are in a word.  The control of error on the back further facilitates independent work.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level 4 Syllables Word Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #5 - Rhyming Word Cards
Rhyming skills are another pillar of language that should begin long before a child can read words.  Training the ear to hear the rhyme supports the development of both reading and spelling skills.  This is a set of cards with control of error to use on the shelf.  This set requires a quick presentation before use. There is no need for a child to have any reading skills for this set.
Phonemic Awareness Skills Series Level #5 Rhyming

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #6  - Introduction to Sandpaper Letters
As we get into the realm of letters there are some incredibly important things to understand.  First, we learn to read lowercase, phonetic, short letter, sounds not uppercase letter names.  After having taught Montessori for so long I cannot understand how we in the United States came up with the idea in traditional education to teach letter names, and uppercase no less, first.  It just doesn't make any sense to me at all.  In fact, I find that children who are taught their letter names before I begin working with them can sometimes have a challenge unlearning them in order to learn to read.  During the introduction presentation to Sandpaper Letters we bring the box over to the top left hand corner of the table and ask a child to choose the letter they want to try first.  This presentation is not about having the child remember any sound.  It is about getting them familiar with the material and helping them know how we use the Sandpaper Letters for later use.  We then show how to hold the letter depending on whether or not you are aware of the dominant hand of the child yet.  At this stage we often do not know yet, so we will just hold the letter down with our hand in the margin on the left side and use our first two fingers (with the others tucked tightly under) to trace the letter. You may say the letter sound here but it is not absolute necessary.  You may ask the child if they would like to try tracing this letter.  Set this letter up in the right hand corner upside down and ask the child to make their next choice.  Continue in this way as long as the child is interested.

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #47- Initial Sound Booklets for Use With the Sandpaper Letters
From now on the letter sounds will be broken up into groups of letters.  This is where differences between schools and programs will show up the most.  I have included the letter groupings that we will use here.  They are:   s, m, a, t, b      c, i, r, p, l      d, f, n, o, g      h, j, u, w, k      x, y, z, v, e, q

We have taken a set of our Sandpaper Letters and put them into grouped boxes to support this next work.  Inside the boxes we have the Sandpaper Letter and the Initial Sound Booklets.  When we introduce this work we take the entire box with us to the table and place it on the top left corner.  We first pull out the first Sandpaper Letter sound to teach and trace just as we did in the Introduction to Sandpaper Letters Lesson.  If the letter sound was "ssss" I would trace and then say, "ssss".  Then I would say, "now you trace and say 'sssss'".  I have the child trace and say the sound at least three times in a sitting.  I then say, "I know some things that begin with 'ssss'.  Things like sandwich, song, and sit.  Can you think of anything that begins with 'ssss'?"  Once the child has said what they know I will say,  "I have a booklet of things that begin with 'ssss'" and pull out the booklet.  I touch the sound and say it, then touch the picture and say the name. Then I have the child do the same.  I go through each page and say the sound as I touch it then say the name of the picture as I touch it.  The child then follows me and does the same thing.  Once we go through the entire book I hold up the Sandpaper Letter and say, "What was that sound again?"  Then I immediately say the letter sound.  I move onto the second Sandpaper Letter and sound and follow the same procedure.  Once I have to letters to work with I will do the second step in the three period lesson.  I ask the child to touch the 'sss', now touch the 'aaa'.  We practice picking them up,  handing them to me, turning them over etc. until I feel they are doing well.  Once they are doing well we will turn over the Sandpaper Letters and practice the third step of the three period lesson.  I will knock on the back of the Sandpaper Letter and say in a dingy voice, "Knock, Knock.  Who's there?  What kind of letter sound is under there?"  The child turns it over and we see if they can tell me the sound without any support.  If the child wants to continue and is doing fine I will keep adding letter sounds with a second and third period assessment between each letter to determine if I should still continue.  If a child is really into it and doing so well I will do all the letter sounds in a box.  Even if they get it all right I will come back another day to make sure they are still doing well before moving to the next set.
Phonemic Awareness Level #7 Initial Sound Picture & Word Booklets for the Sandpaper Letters

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #8- Initial Sound Object Sorting
Children adore small objects.  This work simply calls to them from across the room to USE ME!!  There are 4 objects that begin with each letter sound in the group in the box.  Here I must make an IMPORTANT NOTE concerning objects to use for a letter sound.  They MUST be a pure short phonetic sound.  NO BLENDS!  I am making a statement on purpose.  While many children might be able to do just fine there is a good segment of the population that struggles to hear the sound if you have a blend in there.  To explain we can look at some of the objects in C's work below.  He is using the first letter mat with objects.  I would NEVER choose an object such as an apron for 'a' but instead have an astronaut, ant, alligator, and apple.  For 'b' I would not choose something with a blend such as a branch or a blanket.  Instead I carefully chose a butterfly, barn, bat, and ball.  The sound is kept pure to support all learners.  It fits the needs of all in this way.  We never know what we are working with at this stage so being prepared to mitigate challenges BEFORE they show up is our mantra.

