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Evaluation of a literacy
intervention
Montessori Writing - ‘The method
of spontaneous writing’
— Rachel Hendron
What is the literacy intervention
intending to teach/develop?
Montessori education focuses on ‘assisting the natural
devel...
Writing to become an effective community
member
• Montessori developed a holistic method for child
development based on cl...
Relationship between reading
and writing
• Montessori differentiates between total reading (full
comprehension of the mean...
What is the theoretical rationale
for teaching/developing this skill?
• Montessori breaks down each skill offered to the
c...
Four indirect preparations for literacy
Montessori broke writing and reading down into these sets of
skills;
1. Developmen...
Montessori Pedagogy
• Montessori teaching is always holistic, literacy isn’t
a skill taught separately from other skills, ...
• Montessori reasons that the child who is able to
write her own thoughts will spontaneously become
interested in reading ...
1. Development the mind/body.
2. Being able to make the
shapes of the letters.
3. Phonemic knowledge of the
letter sounds.
4. Mechanical reading to total
reading.
What is the empirical evidence for
the effectiveness of the intervention?
Part 1
• It is very difficult to find large scal...
Evidence for integrated reading and
writing and phonic based learning.
• ‘Research shows that students will not apply thei...
• This idea corresponds with the view that 'the acquisition
of phoneme awareness and the acquisition of alphabetic
literac...
• 'Phonics needs to be combined with other essential
instructional components to create a complete and
balanced reading pr...
Part 2
I do not have the scope to go into a full review of the
rationale behind each of the four indirect preparations
for...
1. Development the mind/body.
From the development of the hand, movements,
nervous system, intellect, will power and engag...
2. Being able to make the shapes of the
letters.
From being able to make the shapes of the letters I
shall investigate ben...
3. Phonemic knowledge of the letter sounds.
• From the teaching of phonemic knowledge of the letter
sounds I shall conside...
4. Mechanical reading to total reading.
To investigate the transition from mechanical reading to total reading
I will cons...
What are the implications for
practice?
1. There is a great deal of support from more recent neuroscience that we
should b...
Print or cursive? Here I agree with Berlinger (2012) the child who is
aware of both print and cursive as possible styles o...
However, these principles are in fact often
not followed in many so-called Montessori
environments.
• ‘Montessori’ environ...
Montessori is a total approach to
development, the literacy aspect is not
effective as an add-on to other approaches.
The ...
The Montessori approach requires adults
with a commitment to the totality of the
philosophy.
Due to the philosophical natu...
Montessori literacy provides an opportunity
for children who are naturally ready to write
effortlessly. It does not guaran...
Limitations of this presentation
• This presentation is small in scale and has resulted in
generalisations which I believe...
Conclusion
• I have taught several groups of students using the Montessori
approach to literacy. If find that the opportun...
References;
• Berniniger V. (2012) ‘Mind’s Eye: The case for continued handwriting instruction in the 21st
century. Nation...
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Literacy intervention

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A summary of the Montessori approach to teaching literacy (both writing and reading, a literature review of key aspects of the Montessori approach and recommendations for implementing these principles.

Published in: Education
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Literacy intervention

  1. 1. Evaluation of a literacy intervention Montessori Writing - ‘The method of spontaneous writing’ — Rachel Hendron
  2. 2. What is the literacy intervention intending to teach/develop? Montessori education focuses on ‘assisting the natural development of a child’ (Discovery of the Child, p.185). Montessori believed that ‘reading and writing is the first obstacle in school, the first torment’ (Discovery of the Child, p.185). She proposed a method she called ‘spontaneous writing’ in which children could be given indirect preparations to come to writing without strenuous effort. She did not prescribe this as a method for all children, but as an opportunity for those who are ready.
  3. 3. Writing to become an effective community member • Montessori developed a holistic method for child development based on close observations, she makes links between each area of development; physical, emotional, spiritual. • She then emphasises relationships between areas of development so that having precise movements, being an active learner, being a member of a community, applying academic knowledge, being a compassionate helper are connected abilities. • Therefore her method for allowing children to become spontaneous writers is part of a whole system of an individual child’s development.
