A review of LEM phonics and Montessori and how we are doing it. Part 1

Izaac started Year 1 doing half homeschool at our local Christian school, for a day and a half a week. This serves his need to be part of a pack, and not having a hectic out of home experience. His amazing teacher so understands our need for half homeschool to mainly to be for him to have sports and have a community.

But she introduced me to LEM phonics. For spelling, I had bought All About Spelling. But it just didn’t fit with me. So I managed to get the whole LEM curriculum for a swap of my AAS! This includes the awesome whopping book, called, The book of Rules. Plus all Australian English.

Just as a review of  LEM, you work through these sound cards. What I love, love is that it has all these jingles throughout learning your sounds. So if Izaac asks me how to spell something, we’ll say things like, it’s the ‘er’ of father, or “it’s the ea of ‘eat bread or steak'”. So Izaac knows which phonogram to use where.  I don’t need to spell ‘ea’ for the ‘ee’ sound.

Each sound has a number, so for ‘eat bread or steak’, eat is 1, bread is 2, steak is 3. And as we go into the Word Lists, we study words and label phonograms with these numbers.



So now we have worked through most of our cards and have started our Word List books.


And our lessons


As much as I love this programme, it just takes too much of our time, because it’s set up for a classroom, more than a homeschool. And nowhere near self directed. So I had to think of how to Montessori this programme. I looked at how AAS achieved this. My thoughts were, it had to have self correcting, small chunkable lessons, the kids could do majorly on their own.

Up next, what I’m doing so far. Click here for Part 2



Spelfabet moveable alphabet

Have you seen this Australia resource – which has the tiles so similar to All about Spelling, which she calls a moveable alphabet, called Spelfabet


Might be very tempting to think this is a replacement for MA – but not really, because I don’t think enough duplicates to aid story writing.  So I plan to still use my regular moveable alphabet for story writing.

But in this link, have a look at the great video she has done to show how she makes a take-along moveable alphabet, made from felt and velcro.  Such a great idea.

If you love her sequence of teaching spelling, in the video, here she goes into detail/narration (for you to use) on her little sequence.  It is just fantastic!


Last sounds sound race bingo

Then look at her games – I am definitely getting these!

Muriel Dwyer – other resources

There has been so much talk about Muriel Dwyer technique for teaching/exploring language with your children – on our Playschool6 news group and on other amazing Montessori websites.  It truely does make teaching language much easier.

I’d like to share these resources with you;

One of my favourite websites, whatdidwedoallday – has a fantastic summary of how she implements Muriel Dwyer.

Kingdom of the Pink Princesses has great explanation and downloads of her work.

The teacher within also has high praise.

Please stay posted, I also have my reading folders to release soon.  Just need to get some pictures to show the outcome.





Muriel Dwyer – Sentence strips

After a child knows their sounds, including the phonograms – you introduce little booklets.  Instead of using booklets, my good friend at Montessori Tidbits, Leann, mentioned this site to me … http://soundcityreading.com/. It’s a bit of a plethora to navigate to get what you want, but the secret to phonograms is found here – under Phonogram booklets


These are just wonderful, pictures with little stories for each one.  But, some of the sentences were just not right for us …so I made my own.

sample of phonogram

In Word, I went and cut and pasted the pictures I wanted and added text appropriate for the phonograms associated.

Some of the pictures I just used the text the author had, but wanted it in Word to be a consistent font throughout.

I then made them into matching cards, sentence on one card, picture on the other. Of course, coloured-in each picture.  🙂

Sentence strips

On the back of each card, is a matching colour cut-out.  I just used coloured paper and my punches, modge-podge over.

Sentence strip 2

And then, put each phonogram into an envelope with it’s label on the outside.

Phonogram box

I’m so sorry that I can’t give you my files complete – I printed out all the files and then created sentences in Word, which I then matched.  So if you want my sentences, here they are in Word …

phonogram sentences match nonpictures

Then you need to download and print – or cut and paste into my Word document the matching picture.  Because this comes from a site, I cannot give this out due to copywrite.

As mentioned, phonogram booklets here

Now a hint about downloading loads of pdf’s or other documents – in Firefox, I use an extension called ‘DownThemAll’.  It adds a tool to your right-mouse click in Firefox, which will download in one step all the files on the page for you.  No downloading each file at a time!


Story cards

I love the idea of story cards – just pictures to encourage expression.  I got the idea from moveablealphabet – where she uses these for expreImagessive writing.  So for the past while on Pinterest, I’ve been collecting pictures as I see them.  They had to have something funny, or interesting or unusual in them to spark interest in telling a story.

So for us, I think a little while, it will be just looking at a picture and telling a story.  One thing I have learnt with my kids is to tell the story first, to help them understand what a story is and how we just make them up.  So I think I will be doing this first, until the bug bites and they want to be telling stories too.

