These have been my pet project the last couple of weeks.
Montessori developed the sandpaper letters to help children develop the muscular impression of the letter as well as to introduce the shape and sound of each letter. They are multi-sensory which is important for children still in a tactile stage of development.
Dr Montessori believed that children should learn to write before reading because it is easier. If a child is asked to write a word, say "cat" he already has a visual image of this word in his head and only needs to take apart the word, letter by letter to reproduce the word. Reading on the other hand, the child needs to clarify the sound of each letter, one by one and then put each letter together, c - a - t then ca then cat. Before he has combined all the letters together he has no idea what the word can be. Obviously as his reading skill increase he will intantly recognise some words but every time he comes acrooss a new word, he has the same problem. Although phonics is an importnat part of the language process, English is not a phonic based language and so children need to be exposed to "sight" words too. Anyway, back to the project in hand..
Firstly, it took me an age to decide how to do it. At first I couldn't find any pre-cut board the right size so I considered using laminated card instead. My 'great' plan was to print out the letters onto the right coloured card (blue for vowels, the rest pink) and then laminate them. I was then going to use glitter glue over the letters to give a textured finish. Luckily, I had the sense to make a test one before embarking on the project, just as well since the glitter fell off after 2 days. Back to square one.
Then I discovered that Tokyu Hands sell pre-cut boards 100mm x 150 mm, perfect.
After scouring web groups like the yahoo based Montessori By Hand and Montessori Makers I came up with a fab idea (well, someone elses suggestion) to use the non stick tread that you use on stairs, she explained that because the glue on the back is super strong it was a great alternative to sandpaper - which I was trying to avoid using, I thought it would be much harder job to actually use sandpaper. So, off to the home centre I went, only to discover that they only do the stair grip stuff in strips. Bummer.
So, I decided I was going to have to go the sandpaper route when I had a bit of brainwave, sticky backed felt. I remembered it being super sticky, so I dug a scrap out and stuck it to laminated card to see how it was and also to a bit of painted wood. Both were fine but then I decided I might as well go the whole hog and use the boards.
The finished letters are FAB, the felt is also raised off the board making it more distinct, I am very chuffed with myself.
To make the sandpaper letters....
1: Buy all the bits you need: 26 boards, pink and blue paint, brushes, sticky backed felt in a light colour, small dot stickers,
stick of glue.
2: Paint the boards (I noticed that a lot of commercial boards put y on a blue board)
3: Print out the letters. I downloaded the Montessori font, for free here. I like this font because it is kind of between standard letters and cursive. Set up your document so that the page is the same size as the board you will be using. You need to make sure
there is enough space either side of the letter for the child to be able to hold the board firmly. You need to flip the text
over so that it is backwards on your screen. Most of the letters I did at a height of 200 but some odd letters, f and j were
too long so I had to make them smaller. I recommend printing out just one first to check it is OK.
4: Print out the letters, cut round them roughly.
5: Use the glue and stick the letters to the back of the sticky felt paper backing, if you have got it right, once the letter is cut
out it should be the right way.
6: Cut out the letters.
7: Stick to the painted boards (once they are dry).
8: Add a small green dot where you start to write the letter and a small red dot at the point where you finish writing the
9: I added a small yellow dot to the bottom left-hand corner of each board so that the child knows which way up the letter
10: Find a suitable box or basket to store the letters in.