  4. 4. Relationship between reading and writing • Montessori differentiates between total reading (full comprehension of the meaning and beauty of the written word) and ‘mechanical’ reading, (retranslating the symbols into sounds). • She states that, ‘mechanical reading and writing are fused from the very beginning…When he sees and recognises, he reads; when he touches, he writes’ (Discovery of the Child, p.214-5) and this ‘methods for teaching writing prepares the way for reading’, (Discovery of the Child, p.229). • The aim is not to teach reading or writing but to,‘use language for practical ends [to begin] to use it in their reasoning processes (Discovery of the Child, p.240)’ to enable the, ‘free expansion of the individual’ (Discovery of the Child, p.215).
  5. 5. What is the theoretical rationale for teaching/developing this skill? • Montessori breaks down each skill offered to the child into a sequence of sub-skills and presents each step in turn. For literacy she, ‘consider[ed] the nature of writing itself, analysing its various components and seeking to separate these into independent exercises which could be employed at different ages and thus be distributed according to the natural powers of the child.’ (Discovery of the Child, p.186).
  6. 6. Four indirect preparations for literacy Montessori broke writing and reading down into these sets of skills; 1. Development the mind/body; this focuses on the hand, movements, nervous system, intellect, will power and engaging the mind. 2. Being able to make the shapes of the letters. 3. Phonemic knowledge of the letter sounds. 4. Mechanical reading to total reading.
  7. 7. Montessori Pedagogy • Montessori teaching is always holistic, literacy isn’t a skill taught separately from other skills, but is deeply embedded in all aspects of the child’s experience. • Montessori presents the young child as a being in a receptive stage (a sensitive period) for language and as making connections to her family and locality, so verbal and oral language is part of her necessary daily experience and out of this literacy will arise.
  8. 8. • Montessori reasons that the child who is able to write her own thoughts will spontaneously become interested in reading the thoughts of others. This motivates her to be a ‘total reader’ • To achieve total reading it is necessary also to have a wide vocabulary and comprehension skills. These are taught explicitly in small group lessons where the children learn new words, beginning with nouns and picture cards and take part in discussions about daily life and activities, stories, songs and question games.
  9. 9. 1. Development the mind/body.
  10. 10. 2. Being able to make the shapes of the letters.
  11. 11. 3. Phonemic knowledge of the letter sounds.
  12. 12. 4. Mechanical reading to total reading.
  13. 13. What is the empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the intervention? Part 1 • It is very difficult to find large scale or reliable studies on Montessori classrooms so instead I shall first present evidence which relates to the principle of intergrated reading and writing and phonic based learning. • Generally the research favours relevant and integrated phonic programmes. Montessori proposes that a phonic based programme which is integrated into the lives of children and their purposeful writing and reading.
  14. 14. Evidence for integrated reading and writing and phonic based learning. • ‘Research shows that students will not apply their alphabetic knowledge if they do not use it to read and write (Juel & Roper/Schneider, 1985). • The best phonics program is one that is deliberately integrated with reading and writing instruction.’ (quoted by Ehri and Nunes et al, p.14) • Phonemic awareness is enhanced by reading and writing practice.’ ( Saskia de Graaff , Anna M.T. Bosman , Fred Hasselman & Ludo Verhoeven).
  15. 15. • This idea corresponds with the view that 'the acquisition of phoneme awareness and the acquisition of alphabetic literacy is one of reciprocal causation' (Morais, J., Mousty, P. and Kolinsky, R. 1998). • ‘Initial alphabetic knowledge—that is, knowing the letter sounds—is required for phonemic awareness, which in turn facilitates reading development' (Morais, J. 1987). • ‘For children who are able to read, it is easier to fulfil phonemic-awareness tasks of higher complexity such as phoneme-reversal tasks.' (Saskia de Graaff , Anna M.T. Bosman , Fred Hasselman & Ludo Verhoeven).
  16. 16. • 'Phonics needs to be combined with other essential instructional components to create a complete and balanced reading program. Other sections of the NRP (2000) report indicated the importance of instruction to teach fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies…By emphasizing all of the processes that contribute to growth in reading, teachers will have the best chance of making every child a reader.' (Ehri and Nunes et al, p.433).
