Thursday, June 16, 2016

How To: Make Alternative Montessori Style Sandpaper Letters

We love our homemade letters
Have you noticed a strong inverse relationship between how much prep time you spend on a teaching related project and how interested your kids are? Not so with this project in our family. Using hot glue to make flash cards worked! It doesn't look fancy, but if it does the job, who cares? These are a great teaching tool for Montessori style learning and D'Nealian cursive, as well as general writing skills. I can see this technique being successful for children with sensory processing issues who don't like rough things as well.

Montessori letter k tracing

For the most part I really adore Montessori materials and concepts. One material my children rejected outright is the sensory sandpaper letters and numbers to trace with your finger as preparation for writing. The materials I got from Adena Montessori are great quality, but the girls abhor the feeling of sandpaper and took their strokes willy-nilly out of order regardless of instruction, so I let it go until their numbers were reversed and I was in an all-out war over cursive.
#teacheroftheyear right?
The beauty of the hot glue cards is that the glue guides their fingers into the strokes in the right order! Before I took the plunge I started with numbers 0-9 with gold stickers, and with success ventured into lower case and finally upper case cursive letter cards.

  Note: In a world where people write by hand infrequently cursive seems like an indulgence that is "way too hard" according to my kids, except for one thing– You remember things better when you write notes by hand, and one of the best ways to write fast enough to take thorough notes is cursive. I credit a lot of my good grades to cursive. Plus if you have nice handwriting its an easy ego boost because people always notice.

My children vehemently disagree with my premise, preferring to print in all caps, hence the cursive battle!

Montessori Hot Glue Letter Cards 

27 cardboard sheets sized 5.5" x 8.5" (mine are 8.5" x 11" cardboard sheets cut in half),
a popsicle stick (optional),
red or pink glitter glue,
6 blue metallic dot or star stickers for vowels, (mine is leftover table confetti)
21 red metallic dot or star stickers for consonants,
hot glue gun, and
10 sticks of hot glue


1. On 19 cards draw solid marker lines 1.5" from the top and bottom, and a broken line 4.5" from the top, centered between the solid lines. My broken line is 1/2" on, 1/2" off. These cards are for the letters that sit on the line. 

2. In marker on the lower righthand corner print these cards with the letters a, b, c, d, e, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, r, s, t, u, v, w, and x. 

3. On the remaining 8 cards, draw a light pencil line 1.5" from the bottom, a solid marker line 3" up from that, and a broken line another 3" up from your solid line. These cards are for letters with tails that drop below the line.

4. In marker on the lower righthand corner print these cards with the letters f, g, j, p, q, y, y, and z. Yes, 2 y's, as one will serve as a consonant and the other as a vowel.  

Montessori letters glitter glue

5. Apply a line of pink or red glitter glue to the bottom-most solid marker line on each card. In D'Nealian handwriting curricula the line the letters rest on is often red/pink. Highlighting it helps the child to hold the card right side up, line the cards up by matching the red line, the glitter is a rough counterpoint to the smooth glue, and shiny is always better. 

Montessori letters draft letters

6. In pencil, lightly rough out each letter referencing D'Nealian resources, Learning Curve Pro font for cursive, School House A font for print. For the letters with tails, use the pencil line toward the bottom of the card to show how far the tail should drop. Use the popsicle stick as a point of reference for the width of the strokes, and to round off the ends. Draw your final lines in marker and erase all visible pencil marks.

Montessori letters add sticker

7. Apply blue stickers or confetti to the leading stroke of each vowel: a, e, i, o, u, and y. Why use stickers? To show where to start. Why metallic? Because, I am told by my product testers, that is one of the things that make these cards great. Why blue? Because in the Montessori method vowels are always shown in blue.
8. Apply red stickers to the leading stroke of each consonant, b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, and z. Why red? Because in the Montessori method consonants are always shown in red. 

Montessori Letters Cursive H

9. With a steady hand, squeeze an even amount of glue along the outline of each letter starting at the first upward stroke. You can see on the letter "h" here that if a stroke crosses itself priority is given to the first pass, in this case the stroke from bottom to top, and the later stroke is partial for the sake of simplicity. 

10. Spend the rest of your children's school ages trying to get the little glue strings off. Good luck!    
Now, does anyone want to buy my barely used sandpaper letters? 

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