Making Language Work More Exciting

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know that one thing I love about Montessori is how we use small objects to enliven our materials. I’ve talked before about using objects in continent boxes, less expensive wooden objects, and shared a list of easy-to-find objects for Pink, Blue, and Green Series work.

There are some other great ways to use objects, especially in the Language area, so I had some fun today taking pictures for all of you. Hopefully you’ll find a few new ideas here.

As I was taking pictures, I was thinking about the reason behind using three-dimensional objects rather than just two-dimensional pictures. After all it is extra work and extra money to do so. I came up with two reasons:

1. The child finds the work more engaging (especially if they are in the sensitive period for small objects)
2. The work is more memorable because the objects have been touched and sorted (they add a tactile component to the work)

If you can think of others, I’d love to hear about them!

Objects Make Grammar Work Exciting

Here is a set of objects used with beginning noun work (the child simply sets out the objects and places a black triangle over each one):


And another set, for learning about articles (both definite, “the” used when referring to a specific one, and indefinite, “a” or “an” used when referring to one of many):


This set is a great way to learn about adjectives (I didn’t show all the objects in this set; there is another of each object shown in a different color or size so that the child has to choose the object that fits the adjective):


And last, always a classroom favorite, objects used to teach prepositions:


For the prepositions set, I used 4 random objects and made labels using each as the beginning of the sentence (capitalized) or the end of the sentence (with a period). The child can make all sorts of combinations using the objects, the verb “is”, and one of the many prepositions:


Using Objects in Pink, Blue, and Green Series Work

Here are some Pink Series objects for matching with labels or spelling with the movable alphabet (I’ve already blogged about Pink Series objects so you can find more pictures of them here):

Blue Series objects, so easy to find around the house or classroom, are used for matching with labels:


And Green Series objects, making phonograms fun:


Objects Liven Up Word Study Too

I sell a set of Singular and Plural Cards that are meant for older children; they don’t need objects and you’d be hard-pressed to find them for many of the words in the set.

However, I have a few Singular and Plural Sets (I’m calling them Beginning Singular and Plural Sets 1, 2, and 3) that are just right for objects.

Here’s Beginning Singular and Plural Set 1, using only short vowel words (the cards and objects in this set are from Bambini Montessori):


And this set, Beginning Singular and Plural Set 2 (all short vowel words with one blend, “frog”, again from Bambini). I just realized that I have “Singular” and “Plural” switched, so I clearly have not yet internalized this concept!


I also made my own set to teach the “change the y to an i and add ‘es’” concept; Beginning Singular and Plural Set 3:


You might notice something interesting in this last set: half of the cards have a hole punched in the corner. It’s a little tip I picked up from my Montessori trainer, Sister Mary.

She would punch a hole in one set of the cards (either all the singular or all the plural, in this case) so that the child could keep the two halves separate. I still use this method, out of habit, but you could also just rubberband the two sides separately and accomplish the same thing.

Something else I do to all my cards, from language to geography to math to geometry, is code the backs with colored stickers so it’s easy for the child to check their own work; I flipped these over so you can see:


I’m sorry I can’t give specific sources for all the objects; many of them I’ve had for years (I had a dollhouse as a young girl and regularly raid my miniatures collection for Montessori work). Some great sources of objects are Alison’s Montessori, Montessori Services, Bambini Montessori, eBay, and craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s.

Any other great uses for objects, or fantastic sources? Please share!

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23 Responses to “Making Language Work More Exciting”

  • Michelle Irinyi said at March 1st, 2010 at 5:44 pm :

    Great blog, Lori. It was nice to have the visuals. It was very clean and easy to understand. I like the hole-punch idea. I hadn’t seen that one before.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 1st, 2010 at 5:46 pm :

    Hi, Michelle! Glad you liked it. I had fun taking the pictures for it. I keep a hole punch right next to my laminator so I’m always ready to go 🙂

  • Sofia said at March 1st, 2010 at 8:10 pm :

    This is great. It has given me great ideas for my little one. Thank you so much for all of the posts. They are great and I will be implementing a lot of your suggestions in my homeschool curriculum. I am still in the phase where I am collecting info and items to start homeschooling my 2 1/2 year old officially in September when he turns 3.

