Montessori Work: What is the Moveable Alphabet?

Once children have begun to recognize several letters and their sounds with the Sandpaper Letters, they are introduced to the Moveable Alphabet, a large box with compartments containing plastic letters, organized much like an old-fashioned printer’s box of metal type. The children compose words by selecting a small object or picture and then laying out the word one letter at a time. As with the Sandpaper Letters, they sound out words one letter at a time, selecting the letter that makes that sound.

It is not surprising that in the early years, as young children are beginning to compose words, phrases, sentences, and stories, their spelling can sometimes get a bit creative. For example, the word phone is frequently spelled fon. Montessori teachers deliberately avoid correcting children’s spelling during these early years, preferring to encourage them to become more confident in their ability to sound words out rather than risk that they will shut down from frequent correction.

The process of composing words with the Moveable Alphabet continues for many years, gradually moving from three-letter words to four- and five-letter words with consonant blends (fl, tr, st), double vowels (oo, ee), silent e’s, and so on.