Phonemic Awareness (Montessori)

From Montepedia

Phonemic Awareness is an essential part of the Montessori language curriculum, especially for children between the ages of 2 and 3 years. Before teaching children letters or reading, Montessori education focuses on enhancing phonological awareness. Phonological Awareness includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language such as words, syllables, speech sounds (phonemes), onset and rime.[1]

Phonemic Aawareness, a subset of phonological awareness, involves identifying and manipulating individual sounds in spoken words. This skill involves breaking down a word into its sounds, recognizing sound-letter patterns, blending, segmenting, and playing with sounds to make new words. Developing phonemic awareness forms the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills, including the decoding of unfamiliar printed words.[2]

Steps to Enhance Phonemic Awareness

Below are some of the steps recommended by the Montessori Method to develop phonemic awareness:

1. Provide a Literacy-Rich Home:

This involves providing a variety of books, modeling reading and writing, and engaging children in making various labels, lists, signs, notes, etc. Children should also be encouraged to articulate their words fully and use real and accurate language.[1]

2. Identifying Words That Rhyme:

Children can be introduced to rhymes through poems, verses, and tongue twisters. They can also engage in activities like matching rhyming items or playing rhyming games.[1]

3. Identifying Syllables:

Activities like clapping out the syllables in names, using instruments to identify syllables, or stomping/jumping for syllables can enhance the child's awareness of syllables in words.[2]

4. Increase Awareness of Music and Environmental Sounds:

Identifying and imitating different sounds can refine a child's senses and increase their awareness of environmental sounds. This can involve listening to and replicating sounds of musical instruments or sounds heard in nature.[1]

5. Identifying Initial/Beginning Sounds:

This can be done through games like "I Spy," which encourage children to identify objects that start with a certain sound. It can also involve creating mini alphabet books, using initial sound bags, baskets, or trays, or playing with alliteration.[2]

Research and Critiques


Research has shown that developing phonemic awareness from an early age can significantly improve children's spelling and word recognition skills, laying the foundation for effective reading abilities later on.[2]


Critics argue that focusing too heavily on phonemic awareness can limit a child's exposure to other critical literacy skills. Additionally, some children may find phonemic activities difficult or frustrating, particularly if they have speech or hearing difficulties.[1]

Comparisons to Other Methods

The Montessori approach to phonemic awareness, which involves active, hands-on learning and exploration of sounds, contrasts with traditional approaches that may focus more on memorization or rote learning.

See Also

Glossary of Montessori Terms

The Glossary of Montessori Terms is a collection of specific terms and vocabulary that are related to the Montessori method of education, primarily focusing on the theory and practice for children aged 3 to 6. The jargon used by Montessori educators offers a unique insight into child development as discussed by Maria Montessori. The 'Montepedia Glossary of Montessori Terms' originated from a glossary that was compiled by the late Annette Haines from the Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis, at the request of Molly O'Shaughnessy from the Montessori Centre of Minnesota. The reason behind the creation of this glossary was to supplement O'Shaughnessy's lecture at the Joint Annual Refresher Course that took place in Tampa, Florida, in February 2001.[3] The glossary has since been expanded and updated with additional 'Montessori Terms'.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Carlson, F., & Turner, L. (2018). Language and Literacy in Montessori Preschools: A Longitudinal Study of the Development of Phonemic Awareness Skills. Journal of Montessori Research, 4(2), 1–13.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Ehri, L. C. (1991). Development of the ability to read words: Update. In R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 383–417). Longman.
  3. Haines, A. (2001). Glossary of Montessori Terms. Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis.