A Brutally Honest Review of Montessori Reading Programs

    Maria Montessori developed a revolutionary way to teach very young children to read, it is this aspect of her method that initially brought her to fame. Her method aligned with the now-studied science of reading so well, that modern research cites her as a pioneer in the field. An impressive legacy.

    Her reading program used only three materials: sound objects for phonemic awareness, Sandpaper Letters for connecting sounds to letter-symbols, and the Moveable Alphabet for writing full words before the child had mastered a pen. She didn’t need additional materials because she was teaching Italian. Italian is a transparent language with almost none of the difficulties that written English has. One sound is represented by one symbol, and each symbol can be read as one sound. An easily reversible code. 

    When the Montessori Method came to the English speaking world, her original program wasn’t sufficient to cope with the complexities of English. Throughout the decades, Montessori guides have made their own reading programs to fill that gap. Some of them have those programs available for others to use. Mario Montessori (Maria’s son) says:

    Dr. [Maria] Montessori did not know the [English] language it was left to the ingenuity of Montessori trained people to find a solution. Many attempts were made, a few unsuccessful when tried with children. Some solutions were very clever. Very scientific, yet somewhat cumbersome, requiring lots of material and teachers who had specialized in English language: others less scientific perhaps, but more simple and perhaps more effective.
    Muriel Dwyer, “A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading,” NAMTA Journal 29, no. 3 (Summer 2004).

    I have reviewed many reading programs, both designed for conventional classrooms and designed for Montessori classrooms. In the end I determined that I needed to create an all new program to meet my needs: The Rhyme and Reason Reading Program (really catchy name right?). My husband encouraged me to share what I liked and disliked about other reading programs; to explain what pushed me to make my own. He thought it might help others, like you.

    I have included Amazon affiliate links to products that I use and enjoy. These are for your convenience. I do receive a small percentage from every purchase without any increase to your price.

    What I’m looking for in a reading program

    Science of Reading Criteria

    • Do not memorize words as a whole.
    • Do not teach letter names first.
    • Teach from sound to print, i.e. teach spelling first. The sounds of spoken language are the basis for the alphabetic code, not letters. Letters do not make sounds, people do.
    • Teach individual sounds (phonemes) only. Do not group letters or sounds into larger chunks such as beginning blends and rhyming endings.
    • A phonemic awareness component is built in. Children must be taught to identify, segment and blend sounds in words.
    • Explicitly link spelling and reading: don’t teach them as unrelated skills. The alphabet is a code, sounds are represented by letters, letters represent sounds.
    • Scope and Sequence: The sequence is from simple to complex, the scope covers the “basic” spelling of all 40+ phonemes first and then common spelling alternatives.

    Montessori Principles

    • Self-paced
    • Self-correcting materials
    • The child is active in their own learning, not passive receivers of information.
    • Integrates with other areas of the curriculum.
    • Open-ended activities with the opportunity for a lot of follow-up work.
    • Instruction is designed for individual or small group lessons.

    A program is immediately eliminated if it teaches that “phonograms make sounds”; if guessing whole words, memorizing sight words, or swapping around word “chunks” are at all a part of the strategy; if there isn’t a scope and sequence.

    Learning to read is the most important skill a child will learn in their lifetime- I take this responsibility very seriously, as do many other educators. I reviewed the popular Montessori Reading programs, and in the end decided that the best option was to create my own.

    The Science of Reading

    There are a lot of books about the science of reading, what I like about these selections is that they give a blueprint for how to apply that knowledge.

    Why Our children Can't Read Diane McGuiness book cover

    Why Our Children Can’t Read

    By: Diane McGuiness

    Less technical than Early Reading Instruction, this book is excellent for everyone who teaches children to read. It is written for general audiences.

    Early Reading Instruction Diane McGuiness book cover

    Early Reading Instruction

    By: Diane McGuiness

    This is a technical review of all the scientific literature on reading instruction. I love this book. It’s written for people who are interested in the nitty-gritty research or who are designing an evidence-based reading program.

    EBLI Webinar

    Free Webinar

    Are videos more your speed? This 2 hour webinar is targeted to parents and educators. It gives a basic understanding of how proper speech-to-print phonics instruction works, and compares this method to print-to-speech phonics. This course is compatible with my reading program. (Though I didn’t find out about EBLI until I had already finished my book. boo.)

