A child’s acquisition of language begins at birth and progressively develops. Maria Montessori identified a phase of development during which a child’s receptivity to language acquisition is profoundly heightened. She referred to this phase as the “Sensitive Period for Language,” which begins at birth and extends through the first six years of life.
The Montessori language curriculum supports the child through the stages of language acquisition by offering experiential lessons and concrete materials that support each aspect of language development. At the pre-reading level of language acquisition, the child’s developing psyche is actively seeking to bring order to the myriad of environmental stimuli. Two essential language skills the child builds and refines during the pre-reading stage are visual perception and concept development.
Visual perception skills assist the child in classifying objects based on similarities or differences in size, shape, and color. Materials and activities that require the child to exercise visual perception prepare her for later work with the Montessori language curriculum, including writing and reading.
Visual Perception: Whole to Parts Cards develop the child's visual discrimination skills. The ability to visually recognize a close-up image of a pattern and match it to the correct animal requires the child to closely analyze each image. Exercising visual perception skills in this manner prepares the child for visual discrimination of symbols used for writing and reading. Matching the animal to its pattern also allows the child to practice with abstraction, creating a correspondence between a larger object with its close-up counterpart.
Language allows a child to conceptualize and communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas. Developing skills such as rhyming, pairing, classifying and sequencing refines the child’s ability to think conceptually. Activities that develop and reinforce these skills provide the foundation for literacy and the child’s successful progression through the Montessori language curriculum.
Concept Development: Association Cards provide an opportunity to practice with the concept of things that "go together." Pairing the correct cards supports the child's developmental need to classify and categorize objects and ideas.
Concept Development: Rhyming Cards help the child develop awareness of sounds within words. Rhyming is an auditory component of language. Rhyming skills help the child make predictions about what will come next, a useful tool for the progression into reading.
Through consistent exposure to the concrete, engaging materials of the Montessori language curriculum, the child builds the essential pre-reading skills of visual perception and concept development. Integrate these pre-reading materials into the child’s process of language acquisition in order to provide a well-rounded learning experience.
"The development of language is part of the development of the personality, for words are the natural means of expressing thoughts and establishing understanding between people."