“Out of all the wonderful children I taught during the 8 years I spent in a 3 to 6 Montessori class in France, one child, Isidor, made my journey especially worthwhile.
Isidor joined our school when he was 6. He had special needs. He’d been to other schools before but never fit the “standards” so his parents had started looking for an alternative method. On his first day with us we didn’t know much about him except that he was the age children are when they leave our class. We also immediately noticed the physical difference, as he was much taller than all the other children.
It didn’t take us long to notice his autistic behaviors; Isidor clapped a lot, rocked back and forth, repeated the same sentences over and over again and was absolutely terrified by loud noises. His body, although tall, was quite weak. He could barely sit up and more often than not he ended up lying on the floor in the middle of the classroom. His attitude was positive and joyful and he soon showed his appreciation for school and work.
A few months into the school year we met with Isidor’s parents. They explained that he had been a very premature baby, had required open-heart surgery at birth and that he stayed in hospital for three months after he was born. This had meant that he had had very little human contact as a new-born. His parents soon realized that Isidor wasn’t developing like other children and they hired a physiotherapist to help him learn to grab, swallow, sit, crawl… He worked hard and eventually managed to do all of that!
During the first year he attended our school, we spent a lot of time working on fine motor skills and developing his vocabulary using all the Montessori Material available. Isidor’s progress was constant even though some days it was really difficult to get him to concentrate. He also found time to socialize which, according to his parents, was a first.
When he came back for his second year, he was a different boy. He still had some autistic behaviors but he was more open to the outside world then when he first joined. One day he asked me to show him the sandpaper letters. This material teaches children letter sounds and shapes using the sensorial memories of touch, sight and hearing. His sensorial memory worked perfectly and it didn’t take long before he knew all of the letter sounds.
Isidor was definitely in what Maria Montessori called the “language sensitive period”. He absorbed all the sounds one after another, played with them and looked for them in his environment “w is for window”, “garden starts with g”… Every morning his parents would tell us how Isidor was obsessed with letters, looking for them on the street, in their house…
One of the specificities of the Montessori Method is that children spell out words before they read. This is made possible thanks to a moveable alphabet made with plastic letters. Isidor started spelling out easy words like cat, hat, bat… As soon as he arrived in the morning, he would unroll his mat, take the moveable alphabet and start working. I would take pictures of him next to the words he’d spelled, he was so proud!
One day, I decided it was time to try the Phonetic Object Box (Montessori material used to trigger reading). We sat down and started. I took out the objects that were in the box and displayed them on the table. I then took a small piece of paper and a pen and wrote “d o g” on it. I folded it, gave it to him and asked him if he could tell me what was written on the paper. He started making the letter sounds, I asked him to try faster and suggested he looked at the objects on the table. He saw the little plastic dog, took it in his hands, looked at me with shiny eyes and mouthed “dog!” as if his throat was too dry to make any noise.
What a magical moment! Often the best presents cannot be found in stores.
He then regained his voice, clapped and said “again.” He read all five words from the Phonetic Object Box and didn’t want to stop there.
By the end of his second year Isidor was reading easy words and he had learnt a dozen different digraphs. He had also started writing with a pencil and these two activities filled up most of his days.
I’m sure thousands of teachers and parents around the world have experienced this incredible moment when a child starts reading but this story holds a special place in my heart because it shows how well the Montessori Method works with ALL children.
I would like to dedicate our app “Montessori Early Reading” to Isidor and his parents. This is my opportunity to let them know how enriching it was for me to work with their son on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that summer, Isidor had to undergo heart surgery again to change the size of his valve and he never woke up. Isidor, this app is for you.”
Montessori Early Reading reproduces the Phonetic Object Box.