    Rainbow Phonics

    This is a proprietary reading program used at Guidepost Montessori schools, as of this writing it is not available to the public. This is the first program I ever used to teach reading and it was very successful.

    No matter what level of reading a child entered my class with, by the end of the year every child was reading at or above grade level. This program set the standard for what is possible.

    I have quibbles with the sequence of the lessons, for example I think consonant blends are taught much later than they ought to be, and because it’s based on Orton-Gillingham I think it puts way too much emphasis on “syllable types,” but it is a good program that meets all my criteria.

    Waseca Reading Program

    I want to love this program; It’s beautiful, it integrates so well with all other areas of the curriculum, there are a lot of nice add-ons… but I don’t love it.

    All my issues with this program are scope and sequence based, I have a critique for every color of the set and all together it just makes for a less-than-perfect program. And because the program is systematic (good!), that means you can’t just rearrange the materials to teach them in a better order.

    • Sound-to-symbol logic!
    • Aligns with Montessori principles beautifully, above and beyond really.
    • No sight words (unless you use their readers).
    • No letter names.
    • Reading and spelling are linked in every lesson.
    • The lessons are taught sound-to-symbol, but the sequence doesn’t reflect that. The sequence orients around difficulty of decoding, ie the difficulty of turning a symbol into sound. Overall it sends a confusing message about the logic of English.
    • The program doesn’t teach the most common spellings to the 40+ sounds of English quickly. All the sounds are taught, but they are being taught all the way through until the last set (gold). Spelling alternatives are taught before all the sounds are taught.
    • The Green set treats certain consonant blends as special. This is incorrect and introduces a bad strategy of “chunking” words, though the notes to the adult acknowledges these are just blends. At best, it’s redundant and not a good use of time, at worst it’s violating the “phoneme only” principle.
    • The Blue set really brings together the major problems I have with this program. It teaches five vowel sounds and 22 alternate spellings, in just 7 card sets. It’s too fast, and these are all crammed together two-thirds of the way through the program, too late in my opinion. All of these spelling alternatives are mixed together so the child has no way of knowing which spellings are the most common or if there are any patterns to certain spellings.
      • For example, three spellings are taught for the /ae/ sound at the same time: AI, AY, EI. AY is the most common spelling for /ae/ at the end of words; AI is the most common spelling for /ae/ in the medial position, and is never used in the final position; and EI for /ae/ is extremely rare, it’s only used in 14 words in the English language! (I think these spelling alternatives were chosen based on their inclusion in the Dwyer reading folders. More on that below.)
    • This program is mad expensive. The printables are reasonably priced, but I balk at the ready made materials, especially if you get the (gorgeous) drawer cabinets, the readers, and the separate spelling program. I’m not saying it’s over-priced or not worth the price, the quality of materials more than makes up for the $$$, but it is way outside my budget.

    Bottom Line: If you already have this program, I wouldn’t worry too much, take note of the critiques above and make changes. If you are on the fence with the program, I would hold off. I’m not crazy about their reader “books,” but that’s a matter of taste, they’re pedagogically sound.

    Dwyer Reading Folders

    The Dwyer Reading folders are explained thoroughly in NAMTA Journal Volume 29, Number 3. It’s a 40 page pamphlet first published in 1968. I believe this is the unofficial AMI Montessori reading program, and the introduction seems to indicate that Mario Montessori (Maria’s son) endorses this program.

    In the book Basic Montessori, a nearly identical program is presented, so I’ll critique the programs together in this section.

    I unfortunately do not recommend this program as is. It sets excellent groundwork with “sound games” and phonemic awareness. The single letters of the alphabet are associated with their most common sound in a very straightforward way.

    The problem is when the program gets into digraphs (sounds that are not associated with single letters, like /sh/ spelled SH, or /ae/ spelled AY). At this level of the program, the child is no longer working with the Sandpaper Letters or Moveable Alphabet, they are now using “phonogram folders.” All of my issues with this program revolve around the phonogram folders.

