Apple Montessori Blog

Proven Phonics Approach Helps Children Learn to Read at Age 4


The Montessori method of child development and education uses a three-prong phonics approach for teaching children how to read, starting as early as age 4. The three components of the approach include:

  1. Strong foundation in phonics–ability to hear and identify the individual sounds of letters and blend these sounds to make and recognize words
  2. Comprehension based on visualization of the words and association with specific, relevant objects
  3. Reading for meaning of unknown words with the help of contextual clues, like pictures.

Simply put, phonics helps make learning the English language easier by breaking into just 44 sounds rather than memorizing thousands of words individually. Research shows that phonics is one of the most effective ways of teaching children to read.

Multi-sensory approach

The multi-sensory approach encourages children to build words (encoding) before reading words (decoding). The goal of phonics is to enable children to decode written words by sounding them out and understanding sound-spelling patterns, from single-letter sounds to multiple-letter sounds.

Children discover and recognize the sounds that each letter makes and learn the relationship between the sounds, letters and words. The alphabetic connections of letters and sounds are taught in an orderly way to help manipulate speech sounds within a word. Once the individual sounds are identified and understood, the child can explore the combination of letters and sounds that comprise words.

The blending and encoding of sounds and letters is fundamental for learning to read rather than memorizing lists of words. Age- and developmentally-appropriate activities allow children to build their understanding of how sounds are represented by letters and how these symbols are joined together to make words.

For example, individual letters are drawn and cut from materials such as sand paper. Children experience the shape of each letter by touch. With each letter or symbol, a sound is associated with it. From there, the child learns how these individual symbols and sounds create simple two or three words like cat, dog, and pig. Children then learn how to match the words with objects and pictures for better comprehension. As the child progresses to building four or more letter words, short phrases and sentences are introduced.

Our Apple Montessori teachers use flash cards, word cards, building blocks, and books with words and pictures to provide visualization and clues to help advance reading skills and comprehension at each child’s own pace.