Montessori Basics 8: Pink, Blue, and Green Series

The Pink, Blue, and Green Series work is an integral part of Montessori language. Many people have questions about these materials, though. They don’t seem quite as self-explanatory as other common Montessori work. There’s a lot to know about the history and usage of these materials – so read on for more info!

When Maria Montessori began working with the children in the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), she gave them sandpaper letters to trace while saying the correct sound. She didn’t do any specific work in the area of reading, but almost effortlessly, the children began to read. Italian is a very phonetic language (words are spelled the way they sound), and once the children knew the sounds, they could read.

After the Montessori method was brought to the United States in the 1920s, it was clear that another approach was needed to teach reading and writing in English. While there are many phonetically spelled words in English, there are even more that use “phonemes”; that is, groups of letters that create distinct sounds when combined. For instance, “ough” can make several sounds, as in “through” or “bough”. These sounds need to be memorized; they can’t be sounded out phonetically.

The Pink, Blue, and Green Series materials were developed to meet that need. They break down the essentials of English phonics into three groups: short vowel sounds, consonant blends, and phonetic combinations. By moving through these materials in order, a child is able to easily master the art of reading and writing in English.

The Pink Series materials are where it all begins. Pink Series words consist of three letters: a beginning and ending consonant, and a vowel in the middle. All of the vowel sounds in this series are short vowels: “a” as in “cat”; “e” as in “bed”, “i” as in “pig”, “o” as in “hot”, and “u” as in “bus”. The letter “y” is not included in this grouping.

After mastering the Pink Series, the child is ready to move to Blue Series words. These words consist of consonant blends (at the beginning or end of the word, or both), and a short vowel sound. Examples would include “flag”, “mend”, and “clock”. There are about 20 different blends, if you include doubles like “ll” and “ss”. The child may work on this step for quite awhile, as there are hundreds of words that fit into this scheme (see picture for an example of Blue Series matching cards).

Once the Blue Series words have been mastered (essentially, that means the child is familiar with all the blends and can spell most Blue Series Words), they are ready for Green Series. The Green Series is where reading fluency really begins, as the child now has the keys to unlock the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies of the English language.

The Green Series words consist of all the major phonemes, for example: “ai”, “ou”, “ie”, and “ow”. It also includes vowel combinations with a consonant in the middle, like “a_e” or “i_e” where the “_” is a consonant. These would be words like “cake” or “mice“. It includes silent letters, hard and soft letters, and many other difficult spelling and reading challenges. There are about 40-50 different sound combinations in this group.

There is a huge variety of Pink, Blue, and Green Series work. Common ones include matching cards, rhyming cards, using the movable alphabet to spell words, cards with lists of words for spelling or reading practice, and word cards with matching objects. Materials differ by classroom and teacher and most Montessori companies have their own personalized sets of materials that are all slightly different.

Pink, Blue, and Green Series materials are easy to make at home; for suggestions, check out this post:

What Can You Do With the Language Basics?

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8 Responses to “Montessori Basics 8: Pink, Blue, and Green Series”

  • Montessori Pink Series — Our Montessori Home said at May 18th, 2012 at 12:02 pm :

    […] Series ResourcesMontessori for Everyone has some great resources on all the reading series -Montessori Basics 8: Pink, Blue, & Green SeriesSetting Up Pink Series WorksWhat Can You Do with the Language Basics?,Word Lists for Pink, Blue, […]

  • Liz said at August 1st, 2012 at 5:21 am :

    This is a pretty great explanation, but I wanted to point out that your picture for blends is incorrect. Sh and ch are in the green series because they make one sound versus a blend in which two letters each make a sound – just smooshed together (at least according to my AMS training).

  • Lori Bourne said at August 1st, 2012 at 6:23 am :

    Hi, Liz! In my training, which was also AMS, digraphs like “ch” and “sh” were included in the Blue Series. Thanks for stopping by!

  • mary said at June 23rd, 2013 at 9:30 am :

    You might want to check with Montessori St. Nicholas London as the founders, Margaret Homfray and Phoebe Childs, trained by Montessori herself, were charged by her to develop a way of teaching English based on the Montessori principles. The St. Nicholas course used the pink blue and green series devised by them dating back to the 1960’s. “Sh” and “ch” are in the green as the combination of the letters changes the sound. The original scheme had to be phonetic, three letters or less in the pink, all long phonetic words in the blue. In the green only one combination of letters in the green boxes could change sounds and the letters that changed were highlighted in red e.g. dish is ok for the “sh” box, but shape is not. In the St Nicholas scheme there are a series of exercises leading to the red highlighted letters becoming the same color as all the other letters.

  • Lori Bourne said at July 6th, 2013 at 11:25 am :

    The more I study phonics, the more I realize that Pink, Blue, and Green Series materials are incomplete and need updating. Current research shows that children do much better when each sound that a letter or letter combination can make is taught from the beginning. Delaying all the phonemes to the Green Series can be confusing and unhelpful, especially for concrete learners.

  • mary said at August 8th, 2013 at 7:24 pm :

    Yes the green materials do address the same combinations of letters making the same sound as you state with the “ch” above just as they do with different combinations making the same sound as in “ai”, ‘a-e”, “ay” etc. You just have to follow all the steps and exercises.

  • Lori Bourne said at August 8th, 2013 at 7:45 pm :

    There are 74 basic phonograms in the English language. Many of the phonograms make more than one sound, some up to 6 different sounds. The language album that I received in my training, as well as the Pink/Blue/Green materials we were given, did not include all of those phonograms or all of the different sounds they make.

    In my extensive experience since then (purchasing Montessori language albums from a variety of companies, including Nienhuis), and reviewing Pink/Blue/Green materials from other companies, I have never come across any album or version of P/B/G that includes all of those phonograms and all of their sounds, no matter how many steps and exercises are followed. It’s just not out there.

    I know that the Pink, Blue, and Green Series can work. I’ve used it with hundreds of children, including my son, and watched them learn to read successfully with it. However, there are some children who need more, and there are language programs out there that provide them with more than the P/B/G series does.

  • Montessori Basics 8: Pink, Blue, and Green Series | said at September 21st, 2013 at 9:27 am :

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