The sandpaper letters are such a critical part of the language curriculum in the primary Montessori classroom, but mastering them isn’t always easy for children. Here is a simple tracing activity from the Orton Gillingham reading program that offers yet another way to practice and retain those letter sounds! Check out my post on 17 Ideas for Children Who Really Struggle to Learn Sounds for more ideas!

Why Teach Letter Sounds Before Letter Names?

Gather your Materials

Plan to work on a single letter. Get a set of wide colored markers and a few sheets of large painting paper (12 x18) and a place to hang the papers. Vertical portrait orientation is best for print, and landscape orientation may work better for some letters when writing in cursive.


Using the yellow marker, write the letter as large possible on the paper while simultaneously saying the sound. “sssss” The movement of the ball joint of the shoulder is the muscle for maximum memory retention through movement, so wrist as large as you can!


Hand the child an uncapped marker with the cap on the bottom of the marker. (I usually use their favorite color.) The child then traces over my yellow letter saying the sound. He hands back the used marker; I hand him another uncapped color ready to use. (This makes the process go faster and the child is constantly writing and saying the sound without waiting for the markers.

Repeat this process 3-5 times more to create a “rainbow letter.” The child has written the letter and said its sound 4-6 times. (You might vary this by using colored chalk on the side of the building or on the sidewalk)


Ask the child, “Can you copy the letter?” Show the child a place on this paper or a new paper where he can copy the letter using one of the markers. If this is successful and the path of the letter is accurate, move onto the next step. If not, stop here for today!


Remove both the papers where the child made the Rainbow Letter and did his copying from his view, and provide a fresh sheet of paper. Ask the child, Can you write the “sssss?” This is your ultimate goal that he can hear the sound and write it from memory. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen the first time, just reassure the child that more practice is needed and he will get it soon!

Stuck on letter sounds?

Check out my color coded sound games for 8 printable fun activities that practice these building block sounds for reading. Available in print and cursive.

Color Coded Sound Games Cathie Perolman
Cathie Perolman

Cathie Perolman, M.Ed

Cathie Perolman is a reading specialist, elementary educator, author, consultant, and creator of educational materials for primary and elementary students.

You can see all her original materials for sale in our shop, and read more about her and her life’s work here.