If you are a Montessorian, then you know we first teach the alphabet phonetically. Beginning at age 3, the child only learns the sound each letter makes, and is not yet introduced to the names of the letters. That is, not until they have mastered reading and writing short vowel words. Once this happens, it is time to begin introducing the child to words with long vowel sounds. Traditionally, this process is begun with introduction of the Silent E.
Now, before you just jump right into it, your child will need to know what the heck a vowel even is. Before teaching any new words, I first introduce the vowels through a Vowel Sorting Lesson. I use these cards that I created, which you can find HERE on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
I always first point out that the child might have noticed some of the letters in the moveable alphabet are blue. Teach them that these are the five vowels, and then you tell their names – a, e, i, o, u. At this point, the child most likely already knows the names of these letters, but probably didn’t know they are vowels.
Then you introduce long vowel words, explaining that the vowels in some words sound like their name, such as in “rose”. Sort the picture cards by which long vowel sound is heard in each word, making sure to emphasize the long vowel sound. Once your child has lots of practice simply listening for the long vowel sound, they are ready to begin building their own long vowel words – starting with learning about the Silent E.
To introduce the Silent E, you will need a moveable alphabet and a set of picture cards. These cards have six pairs of words – one a short vowel word, and the other a corresponding silent E word. For example, a picture of “can” and then a “cane”. I have these picture cards that I made available on my TpT store, but I am actually going to link them to you here for FREE! You’ll find the link at the end of the post.
You first have the child build the short vowel word that goes with each picture. Then one by one, move through each short vowel word and show what happens when you add the Silent E.
Let’s look at “cap”. When you add the Silent E to the end of “cap” it makes the vowel before it say its name. Therefore, “cap” becomes “cape”. As you say this, dramatically switch out the picture of cap for the picture of cape, showing that the word has been transformed.
Continue moving through all the short vowel words in this way, showing how the word is transformed with the addition of the Silent E. At the end, read all of the transformed Silent E words to your child!
Chances are, your child will catch on fairly quickly and will begin trying to read Silent E words everywhere they see them. After this I generally will focus on silent E words within each vowel. These can also be called “CVCe” words – consonant vowel consonant with an “e” on the end, such as “game”. First start with “a-e” words, then “i-e”, then “o-e”, then “u-e”, finally mixing words with different vowels together.
I don’t mention “e-e” words because there’s really not many “e-e” words in the English language, and especially not any that your child will be familiar with (have you ever heard your 4 year old say “mete”??).
Without further ado, here are the FREE Silent E cards! Click the red “Download” below to get them for FREE. Or click the pic below to download them for $1.00 from my TeachersPayTeachers store if you so choose to support 🙂
It is absolutely mind-boggling to me how twenty-something years from now, children will look back on this time we are living through and learn about it from a textbook. 2020 is the year the world (almost completely) shut down. Never in my life did I think we would be in a situation in which children would not even be able to go to school. Public schools and universities easily and quickly adapted to an online learning system in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis.
But how do you take a method so profoundly attached to its physical materials, and adapt it to a virtual learning format?
After two months of doing just this, here are the tools I have found to be the most valuable, each of which I will expand upon below.
Printables, printables, printables
The involved parent
Virtual “face to face” communication
Many of the teachers in my school elected to have weekly/biweekly Zoom meetings with their class. But here’s the thing – Zoom meetings are like having to be somewhere in person at a specific time. If you don’t make it, you miss the meeting! Zoom meetings are great for special meetings and communications, but I have personally found sending a YouTube video lesson each day of the week to be much more practical.
I have a one year old, which means my work schedule is very much dictated by his schedule. The director of my school is my boss, but my son is MY BOSS. There is no way I can commit to being available at exactly 9:30 am, uninterrupted, Monday-Friday for a virtual meeting. If I have this conflict, I 100% guarantee many of the parents in my class (who also have young children) feel exactly the same way.
I am an introvert. I have never been comfortable speaking on camera or in front of an audience, and this was a big hiccup I had to surmount in the first weeks of distance learning. I filmed and refilmed, and stopped and restarted my first few videos at least ten times each. But I adapted and got more comfortable with just talking to the camera as if it was one of my students.
My biggest trick in overcoming this is having the camera directed AT THE LESSON (instead of my face) during the actual presentation. This puts more focus on the materials and takes the pressure away from making sure my face doesn’t look weird during the presentation process. But then I make sure to film an intro/outro to each lesson. At the end of the day, the children just want to see you. They don’t care what you are wearing or if you have perfect makeup.
And my philosophy is that even if the parents aren’t able to actually print and complete the lessons, if the child at the very minimum watches the videos I send each day, they get to feel connected to me and at least have exposure to the concepts that I am teaching.
YouTube Tips At a Glance:
Direct camera at the materials while presenting lesson
Make sure that materials are all in the frame and not cut off at the top
Show your face, smile, and say hello during intro and outro of video
Make sure you wear an appropriate shirt (chest covered, no see-through, BEWARE OF WHITE)
Put on minimum makeup, at least blush and mascara to give your face some color. I promise it makes a huge difference on camera!
Film during the daytime for best lighting
Always film horizontally!
