You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. -Deuteronomy 6:7

Monday, July 15, 2013

Montessori Grammar Symbols

Maria Montessori, knowing that children respond well to shapes and colors, used a system of colored shapes to represent the different parts of speech.

These are taught during the early years in the children’s house – introduced as the 3-D shapes initially.  Then, in 1st grade and beyond, they are introduced again and used in many ways in the classroom.

By the time the child begins sentence analysis, these are already very familiar and the names of the words are quickly and easily memorized – making grammar study not so intimidating (not to mention not so boring!)
(Picture borrowed from
Each shape and color has a meaning:

1. The Noun is represented by a black triangle. The triangle stands for the pyramid, one of the first human structures, and black is for carbon, believed to be the first mineral discovered by humans.

2. The Adjective (small dark blue triangle), Article (smaller light blue triangle), and Pronoun (large purple triangle) are part of The Noun Family and so use the triangular shape with different colors.

3. The Verb is a circle, to represent the shape of the sun which gives life. The red color also symbolizes life (blood). The verb gives life to the sentence. The Adverb is a smaller circle and is often pictured orbiting the verb like a planet; it depends on the verb for existence.

4. The Conjunction is a small pink bar which represents a link in a chain; the Preposition is a green crescent to symbolize a bridge. It bridges the noun to other words in the sentence.
5. The Interjection is a gold triangle with a circle on top; it combines the symbols of the noun and the verb together
Montessori Language Sample Lesson – Symbolizing:  The Predicate
In this lesson, my daughter is already familiar with Nouns, Pronouns, Verbs and Articles.  I’ve just given a lesson on Predicates and now she will practice what she has just learned.  This will take a lot of repetition with various activities – but this is the first step I use with her because it keeps her interest high and her failure rate to a minimum!  (Another motivating factor for her is being able to self-correct.)
To add interest, I use cut out words which are color-coded to match the Montessori grammar symbols.  I laminate them so they will last.  This helps her come up with creative sentences to use for her first attempts at symbolizing sentences.
Later, I'll give her a page with sentences and eventually, a whole paragraph from a story or book to symbolize.  I may just ask her to start with symbolizing 1 or 2 types of words.  My 4th grader can symbolize a paragraph with nouns, verbs, articles, predicates, interjections, adjectives, adverbs and conjunctions.
You don't have to purchase expensive Montessori materials for this, you can simply create your own or get them online and laminate them.  I did purchase  small template with the "official" shapes so the kids can make their symbolizing more neat - and it's a bit more fun as well!

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