  17. 17. Part 2 I do not have the scope to go into a full review of the rationale behind each of the four indirect preparations for spontaneous writing so I shall narrow each of the four areas into a teaching principle and examine the evidence for it. I can only consider each very briefly here and a much more extensive review of the literature would be helpful to inform Montessori practice generally.
  18. 18. 1. Development the mind/body. From the development of the hand, movements, nervous system, intellect, will power and engaging the mind. I shall look to see evidence for motor skills developed in one area being transferable to other areas spontaneously. Dr Berginer in 'Educating Students in the Computer age to be Multilingual By Hand’, recommends that pre-school children work with clay, dough, string beads and sort small objects to prepare their hands for using pencils just as Montessori described. (Berginer, p. 9).
  19. 19. 2. Being able to make the shapes of the letters. From being able to make the shapes of the letters I shall investigate benefits of teaching cursive first. Here the literature is very divided ‘Controversy continues over whether one format of writing is better than the other. Beginning writers can learn either format; developing writers show individual differences in which they prefer; and both formats might contribute to writing development, but in different ways’ (Beringer, p.31).
  20. 20. 3. Phonemic knowledge of the letter sounds. • From the teaching of phonemic knowledge of the letter sounds I shall consider if studies show that there is an advantage to giving letter sounds and names and alphabetical order later. • Ehri and Nunes et al’s meta-analysis found that ‘enough is known about systematic phonics instruction to make recommendations for classroom implementation…Our findings are consistent with other reports published earlier showing the positive results of systematic phonics instruction over a long period of time (Adams, 1990; Anderson et al., 1985; Chall, 1967, 1983, 1996a; Dykstra, 1968)’ (p.432).
  21. 21. 4. Mechanical reading to total reading. To investigate the transition from mechanical reading to total reading I will consider evidence for engaging the interest of children with phonically simple reading and expanding from there to total reading. Even when the language is phonically irregular. Reading silently at first and outloud as a later skill. This is a very difficult area to find research for, it is assumed that reading should be taught and people test children’s ability to read by testing how well they read outloud. There is no experimenter leaving some children without instruction over long periods of time to compare with those being asked to sound out the words they see in books. However, there are non- Montessori examples of children learning to read by themselves such as Hudson Valley Sudbury School which has very different pedagogical practices.
  22. 22. What are the implications for practice? 1. There is a great deal of support from more recent neuroscience that we should be developing the hand, movements, nervous system, intellect, will power and engaging the mind together. 2. The evidence for teaching cursive and excluding print is not supported in the literature (see next slide). 3. There is a great deal of consensus that phonic based programmes are the way forward for teaching literacy. 4. Children systems other than Montessori teach themselves to read. In general there is support for integrated phonic-based programmes. I would argue that Montessori presents the rationale for a relevant and cohesive literacy programme.
  23. 23. Print or cursive? Here I agree with Berlinger (2012) the child who is aware of both print and cursive as possible styles of writing can choose which she is best suited for and using a combination causes no harm. The main focus in learning and especially Montessori learning is that the child is enjoying writing. Montessori offers cursive as a pleasurable challenge and using curved shapes when straight lines are posing a problem for the child. There is sometimes an idea that cursive is somehow historically ‘better’ than print and I think we should avoid this. I would suggest that this is not an issue so much with Montessori philosophy and pedagogy but practices where the adults impose their desire for cursive letters onto the child.
  24. 24. However, these principles are in fact often not followed in many so-called Montessori environments. • ‘Montessori’ environments differ wildly in terms of training and philosophy of the teachers and adults who work there. There is not a consistent approach between classrooms and schools who use the term’ Montessori’ to describe their practice. For example, Montessori gives examples of children coming to writing by themselves and celebrating their ability with great enthusiasm, she clearly states that, ‘Only after a child has begun to write on his own should a teacher intervene to guide his progress’ (Discovery of the Child, p.224). However the parents, teachers, administrators and in some cases governments place pressures on children to learn to write early. • The opportunity for ‘spontaneous writing’ is often given too late. These experiences need to be begun at the age of three and mastered before the age of 5 if the learning is to be spontaneous. The culture surrounding the child would ideally start before birth. Montessori describes the children saying, ‘They obviously had a special sensitivity for words and were ravenous in their desire to master the language’ (p.220).
