Getting ready to write – rough letters and moving alphabet

“The ability to write is the key, a real secret, the discovery of which allows you to double your wealth, allows your hands to take control of a dynamic work, almost unaware of what the spoken language is, and create another language that faithfully reflects the spoken language. As much will be in the possession of the mind, so much will also be in the possession of the hand.”
Maria Montessori, The discovery of the child, p. 104

We have reached the final stage, which precedes independent writing and reading. This is the moment when the child understands that words are made of sounds – so they are ready to teach them that each sound is associated with a specific graphic sign – a letter. For this purpose, Maria Montessori has created a phenomenal aid that directly prepares the child for the writing process – rough letters.


What are rough letters and how do we work with them?

Rough letters are made of sandpaper and placed on a smooth surface in blue – consonants and red – vowels. The child traces the shape of the letter with his finger – thanks to this, visually, and above all thanks to the muscles of the hand, he remembers the symbol of the sound that he has already learned. (For the child to move naturally and freely, it is very important to develop fine motor skills, which I wrote about in the previous section).


What does working with rough letters look like?

  1. 1. Out of all the letters, I choose 3 that the child must know during word games. (We usually choose A, T, M – because in the later work the child can make the following words: mummy, daddy);
  2. 2. I choose one tablet and put it between me and the child. With my left hand I hold the sign and with two fingers of my right hand (index and middle) I slowly follow the writing direction in the direction of writing. Finally, I say its name and ask the child to repeat the activity. I do the same with subsequent letters.

  1. 3. Then I put all 3 letters in front of the child and then we perform all of the 3 stages described below:
  • I lead and name the first letter – ask the child to repeat. I do the same with the rest of the letters.
  • I ask the child to take the letter A to the table next to it, give M to her friend, A bring it back, put T on her lap, etc.
  • Then I ask the child to read the letter I have indicated.


The exercises described above continue until the child masters how to work with certain letters. We move to the next stage after many days, sometimes weeks, of various exercises, which I will present below. A good way to extend your work with rough letters is:

  • writing them on a tray of sand,
  • arranging letters from natural material;
  • forming letters from wires and threading beads thereon;
  • pasting letter templates with plasticine, modeling clay or other plastic material.
  • writing letters with paints on a large card stock,
  • baskets with a letter and a set of items beginning with a given letter;
  • letters and objects;
  • songs, rhymes and nursery rhymes about letters;

When the child knows about ten letters, an input is possible moving alphabet. It is a collection of letters of the alphabet cut from wood or plastic that correspond in size, shape, and color to the letters of the rough alphabet. Working with a floating alphabet is a great introduction to the writing process, as it gives the child the ability to arrange simple words both in a clean field and in a ruled line.

The topic of shaping writing and reading skills is broad and extremely interesting. I hope that I was able to show how interesting you can develop these skills both in kindergarten and at home.

If you are interested in more, I encourage you to follow our blog, where articles about the Montessori method as well as the life of our kindergarten will be published.

Sylwia Tarkowska
Montessori teacher