Montessori At Home

Learning Mandarin using the Montessori Method


If there is a manual out there on how to teach Mandarin the Montessori way, I’d be the first one to grab a copy. Even though we speak Mandarin at home & I come from a Mandarin speaking background, I still find it difficult to teach the language.

For English, there’s phonics and lots of systematic ways and books at there in the market. There’s even the Montessori method to teach reading and writing English.

This is sorta like an experiment for me to lay hold of the foundation of Montessori method and applying it to teaching Mandarin.

I bought a set of sandpaper calligraphy strokes card 2 years ago. Big E wasn’t ready for it yet so I faithfully kept it wrapped from dust until now. I got this set from an educational toy store at Changi City Point (that was 2 years ago). The shop has since closed down so I am very thankful I bought it.

Presenting: Read & Write, Mandarin Literacy the Montessori Way

Big E is in his sensitive period learning to write but he still cannot hold the pencil very well. Montessori sandpaper letters helps them develop good handwriting by learning movement of characters in a particular direction & to form a certain shape.

He will trace the sandpaper mandarin strokes and attempt to recreate it on a dish of kinetic sand. We tried using flour before but it got a little too messy and I’m not in the mood to do a massive clean up after this. Other creative ways include finger painting, stickers & gluing strokes.


Good to know that my basic calligraphy skills can be put to use here. He learnt 3 basic strokes in this particular lesson – ‘heng’, ‘shu’ & ‘dian’ which means a horizontal stroke, vertical stroke and a dot.

I taught him using the Montessori 3 period lesson.

The Three Period Lesson

Usually, three objects will be introduced during the lesson. Three is just enough for the child to learn well.


Period 1: Introduction (This is…)

During the first period, it is important to always isolate the desired nomenclature*. Pick up the biggest cube. Say to the child “This is big…big.” Set it down and move it out of the way. Pick up the smallest cube and say to the child “This is small…small”. It is always good to repeat the words several times while pointing to the appropriate item or card. Letting the child handle the Montessori materials is also a good idea. There is no need to rush; there is beauty in the calm serenity of the lesson.

Period 2: Association/Recognition (Show me…)

The second period is often a separate lesson, done after the first period lesson. Its purpose is to extend the handling and action presented in the first lesson. It is not a time to ask the students to verbalize the names of the Montessori materials. Unfortunately, most adults want to rush through this period and prematurely ask students to verbally identify materials without enough practice. This is the most critical period and should last the longest.During the second period the Montessori teacher has the opportunity to review and reinforce vocabulary as well as see what connections the child made.

In this lesson, the Montessori teacher calls upon the students to show the appropriate materials. Place both cubes together on a mat. Begin with the last item named in period one. Ask the child to show you the small cube. Repeat small and big several times in different contexts: “Point to small. Hand me big. Place small on the tray. Return big to the shelf.” If the child is unable to correctly identify the correct item, return to the period one lesson, stating the word and pointing to the correct item.

Period 3: Recall (What is this…?)

This is the first time the Montessori teacher asks the child to name the object or idea. The teacher should only move to the third period when she is sure that the child will succeed. This may come some time after the second period lesson as mastery often takes time. Since the ultimate goal is to help the child master the information for himself, moving to the third period too soon, puts the teacher into the mode of correcting the child.

Begin by isolating the objects, starting with the last object shown. Ask the child to name the object. While pointing to the object, say to the child “What is this?” Continue until child has named all of the objects.

Excerpt from

I will move on to get him to recognise simple Mandarin characters after he learnt about 10 basic calligraphy strokes. Hope this will deepen his understanding towards reading and writing Mandarin in the future. As his Mommy, he does gets cheeky with me from time to time by pretending to point at the wrong stroke or write the wrong stoke on purpose. So depending on both our mood, either we stop the lesson or make it into a little game.

I hope this post is helpful to all Mamas out there trying to make their little ones learn Mandarin like me.




2 thoughts on “Learning Mandarin using the Montessori Method”

  1. Thank up u I’ve been following your posts. ..helpful, enlightening n interesting 😀. My 2 gals are 3 yo n 1.5 yo


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