Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Question: Sensitive Period for Letters?

This post may seem like a brag at first, but I promise that I truly have questions and concerns that I hope some of the Montessori teachers, or those more experienced than I, would be willing to help me with. I don't want to screw-up.

A few weeks ago, playing with letters on a magnet board at the museum, Tyler (now 21 mos old) was holding the letter "H". I had simply been watching, then casually said to him, "That's the letter "H". To which he replied "Huh-Huh-Huh" to make the sound. I was floored. I thought it must be a weird coincidence. Over the last couple weeks I've randomly asked him what starts with different letters and this is what I have gotten, sometimes letter sounds and sometimes words that start with the letter (note: he isn't a big talker yet at all):

A: Ahhh-Ahhh
B: Ba-ba or Buh-Buh
C: Cookie, Cuh-Cuh or he also gives the soft C sound "Ssss"
D: Dada or Duh
F: Fffffff
G: Guh Guh or Go
H: Huh Huh
K: Kitty or Kuh
L: La la la
M: Mama
S: Ssss
T: Tuh (sometimes he can do this, he has trouble making this sound in general)

I have never taught him anything about letters or their sounds. He doesn't watch television. He has a couple of your typical alphabet books (Sandra Boynton A-Z etc) but nothing that teaches this.

My question is, should I start introducing the sandpaper letters? My fear is that teaching him these things too early will cause him to form weak connections in the brain rather than the strong ones that would form when he's older/truly ready (I forget exactly which book I read about that in). I'm also wondering if he's in a sensitive period for letters right now. I think about how he went through such a stacking obsession for a while and I gave him tons of things to stack with to encourage his drive...then he literally woke up one morning last week and didn't care to stack anymore (though he can...I checked!). Does knowing letter sounds on his own signify readiness?

We've been told recently that Tyler likely has a very high IQ and that we need to challenge him and think of him as a preschooler with some things, but I really am torn with this. To me letters/alphabet/reading are such important skills and I don't want to do this too early and ruin it for him...but don't want to miss a window if it's open now. Any advice would be very welcome!


  1. Very exciting. I don't really have any advice for you because I am at exactly the same spot.

  2. Yes! Sandpaper Letters! I'm Montessori Teacher at an AMS school, homeschooling my own. Yes! Sandpaper :)

    Also, be sure that you don't use a vowel sound when isolating initial sounds. T just says /t/, no Tuh....does that make sense? Some many kids get tripped up when sounding out words later because they are adding the Buh, to the /b/, and the Cuh to the /c/.

    I think it's so great you are working with him :)

  3. We were in the same boat. Bear just seemed to pick up all her letter sounds out of thin air at 12 months! Follow his lead. That doesn't mean start teaching him to read, but with Bear, I started playing more I Spy games with the letter sounds (I spy something that starts with b) and having her choose the object on the table that went with the sound I said... We played other phonological games and played more with abc letters. (I didn't bother teaching her the letter names). Before 2.5 she suddenly just sounded out some cvc words. So then I started teaching her reading, but we went really slowly with the formal lessons. She just seemed to pick up phonograms with a lot of ease. Again, just follow his lead. If he already knows those sounds just from his environment and he seems interested, why not pursue it? Just don't ever continue past his past his point of interest.


  4. Kristina: I hope you can then learn from these comments as well!

    This Education of Ours: Thank you! Looks like I'll be finding a good place to purchase letters this week. It does make sense to not add the -uh to the letters. He kinda says the -uh on his own with some of them, some not (though I naturally wrote them out that way!).

    Girl who painted trees: I love the I Spy type games, and yeah, I certainly don't want to teach him to read yet. That I know he's not ready for! What I question (and I am overly-analytical by nature, I admit) is if there is a line between being hard-wired to know things (as we've been told his brain is) and interest. I suppose seeing these responses that getting letters and trying some things out wouldn't hurt. If he dosn't care, it will be easy enough to stop.