    Basic Montessori Book Cover
    • Teaches only phonemes (though it misidentifies 3 phonemes and leaves out 4). This is done with sandpaper letters, object boxes, and sound games.
    • Great emphasis on phonemic awareness skills of identifying, segmenting, and blending.
    • Spelling and reading are taught simultaneously.
    • The basic code is taught using object boxes and the child works from sound-to-symbol. For example, you have a figurine of a pig, say the sounds in ‘pig’, and write out PIG.
    • It’s DIY, so it’s very inexpensive, you only need the Basic Montessori book and paper.
    • Lessons are written out completely and clearly (in both books).
    • The folders are set up as the “thirteen phonogram sounds and their alternate spellings.” This means we have now turned completely away from the (correct) sound-to-print orientation, and we are now in (incorrect) print-to-sound territory.
    • It teaches that phonograms “make sounds”: “These are the other sounds the letters AI make.” 
    • There is no logical sequence. Basic code is taught in whatever order a child pulls an object out of the box. All alternate spellings are taught simultaneously in the folders.
    • Sight Words: The program teaches some phonetic words as “puzzle words.” This is because the program doesn’t teach all of the alternate spellings. In the Dwyer program, these sight words are very carefully chosen, truly irregular high frequency words. In Basic Montessori, the word list is a little more loosey-goosey.
    • The phonogram dictionary: “These are all the sounds the letters EA make.”

    Bottom Line: This program isn’t bad. I love the first half of this program, they are tried-and-true Montessori lessons; I use them in my class! But skip the reading folders, just continue to teach all of the sound and spellings the same way, introduce alternate spellings for what they are, “This is another way to spell the /ae/ sound.” Use a scope and sequence (you can use mine, or you can use one that aligns with your emergent reader books) so you ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Change the “phonogram dictionary” into a “phoneme dictionary.”

    This is the program I would use (modify) if I weren’t going to use the Rhyme and Reason Reading Program. If you want to modify this program, I strongly recommend you read the science of reading books I mentioned at the top of the article so that you will be successful.

    Pink, Blue, Green Series

    This is my least favorite of the popular Montessori reading programs, it fails on the science of reading completely. It’s honestly a very conventional reading program with the veneer of Montessori applied. These are made by many different designers, so a broad generalization is required in this review, and I’m not talking about any specific seller.

    • It doesn’t teach letter names.
    • It starts with CVC words.
    • From some sellers, this is a very inexpensive DIY program, (from others, it costs an arm and a leg).
    • The entire series is oriented print-to-sound. 
    • The Green Series is a total mess. Digraphs, blends, double letters, and more are all jumbled together.
    • For blue and green, it teaches word “chunks.” There are word lists of “br-“ words or “-ink” words. This is effectively gluing phonemes back together into larger word parts and negating any positive work done with phonemic awareness. 
    • If there is a scope and sequence, I don’t know what it is. Children work through the drawers in a sequence, but I can’t tell what the logic of that sequence is. It mixes up phonemes and graphemes in a way that feels totally random. 
    • Spelling is not explicitly part of the program.
    • With some creators, it feels very closed ended; There are a lot of worksheet-like materials.
    • Some creators have extensive sight word lists of completely phonetic words. (These seem to be the Dolch word lists. Do not use these lists!)
    • It’s just too much! Because the entire series is print-to-sound oriented, there are 100+ phonograms to teach and practice. What makes one version of PBG better than another is how many phonograms it teaches! Different designers compete on “completeness,” that is, the more unwieldy the program, the “better” it is!

    Bottom Line: These programs do not align with the science of reading in any meaningful way. If you have this program, consider replacing it or making serious changes. Any child that learns to read with these materials will do so despite this program. (Probably because the teacher is excellent and making up for the deficiencies in the program.)

    The Rhyme and Reason Reading Program

    I am undoubtedly biased here, as I’ve spent a few years working on this program, but it’s always worthwhile to be honest about what you’re bringing to the table so folks can make their own decisions.

    • Meets all of the science of reading criteria. This is the primary reason I made the program so it was my highest priority.
    • Meets all of the Montessori criteria except integration with other areas of the classroom. It’s something I want to do someday. Maybe I could collaborate with other small creators? Contact me if you’re interested.
    • Most decodable readers will work with the program, but I’m using a unique sequence, so there currently aren’t decodable readers that perfectly align with the program.
    • My program doesn’t have a lot of beautiful add-ons like Waseca. Waseca is really in a class of their own here #goals.
    • DIY only. I only sell digital printables, so you’ll have to print and cut everything out on your own.