To use this work I help the child lay out the mat (which could easily be made of paper or felt).  I go down the letter sounds and have the child say the sounds.  If a child is missing a sound just let them know what it is and keep going.  I then take my first object and say, "'aaaaa' astronaut.  I hear a at the beginning of this word.  Can you hear 'aaaa' at the beginning of astronaut?"  Then place in the 'aaaa' row.  Continue until all the objects are placed.  Invite the child to do this work.  Replace it on the shelf so they know where to find it and put it away and then give the child the chance to work.  Say, "Please come get me to look at your work when you are finished."  Step a distance away and watch how they are doing with it.  It usually takes a child multiple tries with this work to accomplish it correctly.  We DO NOT fix it for the child.  We make not of how they did and see if they get better the next time on their own.  They may need a new naming lesson if they are calling the 'pop' soda or something like that.  Give as little interference in their work as possible.  They really are great teachers for themselves.

Initial Sound Mat for Sorting with Objects

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #9 - Initial Sound Picture Sorting
This work is exactly the same as the object sort except with pictures.  Once they do the hard work with the object mat this work is generally easier and so fun for them.  The file includes names on the back of the work to help you give naming lessons and in checking work.  This work will need to be sorted into sets as outlined above.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #9 Initial Sound Picture Sorting Cards
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #10 - Initial Sound Coloring Sheets
Once a child has completed the Sound Sorting Cards they can solidify their knowledge with works like this coloring sheet.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #10 Initial Sound Coloring Sheets

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #11 - Initial Sound Cutting & Pasting Sheets
This cutting and pasting work is fun for children at this level.  To make it easier I will pre-cut the strips into letter groupings and put them in a little file for that sound.  They can color, cut, and glue if they want or they could just cut and glue.

Phonemic Awareness Series Skills #11 Initial Sound Pasting Sheets
Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #12 - Eensy Teensy Letter Books
These Teensy Letter Books are pretty engaging for children.  They like how small they become. To make these sheets into books follow these instructions.  The children can trace the letters inside the outlines and read their new book with you.

Phonemic Awareness Series Skills #12 Eensy Teensy Letter Books 

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #13 - Ending Sound Picture Sorting
Ending sounds are more difficult for some children to hear.  We use this work similarly to the Beginning Sounds work but instead we use our hands to stretch out the word and "throw" the last sound down.  This really helps the children to hear the last sound.  You must have a lot of patience as they will keep flipping to the first sound.  Simply say, "We are listening for the last sound."  Then stretch out the word again.  If they still feel challenged offer support by saying, "I can hear 'bbb' at the end of tub.  Can you hear it?" and stretch out the word giving emphasis to the last sound as you "throw" it down.  Once you finish the presentation give the child a chance in the same way as the Initial Sound work. This work will need to be sorted into sets as outlined above.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #13 Ending Sound Picture Sorting Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #14 - Word Building with Letter Sound Groups and the Movable Alphabet
Once a child has the first group of letter sounds (s, m, a, t, b) mastered, or almost mastered, they can begin practicing building words with the Movable Alphabet.  These sets are made to use only the letters introduced and scaffold as new letter groups are mastered.  This work's main purpose is to give children PRACTICE with the Movable Alphabet so that when they move to Pink Reading work they are more independent.  When I first present this work I give a naming lesson and build the words with them by sounding out first sound, next sound, last sound.  I then put the letters away and let the child have a turn.  I will stay with the child as they hunt for the letters in the Movable Alphabet.  In a sea of 26 letters a newcomer can feel overwhelmed.  I do not want to take the letter sounds out of the box because by the end I would have 26 letters to hunt through which would be worse than keeping them organized in a Movable Alphabet box.  Once I can see they are getting the hang of it I will step away more often.  I always ask the children to "show me your work when you are done".  I do NOT say "before you put it away."  I've learned that again and again over the years.  I hang back away from the child but still in viewing distance and see how it is coming along. I make any notes about what I observe.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #14 Letter Sound Group Word Building Picture Cards

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #15 - Middle Vowel Sort with Objects or Pictures
Middle vowel sounds are tricky things.  They are taught last.  You will notice they are actually taught after the word building cards.  That is because I am explicitly teaching the child how to build the words in the sets.  Only at the end of all the letter groupings will the children have all their vowels learned so it is not really helpful to teach this lesson earlier.  I place the vowels sounds down one at time and saying the sound on the center of the mat.  I say, "I am listening for the sound in the middle of the word.  That sound is a vowel."  Take the first cards and say, 'map' slowly.  What is the sound you hear in the middle of the word 'map'?  For this work it can be very helpful to use your hand as a roller coaster with the vowel emphasized at the top.  Be certain to always say the entire word.  Once the vowel is determined I set the cards on either side of the vowel card so I end up with two on each side.  Now put the work back in its basket and give the child a turn to use it.
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #15 Middle Vowel Sorting Pictures

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #16 - Beginning Alphabetizing with Pictures
Phonemic Awareness Series Level #16 Picture Alphabetizing

Montessori Phonemic Awareness Series Level #17 Alphabetizing Cards Work

Alphabetizing Mat

Phonemic Awareness Series Alphabetizing by First Letter

Phonemic Awareness Series Alphabetizing by First Two Letters


  1. Dear Cathie Mathews, remarkable lessons and a remarkable person you are by sharing.
    With immense gratitude.
    I think Abundance plus Blessings on your path

  2. Cathie thank you so much for sharing!! Hugs

    1. Yay! I'm so glad you are enjoying them! Hugs back

  3. What an incredible resource! thank you so much for sharing this!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! you are heaven sent!