Sandpaper letters


Why I think that D’Nealian is superior to classic print

By Anitra

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When I first started my Montessori training, I was trained using print.  This was at least 17 years ago, and I believe that most companies that sold Montessori materials only had the option of either print for the Primary and maybe cursive for the Elementary.  For most of my early years of teaching, I used print and was fine using it.  But I noticed early on that many children had difficulty in distinguishing between the “b, p,and d.  Depending on the manufacturer, the “q” sometimes was printed with a slight “tail” on the end, and sometimes it was not.  They basically were the same letter, just positioned differently.  As I kept teaching, I learned that it was becoming more common that the children in my class struggled with differentiating between those particular letters.


I was introduced to the D’Nealian style when my oldest daughter entered into the public school system for first grade.  It was interesting at first; I wasn’t sure how I felt about it; especially since I was only accustomed to using print.  I quickly found out the reasoning for using D’Nealian…it was a precursor to cursive.  It was still years later before I actually decided to take the chance and change from using print and switch to D’Nealian.

It was actually not until about six years ago did I make the full switch to using D’Nealian.  I was working at a small school, and the classroom language materials were all D’Nealian.  The sandpaper letters, moveable alphabet, and the font on the nomenclature (3 part cards) were all D’Nealian.  I figured that there was no better time than then to give D’Nealian a try.   I absolutely LOVED it!!!!  I noticed right away how easily the children confidently noticed the differences between the “b, p, d, and q”.  They no longer struggled on deciphering between those letters; and yes, it truly makes teaching cursive easier.


Shockingly, public schools NO LONGER teach cursive!!! I found this out when my youngest daughter was in public school.  My oldest daughter learned how to write in cursive at school, but my youngest did not.  It is really weird…how are our children supposed to learn how to sign their name if they are not taught how to write in cursive? I took that as a sign that I definitely needed to incorporate D’Nealian style into my classoom.   And I did…and the rest is history…

I use print sandpaper letters as a “first” lesson to learning the sounds.  I have created Sound Boxes; small boxes that have five sounds in each box with two pictures for each sound; using D’Nealian.  I also use the D’Nealian sandpaper letters once they have had lessons on at least four to six sounds.  Sometimes, it is easier for a younger child to recognize print than D’Nealian, so I use them in the very beginning stages of teaching sounds.  I also use the D’Nealian Moveable Alphabet.  This initial introduction makes the transition into teaching cursive a fairly easy one, considering the D’Nealian letters already have a slight slant to them, and many have the “tail” i was talking about earlier.  So yes, from my experience,  D’Nealian is superior to classic print.