    Botton Line: I wouldn’t have made this program if I was satisfied with the ready-made materials available. See more details about the program on the sales page or on the product page.

    I hope this article was helpful for you. All of these programs have their strengths, and all of them will teach some children how to read. All of these programs are phonics based, instead of “whole language” based, so they are already better than most conventional reading programs. But “phonics” isn’t enough, it has to be phonics instruction backed by evidence.

    In my book I include citations and research articles that support these claims.

    Drop a comment below if you have he questions or need something clarified.

    PS There is a follow up to this post where I directly compare The Rhyme and Reason Reading Program with the programs mentioned above. Find it here.

    Do you know someone who would find this interesting? Share it!


    1. You’re correct! Montessori schools need a reading program for the Elementary program that is up-to-date and based on scientifc research. After all, Dr Montessori considered herself a scientist. There have been a lot of haphzard approaches floating around schools for years. The Dwyer approach was an early attempt, but it dates back to 1968, and she didn’t have all of the recent research we now have. (The same is true for all the brain and neurological research that’s been done in recent years.)

      I often feel that AMI has a created a mausoleum over Dr Montessori’s writing and many of the materials developed by her and her son. AMI has been reluctant to update a lot of things–timelines, charts, reading materials, etc….I never used the Pink, Green and Blue series becuase I didn’t like what I saw when I observed them in classrooms….As you say, the Waseca materials are beautiful–and expensive–but I nvere saw them as being for “teaching” reading as more for practicing, reinforcing, and solidifying the strategies laid down in Children’s House. Ideally, that’s where guides “teach” reading–the phonemic awareness, the digraphs, the writing & spelling as leading the reading, the Sandpaper Letters and the Movable Alphabet, In my Ami training, we were told that we might have to do remedial instruction if we were presented with a learner who was not reading at least phonetically. We’ve had to do with the third-year boy you write about. Your new reading prgram would appear to fill that gap in instruction and could, conceivably, be adapted for Children’s House as well. Bravo!….

      I’m wondering why Guideposts hasn’t merchandised` their program… Are you familar with Susan Barton’s Reading & Spelling Program? I had two children who needed help, and I found them a Barton tutor. I liked it because it used color-coded manipulatives and was systenmatic. The difficulty was that in order to become a turor you had to spend a lot on videos for tutoring and the materials. Around $300-$350 per segment. I just couldn’t afford to do it. It’s a modified Orton-Gillingham approach….At another school, the school hired a tutor who used the Wilson Approach, but I was not impressed with it….

      Two difficulties we’re all facing is that we’re getting children who haven’t been through Children’s House and we’re seeing more and more children with dyslexia. (The Barton prgram was developed for those children.) And, as you say, you can’t really fully access the Montessori Cosmic Education curriculum if you’re not able to read. So I’m excitedly looking forward to investigating your new reading program. I can tell that you’re already put a lot of research, thought, and effort into realizing your new program.

      1. I just browsed the Barton website, overall it looks good and hits on a lot of the same things my program does 👍🏼. In my cursory search I couldn’t find a scope and sequence or determine if the lessons are sound-to-print oriented, or print-to-sound oriented.

        Overall (and this is definitely an unpopular opinion), I’m not wild about Orton-Gillingingham. In studies, it doesn’t perform meaningfully better than any other phonics program. There is goofy stuff about syllables. Syllables are a part of the spoken language, not the written language, but OG teaches “syllable types” that are entirely based on spelling patterns. I think OG is leagues ahead of what’s in conventional public school classrooms, but it didn’t heavily influence me in my program creation.

        I’m somewhat familiar with Wilson. (They have some decodable readers that are gorgeous.) It’s also based on OG, so it does weird syllable things. I didn’t like their scope and sequence and like Waseca, it starts by teaching individual sounds to individual letters, but then fuses them back into syllable chunks.

        So they have the word lists where everything ends in “AM” or “UNK,” as if those were special units. English isn’t a syllabic language (Japanese is), it’s a phonemic language.

