Montessori, Pinyin

Pinyin Part II: Moveable Alphabet

The moveable alphabet is a quintessential part of every Montessori classroom. My favorite thing about it, aside from strengthening reading and spelling skills, is that it enables the child to express thoughts before he/she is able to write.

Little Man is 5 years old and can only hand write a handful of characters like 一二三四, 口, 大. Obviously, given the limited characters he can write, he is not able to express himself much.

Enter the moveable alphabet:

Little Man is familiar with the moveable alphabet in English as he is in his third year of Montessori preschool. He actually knows much more about Montessori than me. I am trying to learn through blogs like Carrots are Orange and How We Montessori.

We started with the “a” vowel this weekend and sounded out the pinyin for words with the simple “a” sound. I did not include any diphthongs like “ao”, “ai” etc. as those make a different sound. We used the flash cards from 四五快读 Books 1-3 that he knows, and I made sure to include words that have the same pinyin but different tones like 爸 and 八 since this is the area he especially struggles with.

We will be using our pinyin moveable alphabet a lot in the next few months. Little Man knows the consonants pretty well from these Youtube videos so we’ll mostly focus on vowels. My plan is to introduce the six basic vowels one at a time, then slowly introduce the diphthongs, triphthongs, and exceptions. My hope is that as he gets better with it, he will be able to create his own Chinese sentences.

If you want to make your own moveable alphabet… Buy a 32-compartment storage container from a craft store, such as this one from Joann Fabrics. You can use my printable (or make your own) and print 8-10 copies on heavy cardstock. Laminate and cut. EASY.

I made the letters following Montessori colors, red for consonants (声母) and blue for vowels (韵母). The tonal marks are also in blue as they are placed on top of the vowel. This makes it easy to see that most Chinese words have the CV (consonant-vowel) structure. In Chinese the only CVC words end with the “n” or “ng” sound.

The moveable alphabet is different from my pinyin tiles in that there are no digraphs like “zh”, “ch”, “sh” or diphthongs like “ai”, “ie”. This adds an additional challenge!

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