Montessori Monday: The Green Materials
If you remember full-group spelling lessons in your elementary school, it may be hard to imagine how language can be taught in classrooms in which every child is working at his own pace and on materials appropriate for him. The Montessori language materials are elegant examples of the qualities essential to all Montessori materials: they are simple, self-correcting, beautiful and isolating a single concept. As such, they are able to make the complicated rules of written language accessible for even the very young child. You may be familiar with the Pink Materials, the introductory reading materials children explore when they have been introduced to phonetic sounds. After the foundational experiences of the Pink Materials, children move to the Blue Materials, which follow the same sequence but include more longer phonetic words. But not all the words in the English language are phonetic. That's where the Green Series comes in. Just as in the teaching of the phonetic sandpaper letters, the Green Series begins by introducing the child to the sixteen most common phonograms in isolation: ai, ar, au, ch, ee, er, i.e., oa, oo, or, ou, oy, qu, sh, th, and ue. When the child has mastered identifying these phonograms, he can explore a new set of language materials that include them, with similar moveable alphabet lessons, reading card and writing experiences as he has already learned in the Pink and Blue series. As such, the new concept (each of the phonograms) is isolated within a structure that's familiar and self-correcting for the child. Eventually, identifying the phonograms as part of written text is as comfortable as reading phonetically. We understand that children are motivated to communicate and intrinsically driven to learn and master language. It becomes our responsibility, then, to provide for that development by offering materials which are as challenging as the child's inner drive warrants while still supporting the independence and agency we believe experiences in the Montessori classroom will instill. Even in the highly abstract domain of language, the Montessori materials provide concrete, self-correcting, beautiful opportunities for the child to learn at his own pace, unlimited and unpressured by the pace of his peers.