    2. As a Montessori parent and self-taught homeschooler who loves diving deep into the strategy and making her own executions based on the observations of my child: this critical thinking is so valuable! I’ve had to hybrid my own reading program based on my child failing to learn from some of these methods. I most appreciate the standards of evaluation of a good program ( and putting educator terms to what I’d been personally seeing as working/not working). Thank you so much for your work and explaining this basis to your reading program.

      1. I admire your perseverance in making a program for your child- not just reading, but the whole homeschooling shebang. That’s a lot of work, you should be proud of your efforts.

        The hybrid program is something I see a lot, for the reasons you say. Some parts of a program seem to work, but others don’t. You end up mixing together a bunch of “working parts” from many programs.

        I’m glad my explanations were valuable- I plan on writing more on the blog, and my book has these details laid out more clearly.

        1. What the above commenter said! Also a homeschooler, also frustrated with cobbling together bits and pieces from various programs, based on my child’s needs. Also, all the work to piece together the Muriel Dwyer folders, and they just seemed so confusing to my oldest. All of your points critiquing the above programs are exactly on point.

          Hoping I’m not just curriculum jumping here, but am looking forward to using your program more with my second child!

    3. Q&A from email:
      I’m not clear on how ”thirteen phonogram sounds and their alternative spellings” is turning away from sound to print?

      The quote is from “Basic Montessori.” The phrase “thirteen phonogram sounds” was a problem to me, because phonograms don’t have sounds (people do). It might be that “phonogram sounds” is just how Gettman is describing the sounds that don’t have a one-to-one letter correspondence- I’m totally open to that interpretation, but the writing was ambiguous. (A phonogram is a spelling pattern. It’s a series of letters that represent a sound.)

      On the next page (pg 154) the presentation says to explain to the child “Everything in this folder says ai,” and to show each of the spelling alternatives and say “This also says ai.” That indicated to me that the program had flipped to print-to-sound. In the presentation you ought to say “Here are a couple ways TO SPELL the /ae/ sound.” Phonograms don’t “say” anything.

      IMO, the “phonogram folders” should be called “spelling alternative folders.”

      Furthermore, if we interpret “phonogram sounds” to just be a way to talk about a subset of the phonemes of English, it doesn’t really make sense either.
      There is nothing special about these sounds. A “phonogram sound” such as /ae/, /sh/, or /th/ is no different from an “alphabet sound” such as /a/, /b/, or /k/. They’re all just sounds. These separate categories are invalid from a phoneme perspective. They only make sense if letters and phonograms make sounds.

      I think even talking about “phonogram sounds” smuggles in a print-to-sound orientation.

      Let’s reorient: There are 40+ sounds in English. Some are spelled with a single letter, some are spelled with more.

    4. Thank you so much for this blog post! You’ve clarified so many questions I had about teaching reading and phonics to my homeschooling child. I’ve been piecing together different approaches but I think your book will help me move forward with much more confidence! I know it isn’t technically a Montessori curriculum, but I’m curious if you’ve looked into Logic of English and if you have any thoughts on the merits of using it in conjunction with a Montessori reading program?

      1. I am aware of Denise Eide’s Program! I’ve read her book, I have the teacher manual for her program, and a few smaller books from her. I love her “Sounding Out the Sight Words” book.

        The Logic of English program is entirely print-to-sound. Explicitly and systematically. It teaches 75+ phonograms and the 1-5 sounds each one makes. At the beginning of the program the child needs to memorize spelling patterns and all of the sounds that phonogram makes in frequency order. So for CH the child memorizes (in order) /ch/, /k/, /sh/ as in chin, ache, and chef. They do this for the initial 75 phonograms and then they “complete the code” with another 48+ phonograms. In addition to these, there are 44 rules the child needs to learn.

        I think the rules are helpful to child who can already read, I’m not convinced they are wise to teach an emergent reader, it’s just too much to keep track of. I would be wary of teaching LOE to a primary age student because there are so many logical propositions and wordy explanations. (But that’s just like, my opinion man.)

        My philosophy of reading education is to go from speech-to-print. I believe this is what the research indicates is best practice, and it is the original Montessori method. That being said, if couldn’t convince someone that speech-to-print was superior and they were absolutely insistent on using a print-to-sound program, this is the one I would recommend. It is systematic and explicit, there are no sight words, there are no letter names, there is a phonemic awareness component built in, it doesn’t teach “word families” or “consonant clusters.” Truly, if Ms. Eide had made a speech-to-print program, I wouldn’t have needed to make mine, she’s very logical and the program is well put together.

