How to Teach Phonograms Using Montessori Reading Folders

As part of the total Montessori approach to the development of language, here are the stages to having the keys to write and read in English, according to Muriel Dwyer:

Feel free to browse the previous stages at will. We have printable materials and references to go along with these stages. Now, we are at Stage 8!

To learn how to read and write most words in the English language, the child must also discover that the ‘key sounds‘ are not always written in the same way. Prior to this stage, the child must have acquired phonemic awareness and the ability to decode phonetic words

Now, the next step going forward is learning about the different phonograms and the phonogram families

Phonograms are letter combinations that make a specific sound, and learning them helps children decode words and understand their meanings.

By mastering phonograms, children are able to decode words and understand their meanings, which in turn helps them become confident and successful readers and writers.

In Montessori, each key phonogram sound is introduced with phonogram cards and booklets, or in other terms – “Reading Folders”.

Each Reading Folder represents one of the key sounds in the English language that can be written in more than one way. On the outside of each folder is the appropriate symbol introduced with sandpaper letters in Stage 2.

What’s Inside the Reading Folders? 

(1) Cards with each containing one of the various ways in which a particular sound can be written. For example for the key sound “ai”, there will be individual cards for “ai”, “ay”, “ei”, and “a-e”.

(2) Booklets containing words for each phonogram. These are similar with the Montessori Phonogram Booklets.

phonogram families, montessori language
phonogram families, montessori language

(3) Cards containing words for each phonogram with controls of error, i.e., cursive writing at the back, highlighted phonogram in red, and the key sound it belongs to. These are not originally included in the Key to Reading and Writing but I added it in here for more independent practice.

key sounds and phonograms reading folder

There should be 13 folders to cover the key sounds. There should be cards and booklets for the following sounds and phonograms:

As much as possible, the words contained in the cards and booklets should only contain one phonogram. 

This activity is introduced at around 4.5 years old as long as the child has had necessary preparation.

Presentation of the Reading Folders

  1. Invite the child to choose one Reading Folder and take out the cards containing the symbols.
  2. The guide shall explain that each phonogram has the same sound as the symbol written on the outside of the folder.
  3. The child then starts reading the various booklets. If he has any difficulty, do not proceed as he is likely not ready. 
  4. After the first folder, the guide must introduce either the “ai”, “ee”, “ie”, “oa”, or “ue” folders since they contain cards with the magic or silent “e”. These cards require special introduction.
    • For example, using the “ai” folder, the guide should first introduce the child to the other cards from the folder (“ai”, “ay”, “ei”). 
    • She then takes the card with “a-e”. 
    • She writes a “t” on a small paper and puts it in between the “a” and “e”, over the dash. At the same time, she covers the “e” with her hand so that the word “at” is showing.
    • She asks the child to read the word (“at”), then lifts her hand covering the “e’.
    • She then explains to the child that when “e” is there, the vowel before the consonant says its name and not its sound. So the word is now, “ate”.
    • She proceeds to write “m” and again covers “e”. She asks the child to read the word, “mat”. 
    • She lifts her hand again and shows the word, “mate”.
  5. The child can proceed to reading through the other folders, one at a time, and with little or no help from the guide.
reading folders mindsprout

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