I’d love this to be for expressive writing.  So I plan to put out paper for them to paste their story and I will narrate it for them, until the writing bug bites.

Have fun.  Please feel free to download my little collection of pictures and save you a bit of time.  I’ve made them photo size, 6×4 so that I could easily pop down to my local photo shop and get them printed.  It cost me just over $3 to print this collection of over 50 pictures.


To make these collages, I used Picasa, the free image library, by Google.  They have a feature called Collages.  So you select multiple pictures, click on Collage, add a few features like adding a border, landscape or portrait, etc and it makes them for you.  This really helps when your images are small in size.  If you printed them on 6×4 the would be blur.  But I avoid this by adding multiple pictures to one collage.

Storycards 1 zip

Storycards 2 zip

What to do with children joining Montessori schooling, after 4 and a half?

I’ve had the great pleasure of reading Paula Polk Lillard book again, my second time.  It’s called ‘Montessori in the classroom‘,  She journals her one year, where she has 4/5 year olds and how she uses Montessori to teach and guide these children, even though they don’t have the essential 2 years before.

What I love about this book, is all the hints and tips.  Like how she finds she needs to discipline this age group, so that they slowly understand the responsibility of their freedom.  I was really surprised by this.  And it helps me to understand how the structure of freedom works better in an Montessori environment.  How she balances when to insist on work being done and when to let go.

Pace of teaching – What really surprised me was, she only has 9 months  – and as she is journalling you notice the dates and what is being achieved.  It’s incredible, such an eye-opener.

Within a month, in language, she is onto the phonetic objects, already having done the moveable alphabet with most of her children.  Even though sensorially beyond the sandpaper letters and moveable alphabet, she still uses these.  They are doing world maps in this first month, as in tracing, colouring and labelling them.

In maths, for the first two weeks, she goes through all the first materials, to assess their understanding of numbers – Numerical rods, spindle boxes, cards and counters, memory game.  Then she starts the golden beads.  After a month and half, she has started short chains and Bank game.  At this time of showing the chains, she emphasis’s that this is multiplication.

Within 2 months, in language – she is introducing phonograms, the children are writing them – so their writing is up to this level.  The noun is introduced.

In maths, the numerical rods are used extensively, as well as cuisenaire rods.

Within 3 months, the verb is introduced.  Some children are reading alone and to each other at this stage.  None of the children could read when they entered the class.  she also documents those who are struggling and just plain forget things, even though they knew it ages ago.

In maths, children have already started working on the strip boards!  I’ve taken so long to introduce this to my boy – should have started earlier.  I found I just take too long to introduce new items, but this is what keeps the momentum/interest going.  Multiplication has also been introduced.

At 5 months, she introduces the stamp game.

By 7 months, in language, there is a hubbub of grammar work happening and sight words.  They are doing the Grammar boxes.  Children are being introduced to realistic books that they can read, instead of just readers.  There is also a lot of story writing.

In maths, the multiplication board is introduced.

By 9 months, she introduces the Dot game, before she has to say goodbye.

Practical life – in homeschooling, I often read about how this is lacking.  But practical life is used quite a bit in her class, especially for when the children are feeling restless.  She instills in them that when they feel this way, go off and do work from this area.  This includes:

– Floor Cloth, Dust pan and Brush, Broom, Dust Mop, Wet mop and bucket

  • Cleanser Tray
  • Mirror Polish
  •  Wood Polish
  •  Silver Polish
  • Flower arranging
  • Plant care

I’ve been wanting to set up polishing for ages.  And with a 3year old approaching, I know I need to get this sorted out – find a place, reorganise the kitchen to facilitate this.  My 5 year old needs to also be introduced and encouraged.  If anyone knows how to set up a cleanser tray, I’d really like your ideas, please?

Art materials

It was lovely to read how the kids constantly were interested in the art materials.  These were:

  • The clay (wooden bowl with wooden cutting board and pallette knife) – so simple!
  • The markers
  • Color paddles (plastic paddles of the primary colors). No idea what this is?
  • Painting tray
  • Collage tray
  • Pasting tray

I would so have loved pictures of these.  I have ordered her next book, which explains a lot of the topics in the book, but sadly seems to reflect more on language and maths.

I loved how the collage was based on what she was teaching at the time, like planets, there was items to make the planets and labels.  I loved this idea!

Science material

Her list of science materials and reading through the book, I’m encouraged now to actually buy a microscope and start getting that interest going.


Sensorial is not forgotten and I believe it’s so good to have this guide on what sensorial to do, when you think you’ve missed this sensitive period.

She had the:

  • geometric solids
  • constructive triangles (please read my post where I explain how I make these, so gorgeously!)
  • binomial and trinomial cube
  • metal insets
  • solid cylinders (quite surprised by this one)!  I’m actually planning to miss it out for my almost 3yo due to cost).
  • knobless cylinders

Truly an amazing book.