Friday, January 8, 2010

Sandpaper Letter Tutorial

If you've read about alternative schooling you've probably ran across the Montessori method. I'm too hurried to talk about it right now hence the link. I like a lot of the techniques used but not all, so I'm going to be adapting the Montessori method to fit our lifestyle. For example, Montessori does not place a lot of emphasis on fantasy play, I feel imagination is very important. Montessori pushes independence in a big way; one book I read recommended weaning your child at nine months. We believe in the child venturing into independence as they are ready.

However, I really do like a lot of the practices used by the Montessori method. I like how learning is acquired through structured play instead of by drilling. A lot of the "jobs" are self-correcting, meaning the child can tell for themselves if they've done it right. There's more, but my brain isn't working in that direction right now. So on with the tutorial!

Sandpaper letters are a bit like flashcards. They are letters of the alphabet cut out of sandpaper or another tactile medium and adhered to a strong surface. The child traces the correct way of writing the letter while saying the name or sound. The tactile experience along with the visual and verbal experience helps to cement the information in the child's mind. Also, it's really fun to trace a bumpy letter.

The supplies you'll need are:

Sandpaper (I bought mine at the dollar store. It's not good for sanding, but it's great for this.)
Paper for making letter templates
Craft knife with a lot of blades (the sandpaper dulls them very quickly. Don't use scissors unless you don't care that they become blunt.)
Small sponge brush
Card stock in two distinct colors
Cutting mat
See-through quilting ruler (optional)

First step is to find a font you like. I chose the actual font used for Montessori letters, I found it here. I traced the letters directly off the screen, but you can print it if you like.

The reason that I used this font is because it's supposed to help the child learn cursive writing more easily. Block letters can be hard for a kid to transfer to cursive. One thing I'm sad about nowadays is the decline in penmanship, so this is an important emphasis for me.

Next, cut out the letters. Then tape them to the back of your sandpaper face down. It's important to be sure that the stencil is face down so when the sandpaper is right side up the letter is facing the right direction. I really crammed the letters on here to save on sandpaper.

Cut out out sandpaper letters with your craft knife. I went through three blades just on this part, the sandpaper really makes them dull.

Get out your card stock and get ready to glue on the letters. The colors are *supposed* to be blue for vowels and pink for consonants. I didn't have any pink card stock so I'm using yellow. On the back of the sandpaper letter spread your chosen glue out with the sponge brush. I'm using Mod Podge because I like it's durability.

Place the gluey letter on the correct color card stock. In this case "y" is not a vowel. Space out the letters to make a decent sized flash card for each letter. Larger letters will need more space than smaller ones. You can make the flash cards all the same size. I went with economy and sized the cards to the letters.

After the letters are dry cut out the flash cards. I used a craft knife again with a quilting ruler to make straight lines. If you want to use scissors that's fine with me.

Now step back and admire your letters. Don't they look great? Try not to look at the carpet, I think BuggaBoo happened to it...

If you choose to make any I hope you show me what you did. Thanks for reading.


  1. We have our girls in Waldorf school, which has some similarities to Montessori. We absolutely love it & I especially like the emphasis on development of imagination.

    The letters are awesome! I love how Waldorf & Montessori teach using the whole body.

  2. I really like what I've seen of Waldorf, but I haven't read as much about it. I really need to check some books out on it.

  3. Good tutorial. I'm sure these will be very helpful to others; and it's great journaling for you.

  4. I can't wait to do this and learn my letters!!

    Okay, but seriously, when I learned about Montessori schools in one of my college classes, I was SO mad at my mom for not letting me go. I was convinced it would have been a really good way to deal with my ADD, since this was before we started homeschooling. Well, apparently there wasn't one near us. :o( I do agree with a lot of their theories, but I'm like you in disagreeing with things like the amount of independence. While I'm not 100% sure if I'll homeschool our kids (Kyle was homeschooled until he was about 14, which is funny because that's the age I was when I started homeschool), if I do, I will definitely be incorporating some Montessori stuff.

  5. So I pulled these out today and helped BuggaBoo trace the letters. He had so much fun with it and even started anticipating how the letter was supposed to be drawn. Yay! He calls it his "letter game".

    Nica, I knew yet not-knew you were home schooled. What did you think of it, especially during your high school years? Also, how about Kyle's experience? I'm really interested in it. Maybe you should blog about it. *hint hint, waggle eyebrows*