The Beauty of Alphabets from Around the World

By Michelle Becka

Recently, the Primary students at MNW explored how the child in the Casa is introduced to the symbols for the sounds of our English language. As part of their exploration of the Sandpaper Letters, and their discoveries of how we present writing letters on a chalkboard and paper, we discussed how letters are actually shapes; shapes that were arbitrarily assigned to represent a specific sound or, in some cases, a few different sounds. We can think about these shapes in a similar manner to how one might appreciate a piece of abstract art, or a beautiful design. 

Children, when practicing writing the letters, will often notice the properties of the letter in an artistic way. For example, looking at /b/ and deciding it looks like a banana, or that the /s/ looks like a sailboat, or maybe that the /m/ goes up and down like a roller coaster. The child is blessed with a beginner’s mind! At their first Sandpaper Letter lesson, the child does not yet know what sound the shape represents, and thus first appreciates it as simply a shape. 

In order to attempt to recreate this experience for the students, they were introduced to images of some of the different languages that are spoken by a few of our international students, including: Chinese, Tamil, Vietnamese, Russian, and Farsi. Some of the images that were shown represent single letters, and others represent words. 

Take a look at the images below and see if you can capture for yourself what a child might be feeling when they view one of the Sandpaper Letters, that sensation of appreciating the shape and form of the letter, even though you do not know the sound it makes or the meaning it represents. Next time you are presenting handwriting in the Casa, keep this sensation alive. Have fun appreciating with the child the beauty of the form and the shape of the letter, as well as the sound it makes. Handwriting is certainly a marvelous thing, especially when it is seen as beautiful and creative!


Michelle Becka graduated from MNW in 1997 with a primary diploma, and also has a M.Ed. from Loyola. After 17 years as a Primary Guide, she is absolutely thrilled to be pursuing the Training of Trainers Programme at MNW. Michelle loves practicing yoga, riding her bike, reading great books, and learning new things.

Posted on December 15, 2015 and filed under From MNW Staff, Resources, Primary, Fun.

Sensitive Periods: Hugo De Vries, Jacques Loeb, and the Porthesia Larvae

I first heard the story of Hugo De Vries and the butterfly larvae in the context of the sensitive periods while in training – I still have the notes I furiously scribbled down at the time. In the decades since, I have heard the story repeated in other training courses. A few years ago, I set out on a quest to find the primary source for this reference – not Dr. Montessori’s writings, but the original work by De Vries. With so many scientific publications having digitized their archives, I was sure that I would be able to find the original paper. I was surprised, however, that I could find only Montessori literature that made any reference to Hugo De Vries, the sensitive periods and the Porthesia butterfly. 

Posted on November 10, 2015 and filed under From MNW Staff, Resources.