        So, in sum, here are my thoughts: I do not think it is wise to teach speech-to-print and print-to-speech programs concurrently. I think it would be really confusing to tell an emergent reader “letters don’t make sounds” and “these are all the sounds CH makes.” The two methods contradict each other.

        Teach only one direction to start (I am heavily in favor of speech-to-print first). I think her spelling rules are helpful to older elementary students who can already read, and I recommend folks read “Uncovering the Logic of English.”

        1. Thanks for such a thorough response! I thought it might be print-to-sound. I haven’t invested in LOE, but my kid has been doing a hodgepodge of P/B/G and David Gettman’s Basic Montessori program (oops! I should have heeded all the other Montessorians warnings about PBG!). She’s only just mastered the Pink series/CVC words so I’m hoping your book will help guide us the rest of the way with more clarity! I’m truly excited to dig into it.

    5. Responding to an unkind comment from Instagram:
      Your program is just a rip off of Waseca.

      My program definitely shares a superficial similarity to both Waseca and Rainbow Phonics. All three of our programs use rainbow order, picture cards, and word booklets. In side by side photos, it would be difficult to distinguish the three programs.

      I chose rainbow order because I honestly couldn’t think of another logical way to label the sequence. Alphabetical order (set A, set B, set C etc), numerical order (set 1, set 2, set 3, etc), and planet order (Mars set, Venus Set, Earth Set, etc) were all schemes I considered, but at some point I realized I was trying to be different just to be different, which is silly. Rainbow order is nice because it doesn’t require much outside knowledge and is easily perceptible to an emergent reader. (Dwyer doesn’t have a scope and sequence so this isn’t an issue with that program.)

      We all use picture cards because it allows the student to get a word prompt without the guide (or a classmate) reading words to them. This fosters independence.

      We all use word booklets (Dwyer does as well) to let the student practice additional words in isolation. This is good practice for any reading program, Montessori or not.

      On a deeper level, where I think it matters, our programs are not similar.

      The substance of the lessons and the theory that went into those programs is quite different. My hunch is that the other programs were trying to merge Orton Gillingham (a print to sound methodology) with the original Montessori Method (a speech to print program). Those programs are not compatible.

      This leaves you with lessons that teach from speech to print (the child writes words from looking at the pictures), but then orders the entire program the way a print-to-speech program does. When you look at just the lessons, it’s fine, but when you look at the program holistically, it’s not. To me, this shows that the program holds a core contradiction.

      In my scope and sequence I set up a Basic Code, which is a temporary “transparent writing system.” This isolates the difficulty of learning to read and write, from the complexity of English. The child has the opportunity to master sound to symbol logic before spelling alternatives (different ways to write a sound) or code overlaps (different ways to read a spelling) are introduced. I don’t teach *six ways* to spell /oe/ before I teach one way to spell /er/ (Waseca does).

      These aren’t unimportant differences, these are bedrock issues.

      I really don’t want to speak badly of these programs because I know there is a person like me on the other side. Someone who worked really hard to make something they’re proud of. I’m not interested in putting those programs down to boost mine up: Waseca is not a *bad* program. But if I had liked them, and believed that they were the best method and program to teach with, I would have used them instead of “ripping them off.” With a newborn and a new school to start, it would have saved me a lot of time that I can’t afford to waste. And it’s prettier than anything I’ll ever make, so, there’s that too.

    6. What do you think about Sound Walls? I am a Lower Elementary teacher and have been looking into them, but have yet to integrate them. There are different “levels” and I think it might be helpful for students to have a personal sound wall with the sound and spelling(s) they have learned as a reference as I find that many of my students don’t “recall” how to spell certain sounds, especially those “alternative” spellings. The spelling of the sounds are supposed to be based on their frequency of use, so the more common spellings for long a, for example, will be followed by the lesser used spellings. Thanks!