    I have been doing a lot of work with him already but nothing on the structured level and honestly I didn’t realize a lot of stuff that I do with him sort of falls into Montessori style, but now I am more clearly defining my road and hope to offer him a well rounded experience. Thank you again.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 1st, 2010 at 8:34 pm :

    Hi, Sofia! So glad to hear you will be homeschooling. It’s a challenge but well worth it. Glad you find the ideas helpful.

    My mom likes to say she did Montessori with us without knowing it, because she gave us so much freedom to learn and explore and of course provided us with tons of books.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Andie said at March 1st, 2010 at 9:45 pm :

    I like the idea of objects, but my problem is that so often, the children just “play” with the objects – the girls tend to dramatize with them, and the boys tend to throw them around the room. Which, I suppose if it was an occasional problem, or if they were using them to “enliven the experience” first, and then playing, or even if they were playing sometimes and using them in this way sometimes, than I could see it. But in my experience, the children almost never use them in this sort of way. I find this with all the objects – the continent boxes and the language objects. I do find less of a problem with the flat wooden shapes than I do with the small, 3-D objects.

    Do you have any suggestions, beyond modeling appropriate behavior, to get the children to use the small objects to further their learning instead of only playing with them?


  • Lori Bourne said at March 1st, 2010 at 10:10 pm :

    Hi, Andie! I do have a few suggestions.

    First, make sure the material is hitting that “sweet spot” where the child is ready for it but not already past it. A lot of times playing occurs because the child isn’t ready yet (so they occupy themselves by playing) or because they’re beyond it, so they’re bored.

    Second, make it an iron-clad rule that they may not play with the objects. Remind them fairly frequently.

    Third, make sure that when you present the work, they understand the point of the objects in the work and how they are to be used.

    If the objects are too distracting, you might want to remove them completely or not have them out at the beginning of the year, only adding them when the children seem ready and letting them know it’s a special privilege to be able to work with the objects.

    We are choosing the objects on purpose because they’re cute, so we can’t blame the children too much if they are tempted to play with them. I think a little of it is fine (I remember children doing the preposition work in my class, swooping the hedgehog down to land on the tiny house) and it wasn’t a problem and didn’t interfere with the work. So a lot of it comes down to our own observation of the child and using our discretion.

  • Jane De Castro said at March 2nd, 2010 at 4:14 am :

    I love this, I do homeschooling with my youngest daughter and have a few collection of materials myself. She has done most of the practical and sensorial lessons with me. She’s 3 1/2 years old now and will be going to school by June (Philippines). Sad to say I can’t afford to send her to a Montessori school here in our place since its really expensive. Keep on posting more info and thank you……

  • Lori Bourne said at March 2nd, 2010 at 4:52 pm :

    Hi, Jane! So good to hear from you. I don’t know how it works in the Philippines, but could you possibly keep homeschooling her using Montessori? It sounds like you’re doing a great job.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Gigi said at March 2nd, 2010 at 7:35 pm :

    Thank you Lori. This is great! I will be homeschooling the kids starting this Fall and my son who is 6 will be doing this work next year. I had not thought about using the little objects. He will love it! The punching the hole on the card is genius!

  • Lori Bourne said at March 2nd, 2010 at 9:13 pm :

    Hi, Gigi! So glad you like the ideas. I love the hole punching idea too 🙂

  • Maggie said at March 3rd, 2010 at 3:57 am :

    Hi, eight years in primary and I never thought of hole punching one set of cards. Bless Sister Mary and the hole puncher comes out this a.m. Likewise I am a big Michael’s and Hobby Lobby fan for objects but when you feel you just need some new items a big cake decorating store comes in handy. They have box after box full of little inexpensive items.

