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Materials Spotlight: Sandpaper Letters

What are the Sandpaper Letters?

The Sandpaper Letters are one of Maria Montessori's most brilliant materials. The Sandpaper Letters are a unique Montessori material that teaches children the sound a letter makes by using wooden cards with letters printed on them. These letters are rough like sandpaper to give a tactile impression to a child. The child traces the letter and repeats the letter's sound.

What is the purpose of the Sandpaper Letters?

Working with the Sandpaper Letters, children learn how the sounds they hear are written. Maria Montessori emphasized that writing comes first, then reading. Later, by blending these sounds together, children begin to read phonetic words without laborious effort. Tracing the letters gives children the foundation for beautiful penmanship. This method, which engages three senses- visual, auditory, and tactile, contrasts sharply with the traditional approach of looking at letters to memorize them.

How do the children work with these?

The child uses two fingers to trace the letter and say the sound the letter makes as they are tracing it. The teacher will move through the 3 period lesson of: this is S, show me S, and what sound does this letter make? They then match small objects that begin with each letter's sound.

What extensions can be done with this work?

The child can use small beans, rice or even a crayon rubbing to create their own version of the Sandpaper Letters. They may even dabble with using a dowel to trace the given letter, then practice writing the sound in the sand.

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