      1. I’ve seen them used well, but I’ve never used them myself.

        Partly because for a Montessori classroom, you wouldn’t ever put educational materials on the walls, and partly because I don’t know what I would do with them! 😂

        Having charts of spellings sorted by sound and frequency is a very good idea and I plan on making some for the shop soon. I think your idea of a “personal sound wall” is interesting and I’d love to hear how it goes if you try it.

        One of Spelfabet’s free downloads has good charts, and she has a great blog.

    7. Yes, I knew I wouldn’t put the chart up on a wall, so I was thrilled when I found the “personal” size ones that go on a file folder that the student keeps with them – mine have tote trays, so it would stay in there. I did see one teacher who mentioned putting the sound wall info on one of those foam boards. I use an OG based program with my first graders called Language Enrichment (it moves much faster than the regular OG program and is for small group use) and the sound wall would be a great thing to help them remember. The larger one could be helpful during the group lesson (find the sound on the wall and then add the spelling under the letter(s) that makes that sound. I’m thinking the older students could add to their sound wall as they come to a new spelling. I’ll let you know how it goes if I try it this fall.

      1. There is a Facebook group that I sometimes pop into that I think would be helpful to you.

        It’s called “S2P/SLL/Linguistic Phonics Exploration” https://www.facebook.com/groups/987673948806353

        There are folks here who have a lot of experience teaching Linguistic Phonics (which is what my program is) in different ways, and I know for a fact folks there have used sound walls and could give you some tips and tricks. There are a few Montessori teachers, but it’s mostly homeschoolers, conventional teachers, and private tutors.

        If you join, tell Nicki I sent you!

    8. Hello! I am wondering why you have mentioned the Orton-Gillingham methodology as only print to speech. I have an understanding that is is speech to print AS WELL AS print to speech. Is it that both these strategies are being used that it doesn’t meet the “Montessori” criteria? I have struggled for almost a decade (BA in English) to puzzle together a writing/reading program that uses Montessori curricula and material at the heart while still meeting the needs of our english learners. I began in a classroom using the PBG series, then I made my own phonogram folders and study of Dwyer (AMS trained so this was not part of my work) and then I found Waseca and thought I hit the jackpot only to realize it was not complete. I moved on to personal reading and professional development of the science of reading, etc. Finally, I found myself in a comprehensive OG training this past winter and felt like, even though this was clearly a methodology that has a traditional classroom setting in mind, I could integrate most of the scope and sequence easily into the Montessori elementary Language scope and sequence. But then I found your articles! I am in a position to present literacy concepts to Montessori Teacher training programs and would love to discuss your opinions on OG further. thank you for your dedication and work! It is truly inspirational.

      1. There are a lot of Orton-Gillingham type programs, some definitely have a speech-to-print component.

        In Montessori’s time, everyone was doing print-to-speech. Teachers would hand children books and “sound them out” with the child. We still consider this traditional.
        Maria Montessori’s *revolution* in reading education was to teach children to spell (she calls it write) before they could read.

        Montessori wrote more about her reading program than any other part of the curriculum, I would point you toward:
        – Discovery of the Child. Ch 14 Written Language; Ch 15 The Mechanism of Writing; Ch 16 Reading; Ch 17 Speech
        – The Montessori Elementary Material. Part 2 Reading
        – The Formation of Man. Part 3 World Illiteracy
        – Creative Development in the Child. Ch 37 Learning to Write; Ch 53 Preparing to Write and Read;
        – The 1913 Rome Lectures. Spoken and Written Language

        For her Italian 21 sounds and 21 letters, it was easy. She literally did nothing more than Sound Games, Sandpaper Letters, and then Moveable Alphabet.
        The problem for us, like you mention, is English. A very tricky writing system.

        I gave a talk about this that will explain it better than me typing another book 😉

        1. Emily,

          I am so grateful for your detailed response! I will absolutely go back to these foundational texts and re-explore these passages! If you are ever open to a chat about Montessori literacy and inspiring a much needed shift in how Montessori Training programs approach the study and implementation, I am available to you!

      1. No, their rainbow phonics is totally in-house. They developed it and they do not sell it.
        I’ve talked with the fountainhead of that program though, and she has totally come around. She is now both Orton-Gillingham trained and EBLI trained. I am under the impression that the rainbow phonics program is now going to become a speech to print program and my mini review above will no longer be relevant.

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