  • Selena H said at March 3rd, 2010 at 6:53 am :

    Great approach with visual spatial learners. Thanks.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 3rd, 2010 at 6:56 am :

    Hi, Maggie! I have never been to a cake decorating store but it sounds like that would be a fantastic source of objects! Thanks!

  • The Reflective Educator said at March 3rd, 2010 at 10:36 am :

    Very interesting. For someone who teaches high school, this is great insight into appropriate language development.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 3rd, 2010 at 11:56 am :

    Thanks for stopping by, your blog is fascinating (and sad and scary too)! Have you thought of going into Montessori education? It sounds like it would be a great fit for you.

  • Jennifer said at March 5th, 2010 at 2:58 pm :

    I just started creating my own set of beginning sounds baskets and my two boys are really enjoying them.

  • Barbara said at March 11th, 2010 at 12:19 pm :

    It´s my first time in your blog, and it´s really nice to find it, congrats.

  • Kylie said at March 12th, 2010 at 2:03 am :

    Thanks for another informative post Lori. I’ve had a search and can’t find anything so thought I would ask. Have you written anything on work for digraphs, as in making booklets etc. I really need to see some of this work in action and thought that maybe you might of already covered it at some stage.

  • Lori Bourne said at March 12th, 2010 at 12:05 pm :

    Hi, Kylie! I think diagraphs (st, sh, ch, th, wh) fall under the Blue Series work, which I have written about here and sell materials for here.

    I don’t separate them out from the other blends when I teach, but it’s fine if you do. Hope that helps!

  • Jennifer Ritsema said at March 21st, 2010 at 8:07 pm :

    I love to use objects in my classroom. We use them in so many ways. Some other sources of objects:

    Craft stores – Michaels and Hobby Lobby sell Toobs that contain animals, vehicles, etc, also the dollhouse section has many things I find useful

    Garage sales – I set aside cash every summer and take my older kids with me (they are seasoned garage shoppers). We check out Barbie accessories, dollhouse gear, toy bins, etc.
    there is a website called Montessori N Such that sells objects in sets and bulk – they do all the legwork for you.

    Happy hunting. I think I’m going to get to work on some more grammar work now. BTW, I find crafters foam a durable material for making grammar symbols. It’s waterproof and doesn’t pill or tear.

    In response to Kylie: I have a tray with a card divided into columns. At the top of the columns are the phonograms ch, sh, th, wh and there is a basket of objects – 3 for each column. The child has to sort the objects much the same way we sort objects for initial sounds. I have lotto-type cards with blends like st, sp, tr, etc with objects that are sorted the same way. Hope this helps.

  • Mohua said at May 11th, 2010 at 3:46 am :

    Hi…am a trainee…training in the Montessori method of teaching. Could you please let me know how and why a child is attracted to the small and minute objects? And what could be the role of an adult to assist the child in that aspect?

  • Lori Bourne said at May 11th, 2010 at 10:27 am :

    Jennifer, thank you for all those ideas. Very helpful!

    Mohna, the short answer is “Because small objects are cute and fun”. But there is more to it than that (although that is part of it).

    In your training, they should be covering what are called “sensitive periods”. Those are times when a child is more sensitive to certain objects or ideas. In the 3-6 developmental plane, children have a sensitivity to small objects.

    You may notice, for instance, that young children gravitate towards things like the smallest cube in the pink tower. Their fingers are so sensitive, and they enjoy being able to hold something small enough to fit in their hands (unlike so many other things in their world which are adult-sized or just too big to hold).

    The role of the adult is to observe, and when you see a child showing interest in small objects, provide work that encourages that interest. It can be as simple as putting a small toy horse in the Parts of the Mammal work, or as elaborate as the language activities I’ve shown here.

    Remember what I said at the beginning of the post: the child finds work with small objects engaging, and it helps make the work more memorable. That sums it up.

  • CHONA said at July 11th, 2011 at 3:49 am :