Last month, I shared Montessori-inspired snowman color activities. I loved the printable for winter activities, and I’m going to use another free snowman printable from the same blogger. This one focuses on letters.The main printable I’m using is Put the Hat on the Snowman from “The Kids Place” Home Daycare and Preschool. For an alphabet control chart, I’m using a printable alphabet tracing page from Ziggity Zoom. A third printable is from Montessori Materials – a movable alphabet that looks like the Nienhuis font and is donated by Logendra.
In the snowman printables, only the letters vary rather than the shape, size, or color. Notice that every snowman’s hatband and scarf is the same color. Like the printable last month, this meets the Montessori principle of isolation of difficulty that will help children learn the concept most easily.
In this post, I’m talking about activities that are extensions to initial work with letters and phonetic sounds and add interest. In Montessori education, phonetic sounds are introduced before letter names. Lowercase letters are introduced before uppercase letters. My Inexpensive and DIY Sandpaper Letters post has lots of resources for purchasing or making sandpaper letters and for presenting the phonetic sounds. Sandpaper letters are the ideal formal introduction to letters.
Here are some Montessori-inspired snowman letter activities to help young children with a number of skills:
Preparing Snowman Letter Activities
Materials Needed (and preparation tips):
- Snowman letter printable, alphabet control chart, and movable alphabet printable (optional)
- Materials for printing, cutting, and laminating printables
- Sandpaper letters and salt (for salt tray extension)
- Activity trays. I used two inexpensive wooden activity trays that came as nested trays from a hobby story (Michael’s). I especially like that they’re nested for homes or preschools with limited shelf space. The salt tray (see extension below) can be placed beneath the other tray on the shelf if you don’t have space for both trays (or space to have a separate table for the salt tray and snowman letter activity).
- 2 small containers for the hats and movable alphabet letters. I used parts of a bead storage container from the hobby store for the small containers.
- When preparing the activity, make it as attractive and orderly as possible. Typically, you’ll want to arrange your materials in left-to-right order on the tray as an indirect preparation for writing and reading.
- You’ll need a low shelf or shelves for the activity trays in your classroom or home where the children can easily reach them, allowing for freedom of choice in their activities. Activity trays on shelves are wonderful ways to have activities available when children have an urge to repeat an activity or are drawn to an activity because of the needs of a sensitive period.
- Especially if you have more than one child, it’s helpful if you have a few rugs in the room so a child can lay out the materials for an activity on a rug on the floor. The rug defines the child’s workspace. Rugs can be rolled up and stored in a container in a corner of the room.
Presenting the Activity
- If you’re presenting to a large group, go to the rug container, get a rug, and roll it out on the floor in front of you. For an individual child or small group, it’s helpful to use a rug if you’re presenting an activity on the floor.
- Go to the shelf where the activity tray is located, pick up the tray with both hands, and carry it to your rug or to a table.
- For a large-group presentation in a preschool, generally the children will be seated in a circle. Present the activity facing toward the group. If you’re presenting to an individual child, have the child sit to your left if you’re right-handed so that you don’t block the child’s view with your arm.
- Lay out the snowmen in rows on the rug or table, starting at the left and working to the right. For this activity, I would probably put them in the order of the alphabet like they are on the control chart.
- As I place each snowman on the rug I would say, “The letter ‘a’ makes the sound /ă/; the letter ‘b’ makes the sound /b/….” Later on, I might say, “’A’ makes /ă/; ‘b’ makes /b/….”
- Lay out the snowman hats in mixed order below the snowmen.
- Show how to find the first snowman hat and place it on the snowman’s head, saying something like, “’A’ makes the sound /ă/.”
- In Montessori education, activities are presented slowly with precise movements. As few words as possible are used. In another preschool environment, you may want to adapt the presentation according to your own teaching style.
- Often at this point in a group presentation, I’ll ask someone in the group if they’d like to match another snowman’s hat. I might go around the group giving the children turns matching snowmen with hats. With an individual child, I'll let the child join in when he or she feels ready.
- This isn't "Montessori-inspired," but when the alphabet layout is complete, I would sing the "ABC Song" with the child or group of children, pointing to each letter snowman as we sing the letter name.
- When you’re finished with the activity, put the activity away on the shelf. Always show how to clean up and put away an activity when you first present it. If you had a rug out for the activity, roll the rug up and put it away.
- Introduce a salt tray and sandpaper letter for practice tracing individual letters. I like the idea of placing one of the snowmen in the salt tray, since the salt looks a bit like snow. Again, I say the phonetic sound when tracing the letter. Here I would just say the phonetic sound (rather than the letter name) as I trace the letter in the sand using my index and middle finger. (See the videos linked to in the sandpaper letter post for more about presentation.)
- Add a container of movable alphabet letters to the tray.
- Children can place the movable alphabet letters below the snowman letters.
- Children who are ready can spell words with the snowman letters and movable alphabet (see directions for presenting the movable alphabet).
Enjoy the rest of the winter! :)
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies. She taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in Colorado Springs with her husband of 36 years and their cat of 10 years. She blogs at Living Montessori Now.
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