  25. 25. Montessori is a total approach to development, the literacy aspect is not effective as an add-on to other approaches. The Montessori approach to literacy cannot be tacked onto other educational style and expected to work. Many schools use aspects of the approach advocated by Montessori in their approach. However, to allow children to spontaneously come to reading in this way children need to be in a wider environment (at home and at school) similar to the one Montessori describes. It does not work to demand a child’s obedience based reliance on external punishments and rewards in some areas of their development (except the minimum necessary for safety) and then expect them to handle freedom with responsibility for a few hours a day. Certainly, children need to be in child-centred systems with real choice and freedoms, they need to be given time and if they are interested to be shown the lessons by someone who is trained to do them.
  26. 26. The Montessori approach requires adults with a commitment to the totality of the philosophy. Due to the philosophical nature of Montessori education, trusting that each child has the power within themselves to learn it also takes special adults to be the teacher and parents of these children. Parents, teachers and administrators who want to prove and measure growth will struggle to use this method, to use it requires a philosophical commitment to the wider goals, it is not just another phonic teaching strategy but a commitment to allowing the child to develop themselves at their own pace and for their own ends.
  27. 27. Montessori literacy provides an opportunity for children who are naturally ready to write effortlessly. It does not guarantee effortlessness for all children. • Montessori does not state that all children will acquire literacy with this method by 6, simple that some are ready to spontaneously acquire it at a younger age and this gives them the opportunity to do so. • Therefore additional methods need to be available for some individuals. Children with additional needs often need more time, presentations of new material to be repeated more often and less new material given in each presentation. They are likely to need more explicit teaching and so the method will teach literacy but not spontaneously. • This does not mean it will cannot work for children with special needs or children who speak other languages. Montessori gives the possibility of each individual having their own path to language and literacy. Some children who use alternative literacy methods may find some of the pedagogical principles helpful.
  28. 28. Limitations of this presentation • This presentation is small in scale and has resulted in generalisations which I believe to be true but which would benefit from a more in depth analysis. • This cannot be a full review of all the parts of Montessori’s literacy interventions, let alone of the method. Her understanding of child development, her pedagogical methods and her aim to use education as a method to promote peace are all very detailed, interconnected, holistic and nuanced. Here I have found a few strands which underpin her literacy interventions to see if they are relevant to recent research. There are many different interpretations of Montessori’s method and so much research that this is only a beginning.
  29. 29. Conclusion • I have taught several groups of students using the Montessori approach to literacy. If find that the opportunity to observe literacy acquisition as part of each child’s total development is very valuable in determining what lessons they are ready for, what they need to know next to acquire literacy spontaneously and to see which children will require explicit help from myself and possibly other educators and therapists. • Some children acquire literacy early and easily, including children who speak English as an additional language and one I teach on the autistic spectrum. Other children require intensive support. This support can be given in a way which complements the Montessori learning experience. • I am happy when children write happily in cursive or print. Writing is an expression of themselves and is a gift.
  30. 30. References; • Berniniger V. (2012) ‘Mind’s Eye: The case for continued handwriting instruction in the 21st century. National Association of Elementary School Principals.' All rights reserved. • Ehri L. and Nunes S. et al (Fall 2001) ’Systematics Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis City University of New York Graduate Center'University of Georgia, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and University of Toronto ,In Review of Educational Research, 1Vol. 71, No. 3, pp. 393–447. • Ehri L. (Sumer 2002) ‘Systematic Phonics Instruction: Findings of the National Reading Panel', Graduate Center of the City University of New York. • Erhart R. and Meade V. ‘Improving handwriting without teaching handwriting: The consultative clinical reasoning processing’ Australian Occupational Therapy Journal (2005) 52 199-210. • Graaff S, Bosman A., Hasselman F. & Verhoeven L. (Published online: 22 Jul 2009) ‘Benefits of Systematic Phonics Instruction’ Pages 318-333 | Received 11 Oct 2006, Accepted 03 Sep 2008. • Herron J., (Sept. 2008) 'Why Phonics Teaching Must Change', In 'Educational Leadership' Volume 66, Number 1. • Montessori M, 1967 Discovery of the Child, Random House Publishing Group, NY. • http://sudburyschool.com/content/sudbury-model-education Saturday 5th October 2016

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