Keep videos less than 10 minutes
Printables, Printables, Printables
While parents won’t have access to the physical Montessori materials, the next best thing is to send them printable card materials to work with. Think: 3-part cards, nomenclature, vocabulary, cultural materials, rhyming, opposites, numerals, quantities. Consider anything that can be connected to the Montessori materials and taught with a printable material.
There are loads of great materials out there on the internet. If you search for something, you will find it. And if not, it is super easy to make your own cards on Microsoft Word. I have chosen to make many of my own materials, simply because I enjoy it and plan to use them in my classroom when this whole thing blows over and we are able to return to school. You can check out many of the materials I’ve made HERE! They are all under $2.00!
If you make your own printables on Microsoft Word, make sure to save them as a PDF and send them to the parents through email as a PDF. This prevents formatting errors when the parents print them.
The Involved Parent
I am going to be honest. This one is extremely important, and also extremely out of your control. Many of your parents (like me) are going to be busy working from home and will not have time to implement many of the materials you send. As I mentioned above, if their child is at the very least able to watch the videos you send, they will be exposed to the information.
However, if you are lucky (again, like me) and have a parent that is able to devote time to communicating with you and implementing the lessons and materials, that child is going to receive the best quality education possible under these circumstances. I have one parent that spends every morning working with her two children. She very closely mimics the Montessori work cycle schedule, and also implements a quiet work time for her older child in the afternoon while the toddler naps.
This mom is committed to bringing the Montessori method home and actually executes it very effectively. I think she enjoys creating materials almost as much as I do, and has made some beautiful lessons for her daughters!
Again, very few of your parents will be able to devote time to distance learning in this way. But if you do have an involved parent like this, it is extraordinarily fulfilling to be able to guide that parent, answer their questions, and know that you are both working together to continue to cultivate the child’s love of learning.
Virtual “Face to Face” Communication
As a teacher, one of your most powerful devices is the frequent, open, and face to face communication you share with the parents on a daily basis. The more this communication occurs, the more trust the parents place in you to care for and educate their children.
Even something as simple as, “Yesterday ____ really enjoyed practicing the short vowel words!” gives the parent information about what their child has been working on. It shows that you are tuned in to their child, and it shows that you take the initiative to let the parent know what is going on before they even have to ask.
The problem with distance learning is the complete lack of face to face communication. When all communication is done via email and YouTube videos, this personal connection can easily fall through the cracks. I have found that making the effort to find ways to connect “face to face” via FaceTime and Zoom has done wonders in reinforcing the trust and emotional bank accounts that had already been built up with my students and their families.
We conducted our Spring parent-teacher conferences via Zoom, about 5 weeks into the quarantine. It was a little awkward having not actually seen their children in the classroom for over a month, and challenging not to be able to reference the materials in regards to academic progress. But it worked. The parents’ questions and concerns were pacified, and we were able to make sure we were all on the same page in order to move forward as a team.
I do not have any kindergarteners this year, but my oldest student is 4.5 years old. As such, she is already beyond many of the lessons I send out at the class level. I have to make sure they are doable by all my students, even the younger ones, so I have worked with her mom to create individualized lesson plans tailored to her academic level. This mom also happens to be the involved parent I mentioned above. We have a FaceTime call every Tuesday morning and her mom has mentioned to me how much the daughter enjoys getting to speak with me.
I may not be able to teach her in person yet, but we are still working together to move forward in the curriculum as best we can. Her mom sees that I devote time specifically to create materials for her daughter, and that I take time to answer ALL of her email questions, no matter how long and multifaceted they are.
It truly is not feasible to create an online only Montessori educational system. But there certainly are many ways to continue to bring the Montessori spirit into the home for these parents and their children. More than ever, these parents need to know that we are here to support them. And at the end of the day, when all of this passes and life goes back to normal, we will still be there waiting for their children with open arms.
Cards and Counters is an essential Montessori mathematics lesson. And unlike many other Montessori materials, this one is extremely easy (and CHEAP) to DIY at home. It also happens to be an excellent avenue for practicing quantities and their corresponding numerals. I literally made a version of this lesson to share with my students for FREE.
All you will need are my FREE printable numeral cards (see below for link) and 55pebbles. The reason I say pebbles, is because this version of Cards and Counters was intended to celebrate Earth Day. I had my students first go on a nature walk outside to gather the pebbles, and then use the pebbles as counters. If you want to use another object for the counters, go for it. You can use pretty much anything as a counter (pom poms, beads, beans), just make sure you have 55 total to be able to count out the quantities 1-10.
Here is the video I made for my students:
It is important to note the placement of the counters under each numeral. They are placed in pairs, with the odd counter placed in the middle, below the pair directly above it. The purpose of this is to teach the concepts of “odd” and “even” numbers. Pointing to the quantity below two, you ask the child “does this one have a friend to walk with?” When the child answers “yes”, you say “two is an even number”.
Moving on to three, “does this one have a friend to walk with?” (indicating the last lone counter under three). When the child answers “no”, you point out “three is an odd number”. You move through all the numbers in this way, pointing out which ones are odd and which are even.
Most children pick up on this concept very quickly. The counters simply provide a concrete, visual representation of the abstract concept of odd and even.